Self Discovery

Recognizing the Real: What Quitting Social Media Taught Me About Myself

The scavenger hunt to find a substitute for social media opened a dimension I had not acknowledged: the world around me.

Like, retweet, and follow are only three of many words used to describe what I’d see the first thing in the morning. As a teenager, social media is pretty much something that we engage in on a day to day basis. Among the many benefits, the price of having views or likes becomes straying away from reality.

Sometimes, if not all the time, when we keep up a habit for far too long, it becomes a part of us. “Practice makes permanent” is how I’d like to describe this sensation. So when it came to logging in to check my Instagram feed, or my Tumblr activity, my life began to shift into what seemed like another dimension. In today’s age, my generation is seen by many as entitled, or better yet, two-faced.

My obsession over minuscule issues, such as my picture online being the wrong filter, not only showed a poor realization of values, but finally had me open my eyes to see what’s right, and more importantly, what is real.

Don’t get me wrong, as far as the eye could see, I did not really look like I had a problem regarding my self-control towards social media. Of course, we never really know who struggles internally until it becomes explicitly evident.

My decision to quit social media for a while was nowhere near spontaneous. After reading endless testimonies regarding the ‘refreshing’ effects of a social media free January, I thought that it would not hurt to try it out. After all, Instagram and Snapchat were simply apps at the end of the day.

Not conforming with the expectations of my peers who proudly boasted their ‘achievements’, such as hitting 2,000 followers or accumulating a massive sum of likes on their most recent picture, started to affect my mind strangely. “What do I really gain from gaining 5 followers?” I began to ask myself. Taking a detour from all the swiping and double-tapping made me realize that there was no point in being concerned over my tweets getting enough likes. This blew my mind, but was also immensely disappointing.

When I was younger, mom would strongly urge me to find ‘alternatives’ to technological activities like watching TV or mindlessly surfing the web. When I decided to close my accounts at the beginning of the year, I encountered a powerful feeling of déjà vu, remembering my mother’s words. After discovering that I had indeed wasted much of my free time aimlessly browsing my explore pages, I sought out after these so-called ‘alternatives’.

The satisfaction I had for typing comments and swiping up on Snapchat stories was not there. It took me a while to find an alternative. The moment did not come until I walked down the street, taking note of my ordinary surroundings. Surprisingly, at the sight of rain running down my jacket and the wind beating against my fingertips, I became self-aware. The scavenger hunt to find a substitute for social media opened a dimension I had not acknowledged: the world around me.

The fear and pressure to appear presentable on a phone screen put me face to face with the real issues in my surroundings.

The dilemma I believed I was facing was nowhere near as significant as the ones faced by others around me. My seemingly small obstacles I encountered through my journey towards detaching from social media were what I believed to be the fault of the others around me.

The responsibility to foster my creativity and passions away from a phone screen was not a group effort. My action steps were not to be dependent upon an entire group of people. It was scary to walk away from social media, alone, while my friends stayed behind. The concept of a social media fast, for me, was easier said than done.

Through this 2 month (and counting) long experience, I have learned that the solution to some of the most minuscule ‘problems’ may be hidden under our noses. To be fair, I only participated in a popular trend which has gone well for me, despite the difficulties. Will I ever return back to social media? The answer remains the same: I don’t know, but not right now.

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Nede Ovbiebo is a teenager from the USA. She can usually be found with her...