why i took a break from social media 

After taking a much needed break from in Instagram in November and December, I decided to write a follow up post to this one, where I talked about social media + authenticity. As with everything, I struggle with anxiety and overthinking things that are seemingly as simple as social media. So I’m going to write about what led me to take a break from social media, and how I went about returning to Instagram with a healthier mindset.

The anxiety and overthinking of my Instagram presence is something I often deal with. It seems to be ridiculous that it can be such an issue for me, because it’s just social media, right? But. Not always. It’s a really big part of most of our lives, in all honesty, and I think something we should be mindful about. I would take and retake photos, and edit and re-edit them, continually. Half the time I posted a picture and took it down a few seconds later because it wasn’t getting the reaction I wanted or for some reason I was self-conscious about it or whatever. Dedicating this much time, thought, and obsessing was not doing anything for me but making me more anxious and more frustrated with myself. Why couldn’t I just post a picture and have it be that simple?

I tried to be honest on social media with what I posted, because I was aware of how easily Instagram can affect one’s mental health when they compare themselves to the perfectly polished pictures on their feed. However, no matter how hard I tried, there was always a layer of playing pretend – exactly the opposite of what I wanted to be doing – in order to “curate” my feed for a certain aesthetic.

I listened to a thought-provoking interview about how (millennials especially) are so submersed in a culture of instant gratification because we grew up with increasingly more accessible technology and media. But this doesn’t actually translate to the things that actually make people happy, like building relationships, or a career, or any other milestones that take a lot of patience and time. I couldn’t find the interview again, but this article articulates the same idea if you want to read about it!

So. I decided I need a break. The only time I logged on to instagram was once in a while from my laptop where I was unable to make my own posts but I could still use the opportunity to see what my friends were up to and comment on their posts.

When I ended my break, I knew I had to change my mindset. So I followed people who were using their platform in intentional ways – whether it be for advocacy or activism, simply spreading positivity, offering support, building community or simple being honest about their posts and their experiences. I unfollowed anyone that I knew I would only compare myself to. I tried to come up with other strategies to combat posting simple for likes or whatever else…I thought maybe I’d try to write poems that represented the pictures I wanted to post or my day, and only posting infrequently – but that just felt like making rules, which was a habit that I felt was still rooted in anxiety.

What did work for me was this:

  • I turned off my push notifications for likes. It allowed me to forget I’d even made a post, and even better, without constant notifications, I was not tracking the number of likes or people’s reactions. I kept comment notifications on so I could still interact with people in a timely manner.
  • I decided to post “intentionally” – and to me this means not posting just for the sake of posting, but thinking about why I’m posting what I am and what my purpose for posting it is. (Am I posting this because I know people will respond to this? I am posting this because I know it will look good with my feed? Am I posting this just because I haven’t posted in a while?)
  • I changed my bio on instagram to say “trying not to take myself so seriously” as a reminder to do exactly that, every time I viewed my own profile or was tempted to scroll through my profile to see how my feed looked
  • As soon as I started to overthink the aesthetics of any post I was about to share, I paused. I reframed my thought process. I reminded myself of this idea of posting with intention. I reminded myself why I took a social media break in the first place. If I couldn’t curb my overthinking, I just didn’t share the post.
  • I decided to only allow viewers’ perception of my posts to influence my choice in sharing content if I knew it would mean something positive for them (ie, being real or relatable. seeing a pretty rainbow hallway and wanting to “share the feeling” of being happy about simple things)
  • I allowed myself to make choices about aesthetics only in that it was a way to have a creative outlet, to practice taking pictures, or simply for the sake of documentation – not because I thought a post had to look a certain way to be appreciated or valuable.

Overall, this has been a refreshing and beneficial process for me. I don’t feel like I need to “compete” on instagram, or to post pictures that make my life look more luxurious than it is. I remembered that social media was created to connect with people, and I kept this in mind. I wanted to build community, have content that lifts people up instead of contributing to self-comparison. I realized how social media can be so powerful in so many different ways, both good and bad, when our lives are saturated in image-heavy culture. We have to be careful and critical about what we take in, what we share to the world and how it shapes our thoughts and behaviours.

Instagram is now a platform in which I feel inspired, empowered and hopeful when I use it and a lot of this has to do with who I follow and the messages they are sharing.

 

that’s all for now!

jc.

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