I honestly can’t remember how long it’s been since I decided one day to never post on or even open my social media apps again. It was definitely a pre-pandemic impulse. I can only imagine how much worse my mental health would have been at that time if I had remained on Facebook and Instagram. I really lucked out with my random timing because I don’t think I would’ve had the willpower to take that plunge during lockdown. I’m just going to estimate that it’s been around 3 years now since I’ve been a part of that online hellscape.
Right away I noticed more space open up in my day as well as in my head. There was no more mindless scrolling for hours or trying to mentally curate the perfect status update. I also didn’t feel the need to look perfect for even the most mundane events so that I could take tons of photos for strangers. I knew from the beginning that it would be more isolating to not have an active Facebook presence, but the pros far outweighed the cons for me.
Fast forward to now and I’ve started to feel that familiar itch for validation. Part of me does miss showing myself off and feeling important. Sometimes I miss knowing how people I went to school with are doing and always having an endless supply of people to message and get attention from if I’m feeling lonely. There have been a couple times I’ve considered trying to go back, if even in a much more limited capacity.
I had to remind myself of all the reasons I left in the first place and ask the tough questions about what I was really missing. The thought had occurred to me a few times for finding a way to have Instagram without all the other people. That might sound strange, but hear me out. I really loved posting on Instagram. It was my favorite when it first came out. I’ve always enjoyed photography, but even more than that, I enjoyed looking back at my own photos. It was my own personal little scrapbook of my life. I still look through my old feed sometimes to find a specific picture I want to show someone. It always fills me with such tender feelings of nostalgia.
At the same time, Instagram may have even been more toxic to me than Facebook. I followed so many beautiful, skinny, perfect women. It was one of my guilty pleasures to just gorge myself on these flawless images every day for hours. At first it really felt inspiring and motivating. That didn’t last long though. It quickly devolved into yet another way for me to feel like I could never be good enough. I would never look like those girls behind the screen. No matter how hard I tried. I truly believe (and many studies suggest I’m accurate in this belief) that those images on Instagram as well as Tumblr contributed greatly to my disordered eating and unhealthy relationship with exercise and my body in general. I was always a little messed up in that regard, but social media sent me over the edge.
While things are still not perfect, I feel more mentally healthy without these influences in my life. I feel like I have more time to form genuine connections with the people that truly matter to me. I don’t feel distracted by all of these shallow, phony imitations of community. Now for the first time in my life, I have been actively working to create a real community for myself. I even found a solution for the things I was missing about social media.
Having Apple products, I am constantly being bombarded with iCloud pop-ups trying to get me to pay for more storage. While it is endlessly infuriating, it has led me to realize just how stupid these paid cloud storage spaces are. Why should I pay to store this in one place when there are literally thousands of free platforms that offer unlimited free storage to every user? Instagram doesn’t ask you to pay to save all your posts from the last ten years. Facebook doesn’t have a limit of things you can upload or share. Even this blog affords me unending space to post or upload as many files as I see fit.
I mentioned earlier my longing to have a private Instagram vacuum. I don’t want to get sucked into looking at anyone else’s feed, nor do I want to become obsessed with a public image and getting likes. Some people have told me their camera roll is like that for them. But as I don’t have unlimited backup storage, I don’t feel safe relying on something that could ultimately become lost. (It wouldn’t be the first time.) Plus there isn’t really a way to organize photos on there in any kind of meaningful way.
A few months ago I had the brilliant idea of using my other blog that I never actually post on. Having a private blog is the perfect way to keep a little digital diary with photos, journal entries, or literally anything you might want to share on social media. So I switched the blog to private and make sure that I also set every post to private before publishing. Now I have a lovely little collection of moments from this past year just for me! I still get to take cute photos, edit and arrange them, but I don’t have to worry about tags or likes or who is going to see them. I can even add little excerpts about what that day was like or how my life was going during the moments these photos were taken. Uncensored, raw, and real. Memories stored forever, for free, for just me.
I would highly recommend this method for anyone who may be tempted to immerse back into the dark waters of these online spaces. It could also be an excellent substitute for people that want to extricate themselves from social media, but feel unable to do so. It has definitely scratched that social media itch for me. Even if you don’t want to stop getting on Facebook, another important takeaway is: The internet is the cloud. The internet is free, unlimited storage. Don’t pay for that shit. Anyway, thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.
Have any of you tried this method already for yourselves? Do you have any experience trying to get off of social media? What has it been like for you? Do you think my solutions would be helpful in your situation? I would love to hear about any tips or tricks other people might have. Hope everyone is staying mentally healthy out there. Whether you ditch the apps or not, always know that you are worthy, you are beautiful, and you are enough exactly as you are.