Recently I’ve discovered that I have a lot of friends who have decided to quit social media. Or even take a break for a month or two. Some even for a year.
And every time my response is the same. “Wow, that’s amazing! I don’t think I could do that!”
Social media is so addictive, and for some of us, it negatively impacts our self-esteem and furthermore our mental health.
After a couple of hours of trying to refresh my Insta page with no relief, and a minor panic about all my WhatsApp’s left unanswered, I kind of just thought, well, fuck it.
It’s been a long and hard road for me (as someone who thinks she’s chill but is actually quite anal) to accept that worrying about something you cannot change, still doesn’t change the unchangeable. No matter how hard you worry.
Maybe it’s for the best that we all have a little break from being constantly connected 24/7. Maybe it’s a relief that even for a couple of hours, we feel like we are separated from the world, with no nagging feelings of maybe you’re missing something. You’re not missing anything because there is nothing on there! No one can access it! Nobody’s posting something that you’re terrified you’re going to miss! Instagram, WhatsAppand Facebook are down for everyone.
I’m not saying I have FOMO per se. I’ve lasted this long and I still haven’t watched one episode of Game of Thrones (even though it is on my watch list). I’m okay with being left out of the inside references (that weird doll from Squid Games that’s all over Insta – I have no idea what that’s referring to because I still haven’t watched it) but that’s okay because tomorrow there will be a new inside reference and maybe I might be ahead of the curve on that one.
There’s a real criticism amongst people who aren’t constantly engaged with pop culture. “What?? You haven’t watched Game of Thrones?? What’s wrong with you??”
But really? Who cares? Will it really change your life if I finally understand GOT references you make – but you won’t because GOT is passé, and there are new and brighter things on the consumption agenda (ahem, Squid Games). We are trying to consume media as fast as we possibly can, and if you’re not keeping up, then you’re not in.
Isn’t it nice to make plans with someone 3 days previously, and without their contact information, having faith that they’ll show up to your arranged meeting? Isn’t that nice to live how we used to 20 years ago?
To know that I can go out and have an experience with someone, and then be able to ruminate and revel in it, instead of being distracted by the 548 new subjects I come across as I scroll Instagram on my journey home?
What happened to the days when it was rude to call people after 8pm? Now I get messages at 3AM from friends – some of whom get mad if I read it and don’t answer right away. It’s 3AM! Let me have my time!
Some people send me texts that I reply to in the timeframe of if they had sent me a snail mail letter, and I had sent one back with my answer – because that feels right to me. Do people get mad at me because of this? Yes, all the time.
To be honest, I find it exhausting replying to messages sometimes, because I know that I will receive another in return. I treat them as things to be checked off my list, but once checked off, a new task will inevitably (and usually quite promptly) be shucked onto the bottom of my to-do list, in a never-ending game of communication ping pong.
We are in the age of information overload, where our attention spans have officially descended to lower than a goldfish (seriously, look it up) because we have so many different subjects and pieces of information that we go through at any given time.
Scrolling through TikTok? Not only are you going through different subjects (cooking, dancing, commentating, etc), sub-subjects (cooking pasta, cooking fast food, baking cakes, etc) at the speed of light, but you are also taking in information about people’s voices, the pitch, the accent; what they’re wearing; where they’re living; what their nationality is;whether they have a physical attribute you like or don’t like; all of these details in one TikTok that you will scroll through in a matter of milliseconds to get to the next subject, the next pasta video, the next cult trend, more, more, more.
Surely it’s healthy for us to take a break from all this information, even if we don’t feel any negative effects of social media.
I love social media, and I know it’s not real life. I don’t get upset that people are prettier or skinnier than me, or have an endless supply of handbags that I’d be over the moon to have if offered. I don’t get depressed after looking at people’s grids with lives who are supposedly better than mine, or more successful than me. I don’t feel self-conscious about how I look after seeing Wolfie Cindy looking like the most stereotypical version of aesthetic Instagram perfection in a 21st Century woman. Is she beautiful? Sure! Do I want to look like her? Not really.
But still – am I subconsciously tired of social media? After this blackout, maybe it turns out I am.
For all my love of scrolling through beautiful people, places, and things – is it weird to want to not be able to check my emails, or my iMessages, or my fucking Snapchat for at least a day at a time?
Maybe it’s a real blessing for those who not only are addicted to social media, but even for those who aren’t, to take a mandatory break, where we can look up from our phones and see our lives. Isn’t it nice to talk to someone without focusing on a million other things at the same time? Isn’t it nice to wait for the bus, and take a look around you, at all the people around you, and not be sucked into a screen for a black-hole-amount of minutes until you catch your bus, which you then sit down and get sucked right back in to the gravitational pull of endless scrolling?
Maybe that blackout was a little gift to us.
In the wise words of our goddess, Lorde, “Can you reach me? No, you can’t.”