I took a self-imposed digital detox. This is what I learned
I recognised a problem when I started to watch how many hours I clocked up online
‘Recently, I have fallen out of love with Instagram due to an overwhelming knock on the head from toxic positivity.’
Logging off has rarely been an issue for me when it comes to social media. It’s staying logged out which is the problem. You’d imagine once the phone was down, my attention would be pulled back to real life but still the pot boils over because I’m distracted by this constant pull. Not necessarily to keep clicking and scrolling and feed the addiction, but rather to feel the approval, fit in and be recognised.
To be one of the gang.
But to survive and thrive, we’re supposed to be seen, right?
We are humans in need of constant validation that has only got worse since social media created this vague, momentary acceptance, which at its root is meaningless. But the dopamine high is aggressive enough that we come back again and again and again. We have become physically dependent on the stimulus social media gives us, requiring a substantial effort to rewire our brains when we want to disconnect.
I recognised a problem when I started to watch how many hours I clocked up online. Time passed mindlessly, watching other people’s lives. And it made me feel empty. Anxious. Disappointed. It was more than the pointless hours of scrolling and dipping into the lives of others which gave me concern. It was the competition for the fame and glory, which comes from numbers, likes, comments and shares. It was the influence these platforms were having on my life.
I wondered ... why I seemed to like my online self more than the person I looked at in the mirror.
Never before had I been more influenced to spend my money on things I don’t need, feel a certain way when it was alien to me and act out of character because social media sharpened its claws and stuck them delicately into my skin without me noticing.
The problem was one part addiction and two parts a lack of balance. Needing to disconnect made me wonder why I felt a need to be online and why I seemed to like my online self more than the person I looked at in the mirror.
The thing about social media is that we don’t seem to always portray ourselves the way we are in real life. For every platform there is a different vibe needing a different version of ourselves. Our personalities are split to accommodate how we think we should behave with our online peers. There is the preppy, contented, nostalgic me on Facebook. The tortured but positively happy me on Instagram. The sarcastic and dire me on Twitter. And of course, the ever pervasive professional me on LinkedIn.
If I can hold so many identities online, how does this affect me offline? Who am I when I don’t have a platform dissecting every word, photo or share? How are these digital identities shaping the person I am, impacting my self-worth, my feeling of belonging and where does reality lie with all of this?
It all depends on where I am when I am offline. Which is often still online considering the difficulties in disconnecting from these worlds and personalities. Let’s remember, brain scans have shown that the regions of the brain which correlate with addiction to substances are also dancing heavily when it comes to internet dependence. These addictions are fighting with the social areas of our brains, which control our attention span, how we process our emotions and make decisions.
Recently, I have fallen out of love with Instagram due to an overwhelming knock on the head from toxic positivity. Not to knock Instagram entirely, I know it has its benefits and I have made some good real-life friends there, but I have also felt an undulating pressure to be happy, confident and know my worth. Good Vibes Only negating any potential bad vibes flowing through my veins in real life. Yes, a prevailing sense of positivity is good for the soul, but the toxic nature of this positivity had the opposite effect on me. I felt I was not good enough.
So, I loosened the reigns, almost cutting the cord. It was a case of re-wiring how I relate to and dissect the online world. A case of understanding myself more.
In the meantime, I moved my need to connect to Twitter, which has a vibe like no other. Big mistake. Almost a narcissistic negativity abounds. It made me question why we share on any platform at all. Why we feel that need for connection when real-life connections have so much more weight to them. Social media has drastically changed the way we communicate. Our brains no longer receive vital information to form a valid connection. There are no subtle facial expressions, mannerisms are lost, and the nuances of gestures and voice are missing and silent. We wait for likes, retweets, and we analyse our connections through data. We aim to make an impact. And when we don’t, we blame the algorithm. My sideways move to Twitter did not last long.
I wonder whether I need an online home at all
So, I took a self-imposed digital detox. A hip new trend concerned with minding our mental health when the world of social media bogs us down. Yes, I loved the interaction, the connection, the love. But I also loved the quiet in my mind as the distance from needing to be connected grew. Instead of deleting my accounts due to an unnerving sense of FOMO, the fear of missing out, I curtailed my usage. Days passed without opening any of the apps and the relief was perpetuating. This detox gave me clarity that it was not necessarily my usage of social media but rather how my mind transcribes what I see.
I’m left wondering where my digital home is as I’m back to dipping in and out of all four platforms yet again. Except this time, I’m racking up a total time spent on social media averaging at 10 minutes per day.
I wonder whether I need an online home at all.