Recently, I’ve seen a lot of people taking a so-called “social media hiatus”. The process involves going cold turkey on all your social media involvement, from Facebook to Instagram, and deleting the apps off of your phone for a certain period of time. The need to take one of these hiatuses is brought on by the constant pressure that can come from maintaining a social media account: keeping up with trends, gaining likes and followers, as well as constantly bearing witness to those who may appear to be “better off” or living in some kind of fantasy world that you could only hope to be part of. However, most of these hiatuses only last a few days or weeks at most, with many people then returning to old habits and getting connected once again.
I’ve always had mixed feelings about social media. As someone who really enjoys taking pictures with friends or of scenery or my travels, it’s always been nice to have platforms that allow me to share my work online with the public. I’ve also been heavily involved in social media since 2015, simply because I’ve been on the National Social Media team for ProjectHeal, a nonprofit that provides treatment grants to those suffering from eating disorders so they can get proper care, and part of my job is building an audience and following for the organization. Still, I know some people who have been off of social media for a long time, as long as a year or more, and are committed to living their best lives away from the digital world instead sticking to an online reality.
I was able to interview two friends of mine that fall into this category, both of whom have not been on social media for over three years.
How long have you been off of social media?
Allison: I have not had Twitter or Instagram for well over a year. I have not had Snapchat for around five months. I also have an open Facebook account I never check.
Amelia: About two years ago, I deleted my Twitter. Then from there, I kind of just cut down on my social media time. I still use snapchat to communicate with my friends and family back home and rarely post on Instagram.
Why did you leave?
Allison: I disconnected from social media because I was tired of seeing my friends curate someone I didn't recognize online. I was tired of feeling obligated to open and reply to Snapchats. I was also extremely frustrated with the way social media glorifies the lives of stars and celebrities as if they are worth more than the lives of others.
Amelia: I was spending so much time on social media, especially Twitter. It wasn’t adding to my life. It made me feel insecure when my posts didn’t get a lot of likes, and everything was so superfluous. I was throwing away my time.
Did social media add or take away from your life and why?
Allison: Social media definitely "took away" from my life because it caused me stress and discomfort.
Amelia: Took away for sure. It took away my time, as I said before, but it also took away my ability to think for myself. It makes me think of A Wrinkle In Time, with the big IT brain thinking for us. We’re supposed to think the same things are funny. There’s nothing new anymore.
What does it mean to interact with others?
Allison: Interaction with others is any form of communication, whether online or in person, through gesture or verbal communication, or otherwise.
Amelia: In today’s world it means to send a text or snapchat. If you are in constant contact, you’re BEST friends, right? Snapchat even tells you who your besties are. It’s pretty frustrating. It makes it harder to sort out who your real friends are.
How do you think social media has changed our interactions?
Allison: Social media has created an amazing medium to broadcast information, but it also has become a crutch we lean on to interact with others. It has created a space in which we can simply type and post and not have to see firsthand the repercussions of the things we have said and done.
Amelia: We’re always connected, we’re always screaming our opinions. It’s like we’re so oversaturated with opinions, nothing we say matters. We don’t talk anymore. We just say words.
Do you think that life would be better without it and why?
Allison: I love the simplicity of a life without the interruptions of social media. I feel more able to enjoy things that are going on around me and the company of those I love. I have no need to take photos of what I am currently doing or prove to others that I am who I say I am. I also lost "convenience" or "acquaintance" friends whom I really only knew through social media.
Amelia: I see the value in social media, even though I seem 100% against it. I just feel like if we cut down, we’d be able to connect with each other in a more meaningful way. Go grab a friend, turn off your phone, and just sit and people-watch or something; talk about the people around you. Understand them. I just think that’s more valuable than emojis.