*Editor’s Note: Please click here for Part One: Why Quitting Instagram Was the Most Loving Decision for Myself.
I’ve been avoiding my emotions and anything anxiety-inducing for years now.
Stressed out about what I’m going to do with my life? Open Instagram. Feeling self-conscious at this party? Drink beer. Worrying about x, y, and z? Research another drastic diet.
You see, they’re all defense mechanisms and they actually make whatever emotion I’m feeling much worse by piling a bunch of anxiety on top. Only when I face my emotions and allow myself to feel and deal with everything under the surface will I truly begin to heal. True transformation comes from letting it hurt. Letting it bleed. Letting it heal. And then just letting it go.
I now know that in order to live my best life, I must find love, safety, and connection within myself and with others in the real world—not through a screen. In the end, my memory of hiking a beautiful mountain will remain firmly etched in my mind, while my Instagram picture will be filed away somewhere in the bowels of the Internet. All the likes and comments will not matter. It will be as if it never happened.
I know that I don’t want to look back on my life only to realize that I lived it in some alternate, false reality and missed out on truly experiencing the beauty of being fully present while watching a sunset, or witnessing my friend’s wedding, or even allowing my emotions to flow freely. I’m trying to be present and mindful in my life, and for me personally, spending time on social media is the complete opposite of mindfulness.
If you’ve been wondering if social media is negatively affecting you, I’d give it a break for a little while and see how you feel. I said goodbye to Facebook some time ago, and my personal Instagram profile more recently, and although it felt very uncomfortable at first, almost like I had just cut off my own arm, it quickly became a welcome relief.
The sense of peace I felt when I stopped going on social media was intense. Suddenly all these strangers whose lives I came to know were gone. All the pressure, the comparison, the compulsion—vanished. I no longer had anyone to “like” my life except me. I was no longer looking for other people’s approval or feedback, or trying to present my best self through my phone. In fact, my phone instantly became hilariously useless.
I will say, I have experienced concern about not staying connected with certain friends, but it actually gives me much more incentive to reach out in other ways. Seeing pictures of my friends through social media gave me this sense that I was connected with them, when in some cases, I hadn’t actually talked to the person for months.
By not seeing pictures of my friends constantly, I began to miss them more, which encouraged me to initiate phone calls, texts, and in-person meet-ups more often.
I do want to make one note in saying that social media can have many pluses, especially when it comes to growing a business these days. Things I’ve seen on Instagram have, on a number of occasions, made me laugh, inspired me, or connected me with someone who I would never have met otherwise.
It might just be that I’m in a very transformational, transitional, and challenging period in my life, and maybe my feelings about social media say more about where I need to grow than the networks themselves. Maybe I’ll choose to rejoin the social media world once I feel more secure with myself and work through some of my issues.
However, when I honestly reflect on my relationship with social media right now, it’s clear that it affects me more negatively than positively and overall is not a valuable exchange of my time.
Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and ask yourself, “Does social media add to or take from my life?” Listen to the loving voice that whispers back. I believe we all intuitively know if something is benefiting us or harming us in any way. It takes courage to step away from something that is so commonplace in today’s society, but just because something is mainstream doesn’t mean you have to partake in it—especially if it’s a negative influence in your life.
For me, avoiding social media was just one stepping stone on my path to living from a whole-hearted, present place. Although I felt an almost instant sense of tranquility upon deleting these platforms, the real work begins when the distractions are removed and I can clearly look at the thought patterns and beliefs that might have led social media to become a detrimental force in my life in the first place.
I can start focusing on filling up my life with real-life, in-the-moment joy and connection, and, most importantly, I can work toward being fully present with whatever comes my way, good and bad.
Remember when you were a kid and none of these social media worlds existed? How you were simply in the moment all the time? When you didn’t care what others thought and just did what made you feel good?
That’s the mentality I want to reintroduce into my life as much as possible, and I know that bidding social media farewell-for-now was a wonderful first step.
Look up. Your life is happening right in front of you. Don’t let it pass you by while living through a screen.
Author: Katie Koschalk
Image: Taia Butler
Editor: Taia Butler