I died. Well, no, obviously I did not.
But it almost felt like I was going to at first.
Let me start from the beginning.
About a month ago, I was going through a really rough spot in my life and realized that I had to do something about it. For the past year I have experienced a roller-coaster of emotions—constant indecision, intermittent depression and general anxiety.
I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I practised yoga almost daily, ate a fairly healthy diet and exercised regularly. Why was I not skipping through fields of flowers and rainbows? My Instagram and Facebook pages would have led you to believe that I was. They showed that I had the perfect yogic life, but behind that façade was a lot of pain.
In the midst of one particularly dark time I decided that I needed a break from it all. I was exhausted.
Something had to change, so I decided to quit social media cold turkey.
Did my life change drastically? No. But I feel a hell of a lot better. Here’s what happened:
1. I stopped comparing myself to others.
It’s human nature and of course I still do it a bit but not in the way that I used to.
Social media has a way of glamorizing everyone’s lives, especially in the yoga and fitness communities. Just because someone takes a selfie every time they go to the gym doesn’t mean they have a better life than you do. It doesn’t even necessarily mean that they workout more than you do. But if they do, so freaking what? Just because someone can do every pose in the book in perfect scenery every time does not mean they are happier than you, or happy at all for that matter.
It’s not real. Well, it’s real in the sense that these accounts belong to real people (most of them that is) but that photo that you are looking at is a few minutes of someone’s day.
For all we know, the rest of their day is miserable. I sure hope not, but you get what I’m trying to say.
2. I began to really experience life.
I’m not at all saying that it’s impossible to experience life when you’re on social media. However, being obsessed with it poses a challenge.
Only a few days after my detox began I went for a beautiful walk in the park with my boyfriend and dog. We often go for walks in the park and they are often beautiful. As we walked, I looked at all of the green surrounding me.
In the past, I would have spent a good portion of this walk looking for a good spot to set up my camera and pop up into a handstand, or some other asana (yoga pose). I caught myself thinking this. “Ooh that would look so good with a compass pose and a fancy filter!” But as all my accounts were deactivated, I let that thought go very easily.
I cannot even begin to explain how invigorating it feels to really take it all in—all that life has to offer–without worrying about taking photos.
And I did take photos. But I took them for the simple pleasure of looking back at this experience and not gaining likes and followers. I felt an unfamiliar sense of freedom.
3. I spent way less time on my cell phone.
I’m a 25-year-old female, so it’s expected and accepted for me to have my face buried in a cell phone at all times, but that hurts me in more ways than one—because it was expected of me and because I was doing it! I don’t want to feed any stereotypes. I’m an intelligent and genuine woman, dammit!
It also hurt me physically. My neck and my eyes were getting tired and I was even putting my life at risk by checking my accounts while driving because I would see that someone had made a comment on my page.
At first, out of habit, I kept picking up my phone to check what’s going on. Then I’d remember that I had nothing to check! So I’d just put the phone down and go about my day.
At first it was weird not knowing what to do with myself. In time—very little time too—I found many ways to fill my hours without scrolling through photos and newsfeeds, see number 2.
4. I reorganized my priorities in life.
If you had followed my accounts you would have thought I had this down pat. I knew what was important in life, I just wasn’t following my own advice.
Unfortunately, I feel that a lot of Instagram yoga accounts have this same problem. I knew that it didn’t matter how many followers I had or how many likes my photos were getting. Yet, it did matter. That makes no sense, I know. But for whatever reason, it felt good when my photos would get a lot of likes. It felt good when I would gain a follower or two. It felt bad when I would lose a follower.
I would actually get angry at the practice a lot of Instagrammers have of following a ton of accounts to get a follow back, and once they get that follow back, unfollowing that person and hoping they wont notice. I always noticed—there are actually apps that can tell you this. By being angry about it I was robbing myself of my own serenity. It didn’t really matter how many followers or likes I had.
That is zero percent what life is all about.
That is zero percent about what yoga is about.
You cannot worry about these things if you are not on social media. I was able to take all of the energy I was spending on my Instagram and Facebook accounts and transfer it to my relationships.
I now spend way more energy on my own, real life happiness rather than trying to appeal to other people, most of which I had never met and probably never will.
5. My yoga practice has been purer than ever.
That may sound crazy because my Instagram account revolved around my yoga practice.
But the difference now is that I practice simply because I love it. I love yoga. I love asana. I love how it makes me feel in mind, body and spirit.
I no longer feel the need to put on a cute outfit before practicing. Yoga should be a come as you are type of practice. It should not be a fix your hair and put on your best workout gear type of practice.
I also no longer feel the need to stop mid-practice to snap a picture because that pose was really cool. I don’t need to make sure the lighting is perfect in my room. It doesn’t matter if my arm balances are sloppy one day—I’m not posting any photos of them.
I just practice. Period.
My mind is present on my mat and not worrying about what pose I will post next. My yoga practice is just pure and raw and beautiful.
Social media is great for a lot of things.
Having moved out of state, I really appreciated the way that Facebook helped me to keep in touch with close friends and family. I enjoyed seeing what everyone had been up to and seeing all of their beautiful, smiling faces on the screen when I couldn’t see them in real life.
Instagram deserves a lot of credit for really getting me excited about yoga. I love the yoga community on Instagram. There are a ton of amazing people on there who offer their words of support and encouragement. While I had practiced yoga before joining Instagram, it was never much more than a physical workout to me. Instagram sparked my curiosity and had me reading more about what yoga really means.
I will definitely return to social media one day. I do not know exactly when and it doesn’t matter.
This time, things will be different.
I might continue to post yoga pictures, but I definitely won’t post them every day. I just no longer feel the need.
I will probably deactivate my account(s) again at some point. Sometimes it is good to simply remind yourself of what life is like without that crutch.
If you are an Instagram/Facebook lover and you post multiple times every day and you are happy with that, then that is your truth.
It was not, however, working for me.
I honor the place in you where the light resides. Namaste.
The Four Reminders:
Author: Andrea Valerino
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren
Image: Gary Knight/ Flickr