A month ago, my social media feed exploded with constant COVID updates and – what felt like – a perennial stream of opinions or reactions from everyone I knew. As we dived into a couple more weeks of quarantine, I began to feel increasingly overwhelmed, and my anxiety started to cave in. My mind grew restless, and my thoughts began to spiral. You would think telling myself, ‘Just don’t look at it’ would have worked – however, there’s an irresistible urge that almost suffocates you into wanting to remain as updated as one can be.
However, one night, I woke up frustrated by the fact that my mind had transformed into this chaotic overdrive of emotions. I was mentally drained. The only way I knew to soothe my anxiety would have been completely stepping away from my social media platforms. I decided to delete all my social media apps from my phone completely, only keeping messenger and WhatsApp to contact family and close friends. Some of my friends couldn’t understand how I could do a social media detox – given the fact that we were already in quarantine – and the only platform to communicate with anyone was social media. But, my mind was desperately craving some form of mental silence from the external world.
As soon as I deleted every single app, I expected to experience the same immediate withdrawal symptoms I usually face, but for the first time, it felt like catharsis. It was a form of instant relief that I hadn’t felt before. For the first couple of days, I felt free. I didn’t miss using social media at all – in fact; I was agitated by the thought of it. I wanted to disappear from the online world, and ‘feel’ less seen and heard.
Being less exposed to the external world allowed me to tune myself into what I’d had been experiencing and let me come into terms with my mental health. With social media, you’re almost forced to regularly consume all this information at such a rapid rate that it is overwhelming at times. Moreover, it’s easier said than done to just ‘switch off.’ Being on these platforms is part of a routine that our minds are so used to. It fills voids in our day – and some of us can feel ‘incomplete’ without it.
Being offline allowed me to reflect more on the person I had become or was becoming and the ups and downs that I experienced throughout sophomore year. These three weeks allowed me to understand better the situational stressors that occurred during my absolute lows. It’s essential to understand your ‘triggers’ to avoid them from gaining so much mental energy. While, of course, a social media detox didn’t ‘suddenly’ solve anything, it did give me a better understanding of the situation at hand. It prompted me to want to seek long-term therapy. I wanted to gain a better approach to dealing with my anxiety. I think there’s a societal misconception of only seeking therapy when you’re in some form of mental plight – however, you don’t need to wait for yourself to gyrate to realize you need to seek external help. If YOU think you need to talk to someone who can offer you that unconditional support, then that’s all the reassurance you need to do so.
These three weeks also allowed me to better connect with my introverted side. I spent half of my childhood hating the ‘introverted’ label, as it was a comment people would use to compare my sister and me, so I grew up viewing it as an awful thing to be associated with. As I grew older and tried my hardest to shield my introverted nature, I became more confused about why I needed to ‘unwind’ so desperately after social interactions. I’d blame myself for my ‘social incompetency’ of not being able to maintain a consistent social routine. However, I also knew I got my energy from being myself, so it was no surprise this quarantine has made me feel more recuperated. I’ve now had more time to be more patient with myself, be more appreciative of my introverted nature, and break out of the mold I perceived as ‘perfect’ because the truth was, I was far from that.
Having these three weeks to myself has allowed me to appreciate a solitary environment that has allowed me to be more forgiving and nurturing to myself. I’ve learned the importance of NOW – the power of being more present in my relationships and everyday tasks. I’ve been able to center my attention to allowing myself to engage in tasks that let me feel fulfilled.
Now, of course, like anyone my age, I love social media. There are some fantastic things on here to learn from or contribute towards. However, I lacked the ‘balance.’ I’ve now learned to be more reflexive of my digital space. I’ve taken the time to orchestrate a digital platform that truly gives me happiness. I’ve been able to restrict content that I’m no longer interested in, and engage more in the content I genuinely enjoy. Social media breeds echo chambers, and it can be quite suffocating to only engage with the people you know. I’m now glad to step away from these inbuilt echo chambers, expose myself to more content that I’m genuinely interested in, and be inspired by something completely new and different.
If social media makes you feel energetic and content, that’s great! However, if you find yourself feeling more isolated online or increasingly overwhelmed, its time to be more mindful of your digital space and tune the content, you’re engaging with. Maybe, it’s time to unplug.