I have spent almost two complete years now living and existing in a lifestyle that is not driven by an outlet of social media and I must say, the process of disassociation was not easy. On the first day of deletion, I was flooded with an array of emotions: sighs of relief, an overwhelming sense of panic, addictive tendencies, and separation anxiety. After all, when the majority of our time is spent viewing and shuffling through our various applications, what do you entertain yourself with when they’re finally unavailable and out of reach?
Understanding that social media applications and my psyche just weren’t jiving anymore, I decided to part ways to truly come to terms with my own relationship to these sources of media, connection, and inevitably relation to self-value / worth. Like many of us, I would open Facebook to check on a notification only to find myself looking up and fusing back into reality about an hour later, the battery drained, eyes crossed, and a negative feeling running rampant through my mind. I can honestly say that negativity would come from the fact that I was wasting precious time viewing the perceived lives of others rather than focusing on my own desires and aspirations. Self-worth and the perception of value can also become a factor when viewing life through this particular lens, so I decided to take the leap and cut the cord once and for all. I panicked at first, wondering if I should have reached out to connect with specific people to exchange information, struggling to understand how I would keep up to date with happenings occurring in my neighborhood, and when-how-or-where the latest gathering would be.
I struggled through consequential withdrawals, an intense feeling of FOMO, and a longing for voyeurism. I tried drastically to limit my cellphone use to no avail, finding myself instead prowling the latest articles on Wall Street Journal or The Atlantic, attempting to fill the void of using my phone as a means of escapism and avoidance of the natural world.
But great and beautiful things started happening, too.
My relationship with my partner became so much stronger as I wasn’t distracted by things that honestly didn’t matter for our relationship: social status, relationship status, the couple's photos, the family tag-a-thons, etc. I wasn’t experiencing random mood swings throughout the day and most importantly, the negative self-talk had significantly diminished. I was becoming me again, calmer and less attached to the drama of the perceptive cerulean screen.
I was able to focus on my art, to feel confident in my growth and my progress. I was proud of how I was choosing to spend my time and genuinely connecting with the present moment.
Like a bad break up though, social media comes knocking when least expected.
Just when I thought I was strong enough, I received an email from Facebook three weeks post deletion explaining that it’s not too late to come back, with arms outstretched, radio overhead, music blaring. My very own virtual John Cusack.
I hovered with my cursor over the link like a cat stalking prey in a field asking myself:
Do I give in?
Do I respond?
Do I succumb?
That is when it hit me. I am not the one missing out on anything.
By choosing to prioritize the physical instead of the virtual, I’ve had time to expand my reading list, take French lessons, focus on my studio work, and genuinely connect with my family and friends.
Don’t get me wrong, if you are the type of person who can confidently project, recognize and understand that the algorithms are bullshit, then you are above and beyond the system. By all means, keep grooving to that glorious rhythm sister / mister!
However, if you are having similar thoughts to the ones mentioned above, maybe it's time to take a break from the ensemble of social media and experience the real world again for a change. If anything, it will give you a chance to explore yourself in a technologically driven era. A chance to adapt and discover new ways of reaching out, forging connections, and creating lasting memories.
Ashleigh Cortese is a Fine Artist and Kundalini Yoga instructor residing in Oakland, California. She enjoys her time being community-oriented, raising her prehistoric pet skink, and hiking outdoors with her partner, David. You might find her drinking entirely too much coffee with her nose in a book or dabbling in poetry and blog posts.