It’s 6:46 in the morning on a Tuesday. My alarm went off at 6:30 a.m, and after my “five more minutes,” I rolled over and succeeded to the day. I am awake, but I’m still in bed, neck deep in my Twitter feed, having already scrolled through my Instagram and watched at least five Snapchat stories of my high school classmates. In those 11 minutes, I’ve consumed more content than I’d happily admit, all while I could have been showering, or at least attempting to charge towards productivity.
Now, I’m too far gone. I open my Instagram and stare at the picture I posted the day before; it has 64 likes. Why not 75? Why not 100? I’m pretty sure my friend’s younger sister has more followers than I. Her entire feed is better than mine, and she’s literally 12. I should just delete all my pictures and start over. I could do a white theme. Or maybe I should just leave it and switch all my picture sharing over to VSCO and Twitter altogether.
I spent a good part of my high school experience entrenched in mornings like that one, quietly and painstakingly obsessing over likes, favorites, and shares. No, this is not some yuppie post on how I left social media and turned my life around. This is a post on how I overcame my crippling social media anxiety and learned that living a life online wasn’t worth stressing over.
Step One: Acknowledge the Problem
Social media is freaking weird. Can we all just admit that? While I’m sure some millennials will tell you they don’t stress over their online lives, personas, or presence, I have found that a majority do. Sharing every little thing I did, ate, or saw was not my problem. It was the anxiety that came with sharing anything online, even though I wanted to. After speaking candidly for the first time about it with some classmates in my media class at college, I realized I wasn’t the only one. I had developed an online filter through which I strained all my thoughts and so had they.
Step Two: Understand the issue at hand
After some thought, I realized the root of the issue, which clearly began with the social media content I contributed and consumed, was larger than just what lived on my phone screen or laptop. I wanted to be liked. Of course, right? Everyone does. But social media has allowed us as a society to pass judgment in an entirely new way. No response is a response. When I didn’t get likes or favorites on a tweet or picture, I would delete it. I thought that by removing what I put up, I could rid myself of the anxiety. But my stress was rooted in how people reacted to me sharing content in general, not specifically what I shared.
Step Three: Log Out
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Twitter. I like Snapchatting dog filters and face swapping with my friends, and I LOVE Instagram, but at the end of the day, social media is temporary and really, really silly. It’s great to share. I’ve met awesome people through the internet, and I’ve found comfort in tweets during finals and elections. I’ve felt confidence boosts when pictures get liked on Instagram. While all that stuff is great, it doesn't matter in the long run. Social media only has power when you allow it. So you tweeted something you thought was super relatable and no one has faved it yet, or maybe you posted a selfie you thought was rad, and it’s not doing well. Log out. Disconnect. From one internet user to another, let me tell you that what you share doesn’t change how people perceive you. Not really. My friends tweet stupid things ALL THE TIME. They share food videos on Facebook and post dumb pictures on Instagram. Hell, I post dumb pictures on Instagram, but it doesn't make me love them any less or judge them any more. Don’t let yourself be consumed with something as trivial as what emoji to put in a caption. No one really cares, and social media only has as much power as you give it.
Step Four: Share on
Keep tweeting. Keep posting. Social media is not inherently bad and there’s nothing wrong with sharing. Just realize that it’s not an extension of who you are or your worth.
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