In September 2020, I made the choice to delete all of my social media accounts and begin a transition to what I believed was a more fulfilling life of more authentic connection and more self-love. I even published a series of articles to share my experiences during what some thought was my first step into an Amish lifestyle. For 15 months, I’ve traveled the world a little differently than I’ve done since elementary school when I first got a Facebook account, and it’s really helped me focus and aim for the growth that I desperately wanted.
Recently, I found myself in another big transition period: my year-long relationship ended, I reunited with close friends and started a new job. With all of these changes, I found myself on Pinterest and Instagram reading articles about personal growth, self-awareness, and attachment. Finding other people I could relate to profoundly eased the pain of change and helped me lean into this new phase of my life.
Shortly after the New Year, the decision I made to quit social media seemed as outdated as the person I was a few months ago. I thought about it a few days after New Years then I downloaded TikTok, then Instagram. Healing from a traumatic relationship also took a ton of willpower and determination. This process was made easier with resources I found on social media, and fun posts brought some much-needed joy on my toughest days.
Over the past year, I’ve become more disciplined with exercise, morning and evening routines, and time for reading and art. Having social media has not disrupted these practices at all or caused me to lose sleep, feel insecure, abandon my priorities or stop taking care of myself. I love being able to make new connections online and being able to relax and watch TikToks if I wanted to!
I’m still painfully aware, however, that social media is a real dopamine substitute. From the time I deleted social media to the time I started a relationship, I always enjoyed the novelty of being away from it. Then the chemicals of love took over for a while. The dopamine from Instagram notifications was boosted by a text from the person I liked, which was great, until it wasn’t.
Getting the dopamine hits from other sources was a natural response to my situation, but I also learned through this relationship that balance is essential to leading a full and healthy life. I could integrate a person into my life without making them the main source of happiness and fulfillment, and I could use social networks without depending on them for my daily full of dopamine.
In one of my articles, I centered body image as a reason for leaving social media, but with therapy and practice I learned to appreciate the body I have by showing it love and attention in my daily practices.
In the same post, I candidly admitted how social media forced me to react and interact, but from my relationship I learned that my people-pleasing tendencies and lack of boundaries were the real culprit. of this feeling.
Another hard truth I encountered was that body image issues still wouldn’t go away after I stopped spending time on Instagram. My issues with boundaries and my sanity certainly weren’t either. I still found ways to spend money unnecessarily. I still procrastinated in my work. I still worried about my identity, my image and politics. These very human challenges intimidated people for many years before the internet was created and don’t stop when you avoid them. They stop when you look at yourself carefully and do the work necessary to become better versions of yourself, evolving as best you can.
I am proud of my decision to stay away from social media for a long time. It was really brave. Although I think it was absolutely necessary and exactly what I needed, I learned that the most courageous act is to actively choose what is best for your well-being. You will always have the choice to hurt yourself, to compare yourself, to waste time, to waste money and to let negativity influence you.
So whether I use social media or not, I now know how and why to choose to love myself, work on my goals, be authentic, and protect my peace of mind. The fundamental problem I had with social media was that I felt like it took away my choice to do these things, but in truth, I just gave myself no choice. If it wasn’t for social media, it would be another person or situation that would stop me. If I was to enjoy any of the beautiful parts of life, online or offline, I had to empower myself to stop self-sabotage and embrace new paths of self-love and empowerment.