‘It’s not the phone that’s the problem – it’s how you use it’

Deleting most of my social media accounts encouraged me to live in the present and work on my confidence and self-esteem

As a Gen Z, smartphones have always been in my life. I remember clearly when the first iPhone was launched and encapsulated all my peers. Phones stopped being a way to simply contact loved ones and play a game of Snake. They started to become a means to keep in touch with friends. Texting quickly turned into personal messaging on social media platforms, or publicly showing appreciation for one another online.

The phone also became a bit of an escape whether you were out in public or in your home. Growing up with anxiety, I was grateful for something to scroll when waiting for a friend by myself or spending time with friends of friends who I didn’t know very well. It gave me “something to do”, distracting me from the weight of fear I was feeling at the moment.

For my entire life, phones have been framed in a very negative light.

It’s understandable why, given that people can easily abuse them. During my teenage years, I suffered immense bullying, and social media and mobile phones definitely helped to intensify it. The phone meant I could be targeted at any moment. Beyond bullying, growing up using social media was also difficult. To this day, I struggle with appearance dysmorphia and I put a lot of it down to being on certain social media apps as an impressionable teenager.


I was constantly seeing people I viewed as “perfect”, with looks I felt were “unobtainable”. In my later teenage years and early 20s, being on social media was also difficult. By this point, comparison became a frequent habit and was no longer just about appearances. My response to the traumatic events I’ve experienced throughout my life has been avoidance. While I’ve tried to challenge it, I still do struggle to be social and go do things.

These experiences have also affected me in the sense that I’m not the typical 20-something-year-old, enjoying the same activities as my fellow peers. Even though I wasn’t interested in engaging in the same things, social media made me resent myself for growing up too fast and not being like a normal 18-, 19-, 20-, etc year-old. These people were constantly posting about their latest social hangouts and I couldn’t get over how many friends they had.

While I was never desperate to have a tonne of friends, their posts made me feel as though I must be very unlikeable or uncool. I truly believed the people I followed or kept up with on social media had the most amazing lives, forgetting I was only seeing a fraction. In reality, they were showing me their highlight reel of all their best moments. What I didn’t see were the hard times and vulnerable moments. Besides that, social media also fuelled my imposter syndrome from time to time.

I was always very happy for other people getting what they want, but it did send alarm bells in my mind that I wasn’t doing well enough, even if I was. Ultimately, social media was messing with my mind and my perception of how things really were. As a chronic overthinker, I decided I didn’t need anything more to fuel those cycles, which is why I deleted most of my social media platforms. I kept LinkedIn because I need it for promoting my business services, and Facebook because I wanted to keep connected with old school friends and family.

I haven’t regretted the decision for one second. I’ve been able to get time back that I would’ve otherwise spent scrolling and I’m not further fuelling my insecurities. My phone has practically transformed back into what it was when I was a pre-teen. I use it for contacting people and playing the odd game. Taking this step really has encouraged me to live in the present, get validation from myself and real people in my life, and work on my confidence and self-esteem.

I still struggle with many of the issues mentioned above, such as body dysmorphia and imposter syndrome, but the difference is my insecurities are not being fed daily with reasons as to why I’m not enough. Ultimately, I have a healthier relationship with my phone now. It stopped being a place where my insecurities came to life and my mind got overwhelmed and transformed back into what it was intended to be used as – a communication tool.

There’s a lot of evidence and stories to support that smartphones are harmful for mental health and wellbeing. I’ve been on the negative side of it but even with this in mind, it isn’t so black and white. If like me you are finding social media to be a toxic space and that it is affecting your mental health deeply, you need to make the right decision for yourself and move away from these apps.

The phone is not the issue at hand; it is how you use it.

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