I have a long post chock full of my thoughts and experiences post quitting social media, that has been in the works since almost the start of the year. I haven’t posted it because I don’t feels like I’m done. Because every now and then a new insight happens, thoughts follow and inevitably I see how it has panned out, continues to pan out, in my life. And I update the note. I revisited it last week after the recent, brief brush with Instagram, and I realised I will probably not post it after all. Maybe it’s one of those things that will remain in the realm of the really personal.
However, today, with the week-long hit of Instagram still fresh and buzzing in my veins, I’m going to put down a few fresh thoughts I’ve had about what I know for sure quitting Instagram (specifically) did for me. And conversely, what good has come from staying off of it. It reinforced the fact that just pruning my feed or curtailing the time I spent on the app would certainly not have done me as much good as removing myself from it entirely has. It made a very good case for not returning too soon.
I didn’t know it with this much surety then, but I do now. The obvious downsides of social media aside — like the playing on my specific insecurities and vulnerabilities, the steady cultivation of an attitude that preyed on feedback and validation, the unquestionable sinkhole of productivity and time — the single most important reason I needed to get away was that what I was choosing to see, the imagery and thoughts I was exposing myself to, and thereby the way in which they were being reinforced, was influencing the way I thought and lived. And not in a nice way. It had begun to get in the way of my self-improvement. My habits and patterns online — which were clear numbing patterns — were at loggerheads with the habits and patterns I was trying to cultivate offline. In real life.
One of the two had to change in order for me to move forward.
It goes without saying that I was, like all of us, choosing to see a very curated feed. One that suited my leanings and interests. It made for great viewing, but what it also did, rather insidiously, was make me unwilling to see other points of view. And over time, I’d become very rigid and cocksure about my beliefs and attitudes. Even the ones that needed to change so I could move into a healthier headspace. All of this was an unconscious and rather slow process that crept up on me when I wasn’t looking.
Social media was great for the constant feedback loops — what with a willing audience that consistently clapped for me, liked everything I posted and thereby reinforced how right I was in what I saw, believed, shared and put out there — and the selective way in which I could expose myself to only a very stilted feed that reflected those very same beliefs and attitudes back at me further digging my heels in deeper, making it so hard for me to realise where I might have been wrong, where I could stand to review and reassess my views. And so hard to course correct.
Polarised and fixed views also allowed little to no scope for middle ground, flexibility, or even the idea that other people maybe coming from very different spaces worth considering. So sure and unshakeable have I been about myself that I now recall several instances of having taken a high ground when it wasn’t required, or even my place to. That high ground, build on a rather shaky foundation of opinions that were not fully formed, not even entirely my own, was bound to come crumbling down.
Opinions are great, but the finality of a social media declaration, backed by the external validation and further reinforced by the audiences repeated positive feedback solidified much of me in a very unshakeable way.
That was disastrous for growth.
So many of my half-baked and problematic (for me) views were being reinforced on a daily basis. Even on days when I didn’t post and was in the audience. And so many of them have gotten in the way of my movement and evolution.
Over the years, I lost sight of the basic truth that we are all evolving. That the very nature of growth and growing up is that we can be completely wrong about many things. Also, that everyone else is evolving too. That what holds true at one time may or may not continue to hold true at another.
Today, practically everything that I knew to be true and held as unshakeable truths, has crumbled and re-formed in the period of about 18 months. The only thing I know for certain is that absolutely nothing is certain, and everything changes.
Much of who I am today and the dramatic changes I have experienced, and the way that I have seen life surge ahead, is a consequence of allowing myself to change my mind. Without a doubt, this process was hastened because I just cut social media out of my life.
A lack of social media has:
- Shown me what feeling unsure is
- Opened me up to being wrong
- Encouraged me to look beyond the obvious, and see where people might be coming from
- Softened my need to have a fixed opinion about everything
I’m enjoying this space of being undecided and unclear about many things I had rather staunch opinions about. I’m enjoying figuring it out as I go. I’m reaching out for experiences much more willingly, I’m trying new things. Most of all, I’m getting better and better at asking for help, and find that I am able to receive it with a little more grace than before.
I’m finding unexpected outcomes all the time, and the process has really softened me in a way that has made life fuller and richer.
One year ago: Finding life again