I post a photo on Instagram. It’s a good shot, arty, and I’ve thought of the perfect caption – teamed with the perfect emoji, obviously. For the next half an hour, I keep refreshing my newsfeed, checking for likes. To start with I’m pleased, they’re are coming in fast. But they slow. Not good. Surely I can get more than a measly 23? And why do I feel so inadequate if I don’t?
Later on I scroll through Facebook. I’m sitting with a cuppa on my sofa – a sofa I’ve barely moved from since I got up two hours ago. I’m having one of those days where I can’t seem to get going – but everyone else seems to be doing so much. Travelling, seeing friends, going on dates. And they all look so beautiful and happy while they do it. How?
I look at snapchat, it’s the same story there. Why does everyone seem to be having fun or achieving something, everyone except me? I feel pretty crappy.
Well, of course, that’s all bullshit; social media is a highlight’s reel. We only post the best bits of our lives, because who wants to see the rest? We offer an image of ourself to the world, and ask they accept it. Which, more often than not, they do.
Before I went to Tanzania, I understood how false social media can be. It was really highlighted for me in my first year of university; I was struggling to settle into a new place, but because I put lots of photos on Facebook, friends from home thought I was having a ball.
And yet, I don’t think I realised the extent to which social media affected my mentality.
Having no internet for three months was a breath of fresh air. I loved it. I lived in the moment. I didn’t constantly compare myself to others. I didn’t get FOMO (fear of missing out). I just got on with it, made the most of the experience, and waited until I got home to tell everyone about it.
It was bizarre not knowing what my friends and family were doing, and hearing my only news from home through irregular letters. But it was a welcome change. I came home with greater self-confidence, happier, and less stressed.
Social media is a central aspect of the modern world, and there are huge benefits to it, don’t get me wrong. But there are also dangers, and being so interconnected with the world can destroy self-belief. It’s an issue we’re all becoming more aware of, but having time offline made me realise how much happier I could be without it.
I’m not planning on giving up Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter anytime soon, but I’ve made a conscious effort to use it less. Not only have I noticed a difference in my phone’s battery life, but I’m less concerned about likes, about portraying myself in a certain way, about what others are doing. It’s refreshing.