When Essena O’Neil’s video post regarding social media cropped up, it restarted the age old conversation of the negative effects of social media. Three KUL-ites decided to take Essena’s advice to stay away from social media for a week and this was what they found.
I wake up and the first thing I do is scroll through Twitter.
It’s also the last sight I see before I fall asleep. When I go out for dinner with my family and friends, I’m THAT rude ass person who’s staring at her phone. The odd thing is that I’m not even participating on it. I don’t do anything besides delve myself into other people’s lives – lives I am not a part of, which when you think about it, is a HUGE waste of time. I’d have my phone snatched away by a friend or my brother just to get myself focused, to be part of the group again but then they’d notice my fidgety fingers or bouncing knees, so they’d have to give my phone back to me.
When I agreed on this social media cleanse, boy did I fidget. I started being able to hear my own thoughts, which scared me. I go through flashbacks and end up analyzing them, which makes me cringe even more. I waste my time so much on other people’s thoughts just to ignore my own. That showed me how uncomfortable I really was being in my own head.
It did, however, start to get better. After some time, what I realized was that when I was off Twitter and Instagram, I didn’t really need my phone. I also felt I become more approachable. I wasn’t constantly squinting at my screen waiting for the class to start. My eyes would wander around until it lands on the girl next to me and then, we’d start chatting.
Once my one week came to an end, I was telling Marsya how I missed Instagram so much because I usually find inspiration in photos. With Twitter, I didn’t really gave it much thought anymore.
I actually went another 3 plus weeks of deactivating my account. I did come back on it about a week ago just to check on things and still did not feel the itch to start scrolling through again. Sure now I tweet a couple of things, random facts here and there as well as to tell my brother his tweets are irrelevant but other than that, Twitter is no longer the first thing I wake up to. That makes me feel so relieved. They say it takes at least 21 days to turn something into a habit and I honestly can say it really does work.
Side note: I lost my earphones a few days ago and I’m trying SO hard not to buy new ones. We’ll see how long this will last.
I have this love/hate relationship with technology.
One day, I’ll spend the whole day sending snaps, liking pictures on Instagram, being on Tumblr while watching vlogs on YouTube. Even though, it’s great and a really chilled way to spend my off days (or who am I kidding even days when I have assignments piled up to the brink), but I always feel quite empty after. So, this social media cleanse to me, was an amazing idea.
The first step to social media sobriety was getting myself off. I did this for a week. I swear it felt good. I always made up the excuse that social media was essential because it was the fastest way I could get updated on the events of the world and the lives of my friends. That’s how we stayed connected. So, you could understand my confusion when I took myself off and it didn’t feel that different. Life went on.
People started having conversations with me in real life, instead of on social media. I did get a lot of comments such as “Where are you?!!” or “Are you okay?!!” because connecting on social media had been such a normal platform to stay in touch that it was as if I was going against the current of society by taking myself out of it. I did not like how significantly bounded my life had become to this tiny box in my hand.
The first thing I realised was that I had more time to myself. I would get to sleep earlier and wake up earlier. Instead of waking up and spending an hour in bed going through all my apps, I would read a book, have breakfast. Have a conversation with my dad before he left for work. I started to see that what I thought the function of social media was to connect people was really disconnecting us from the people that actually mattered.
We give so much attention to random people commenting on our pictures or we follow people who don’t even know we exist that we end up being consumed by this feeling of unfamiliarity and even worse, we start accepting it.
I started to have meaningful conversations with people around me in general instead of spending 30 minutes posing for a “candid” picture, just so we could show others how much of a good time we were having, instead of actually just having a good time. I realised that I started wishing I was “somewhere else” less and instead I started being grateful for where I was. I no longer compared my life with somebody else’s. How far I had come became my own, how I looked belonged to me.
It’s not that it didn’t matter to me at all, I just suddenly found myself thinking about it less. I had more room in my head to think my own thoughts and generate my own content instead of being subjected into following what everybody else was doing or thinking. I just honestly felt relieved.
I looked around more, and I became curious about the world again. I know it’s weird, but I felt like my own person again. I came to the realisation that everything I do didn’t have to be seen or heard everywhere and vice versa. All in all the experience was great. It did not make me come to a revelation about life and I still do use social media (sometimes, still pretty excessively whoops), but it’s always nice once in a while to take yourself out just to cleanse yourself and remember what’s really important.
As a media student myself, I’ve always taken social media and technology on the whole, as just part of human evolution. Obviously yes, some drastic measures need to be taken to reshape social media away from its horrible effects into a more productive medium but I do not think completely shunning it will do anything to help society. I think that’s why I decided to agree to this Instagram and Twitter cleanse just so that I could see if having that perspective would change how I feel about social media.
My friends know that I am an avid Instagrammer. I love Instagram so much because it’s such a great medium to showcase creativity, to be inspired and have it as a form of an online photo diary. I love editing photos and I love using apps to edit said photos. It’s a point of contention for some of my friends who think I’m wasting time on something pointless, but I don’t think they understand how much I love adding my own spice and color to my photos. (To those who get it, love you guys.) Anyway, that concerned me the most about this week-long cleanse.
Immediately on the first day, I felt the pinch. Not being able to scroll through Instagram and not having my daily dose of inspiration seriously stifled me, creatively. I was also shocked to realize that without Twitter, I was actually out-of-touch with all the news sites I followed on that platform. My brain was so frazzled by that and it was something that persistently bothered me for a couple of days until I brought it up to Adrienne who then gave me alternatives, which really helped. That week, I realised I downloaded a bunch of lifestyle brain-training and fashion apps just to appease myself, but it just wasn’t the same.
Surprisingly, though, I have to admit when the week ended, it made me think a lot about my own social media culture. I realized that without going on Twitter, yes, I was missing out on the news but I was also missing out on seeing tweets from people that would make me question humanity. Without going on Instagram, I realized I took more effort to get in touch with some friends more just to see how they were doing since I didn’t have their feeds to reference to.
Ultimately, I still love social media. Heck, I remember telling Marini on the last day of the cleanse that as soon as the clock would strike twelve I would go on Instagram ASAP and I did. Though, I decided that I really enjoyed not being bogged down by petty negativity on Twitter and I went on an unfollowing spree to clear out that negativity. My stance on Instagram hasn’t changed much, though, except that now I made sure I talked to people more and not just simply rely on their feeds to see how they were doing.
While I sympathize with Essena on how she felt she was completely faking her life on social media, I personally think that the fact that she is using social media itself to spread awareness is a testament to how people can use social media in a more positive, impactful, and meaningful way.