It’s official. My home screen was bare with nothing but Apple’s default applications and WhatsApp. Social media tabs on Chrome were unpinned and as usual, I took the average 15 minutes to feel satisfied with an Instagram story that announced the social media cleanse.
I told anybody of high importance to reach me on WhatsApp and why I was taking this cleanse. Upon deciding who to inform, I realised my subconscious was already choosing who were truly important.
I found myself tapping the empty slots over my wallpaper, through muscle memory, thinking it was Twitter. The funny part was that I kept doing it repeatedly as if by doing so, the app would reappear. It’s only been an hour and I feel empty.
The morning sunlight on my skin felt different from the usual glaring light from my LCD screen. Relief flooded over me as I realised I didn’t have to check my Snapchat streaks. As the day progressed, the emptiness started to kick in and the anxiety that comes with wondering what I could be missing engulfed me. The quote claiming that, “you never know what you truly miss until you lose it,” was finally starting to make sense to me. With the access to social media gone, I became aware of my obsession with watching people’s stories. I was refreshing my feed as if the knowledge of people’s whereabouts and companions would somehow widen my knowledge. The severity of my addiction hit me when I found myself scouring for WhatsApp My Status updates.
Later on during lunch, I realized that it was the first time in ages since I’ve eaten a meal without first documenting it. It felt oddly better to eat food that hasn’t been exposed to my camera and Instagram Story viewers.
I longed for incurring reaction notifications from my stories. It, among many others, was a fast and impersonal method that created a culture of support and validating one another even though commenting on pictures or retweeting seems like an odd way to connect.
I came to a revelation that the intertwined web of social media connections created an illusion of one’s place in society and FOMO was hitting hard. As Maslow would put it, I heavily relied on social media for a sense of belonging. The notion of losing connections forces you to sit with your loneliness. Getting comfortable with people is one thing, but being comfortable with yourself is entirely different.
The Socialising without the Media
It was my first brunch session in a while and instead of focusing on photo angles or lighting, I had the most wholesome heart to heart talk with my friends about the universe and what my friends thought mattered most to them. Though I missed the social media fueled gossip—that I was no longer accustomed to—it was beautiful watching people talk about their passions. It was during that conversation that I realized I didn’t know what mattered to me.
Reading Thought Catalog articles about self-improvement, instead of actually working on all the internal growth I so claimed to do, became my crutches of comfort. The initial intention of needing to work on myself was constantly invading my thoughts. After much lack of action, the imposter syndrome of someone who prioritises mental health started kicking in.
Though the majority would claim that they’ve developed and progressed past the need for social media validation, it would be wrong to say white lies like that didn’t help boost my self esteem. Although many may say social media is a sticky self-comparison trap, it really depends on the type of content that shows up on your timeline. Personally, instead of being negatively affected, my social media timeline has actually done the opposite for me. Years of filling my timeline with positivity has allowed me to witness the advocacy of self-love, normalization of body positivity, and learn that the notion that progress isn’t linear. Instead of comparing one-self to a thriving individual, being happy for them and growing at our own pace was a much more inspiring perspective.
Although social media cleanses temporarily stop the comparisons you make with others, this does not mean one has developed past the comparison obsession. Being comfortable with the absence of something does not equate to feeling secure despite the presence of it.
The one truth that I’ve noticed from others’ experiences with social media cleanse would be the increase in productivity. Especially since Week 7 is ahead of us, the need to focus looms over our heads. As social media is our go-to study break, getting carried away and watching TikTok for hours is an inevitable interference. Henceforth, the sheer boredom stemming from the lack of access to these apps will allow us to stay focused.
Unplugging clearly comes with many benefits such as increased productivity and proper socialising. It acts like an all-encompassing reset of one’s self-awareness in terms of personal goals, social circles and self-comfort levels. But one should be cautioned that though social media cleanses are impactful, its effects are rather ephemeral.
Adding on, as in this age we can only afford a temporary cleanse from social media, it truly is important to practice self-control with regards to social-media induced procrastination. Since the disadvantages of social media also include the deterioration of one’s mental health, it would be beneficial to make the conscious effort of curating your followings to give yourself a dose of positive impacts everyday. If you’re going to be on social media everyday, might as well let positive energy permeate through it.