June 28, 2017
Do you ever think about the various places that loneliness stems from? I’ve thought about it a lot this past month. This past year my loneliness has grown from social media. It starts off slow with quiet self-destructive thoughts, but eventually, they all band together and it feels like a wave crashing over me. For the next day or two, I can’t find the surface. It’s incredibly debilitating and affects every area of my life.
My biggest social media bug is Instagram. I used to check that app at least fourteen times a day. Even when there was nothing new, I was on there, refreshing, refreshing, refreshing. Instagram was the way that I lived through others, and it was absolutely heartbreaking to me once I realized it. Why was I wanting to live someone else’s life when the one I already have is nearly perfect?
After seeing photos of friends hanging out all the time or people getting all dressed up for parties and whatnot, I would feel even lonelier than I already felt. It took pieces of me, lit new fires in my mind that created more smoke than warmth, and brought out the Bad Voices from the shadows. But for whatever reason, I couldn’t stop checking it. Refresh, refresh, refresh.
It became so bad that I couldn’t bring myself to post on Instagram. I would cue the picture up, pick a filter, and just when I was ready to press that post button, I couldn’t do it. I was terrified. I was terrified of not receiving enough ‘hearts’, or likes, on my photos and terrified that people would just scroll right past, not even bothering to read the caption. What if people don’t care? What if I don’t look “good enough” in the photo? What if someone thinks it’s stupid? I have only posted one photo this year because of these questions.
Eventually, I started questioning myself, asking myself good questions that brought about a good change. What has made you care so much about this social media? How does constantly seeing someone else’s life affect yours? What are you gaining from scrolling to the very bottom of your feed and back up again?
Nothing. I gain nothing from seeing those posts.
Well, I guess that isn’t true. I gain self-doubt, loneliness, and a desire to be someone that I’m not and never will be. All of those things that I work so hard to push away, come rushing in as if I’ve just told them I’ll give them free chocolate if they’ll be my friends.
One day about five weeks ago, I decided to unfollow everyone who made me feel those things. I unfollowed over 100 people that day then promptly deleted the app. It has been very wonderful and very cleansing to stay away from that app. At first, I would reach for my phone to check it only to remember that I had deleted the app and feel, as the kids these days say, “FoMO”, or the fear of missing out. To my surprise, that fear quickly faded. About two weeks ago, I installed it again, but as soon as I saw the logo pop on the screen, I felt disgusted. My feelings had completely flipped and I wanted nothing to do with it. At this point, I don’t even reach for it. At this point, I don’t feel like I’m missing anything at all. And you know what? I’m really not.
Social media is kind of like an invasive bug species. It creeps in slowly, eating your plants (or in this case, your good, self-loving, positive thoughts) and killing off the other good species that you need (real friendships with actual humans and a perspective that is not hidden by an Instagram facade). Environments don’t usually have a choice when an invasive species comes in and wreaks havoc, but I had the choice to either let it stay and grow the problem larger, or beat it out and make it go back to the hole it came from.
I don’t have any plans to post or even scroll through my Instagram feed anytime soon. I simply do not feel the need to be on there any longer. The only reason I have to open the app is to see the newest meme my brother has messaged to me (and usually those are pretty funny). I’ve learned that I don’t need likes or comments or followers to tell me that I’m worthy. My life that I’m living outside of social media is the best. I don’t need likes to validate my existence when God already does that.
If you’re struggling with something similar to this, remember one thing: people post their highest of highs in order to make you think their life is perfect. But nothing is perfect here on planet earth, no matter what they try to convince you. Comparison is an ugly, greedy monster that will take anything it can from you. Here’s the catch: you have the power to take back whatever it steals. It doesn’t own you.
Instagram was a thief stealing my happiness, but I had the power to take it back.