The last time I had an Instagram or Twitter account must be approaching two years ago now. My reasons at the time differ from the reasons I remain distant from these platforms and I think it would be interesting to explore this.
As of 2020, 3.8 billion people use social media*. Behind their popularity is of course a number of benefits and so in this post, I’d like to share my own experiences as well as looking at the pros and cons of using such platforms.
My personal relationship with social media…
Between the ages of around 14 to 16, I was obsessed with Instagram. Numbers were incredibly important to me and I was forever trying to achieve that perfect, aesthetic “theme”. It was unhealthy. I was always aware of this and often deactivated my account from time to time, but it never lasted long.
Sometime during my college years, I decided to delete my accounts all together and it was the best decision for me. I was in a much stronger mindset and my only real issue was the way in which these applications consumed my time. Without realising, that was my first step towards becoming more mindful.
The only platforms that remain a part of my life now are YouTube, where I can upload my documentary content, and I also have a private Pinterest account for inspiration. These are easy enough to manage and I thankfully don’t find them addictive. I believe it’s important to recognise that it really can depend both on the personality type of an individual and the way in which social media is used as to its effects.
Some benefits of using social media…
I’ve compiled a small list of ways in which social media can be used in a positive way. Some of these affected me directly while others are just an observation.
1. Connect with large numbers of people
The follow tool that is featured on most, if not all, social media platforms can be very useful to both the person being followed as well as the “follower”. It’s because of this ability that allows a large audience to be addressed very quickly and efficiently. This can be especially useful for organising events for example.
2. Keep in touch with distant family/friends
I have to be honest and say that this did affect me initially. I missed out on social groups that had been created on social media, and it was a little harder to keep up with some members of the family. However, I found other ways to keep in contact with people and so I can’t say it affects me too greatly now, but I can understand it means being a bit more proactive.
3. Find like-minded people
This can be easier on particular platforms and I believe in the majority of cases it can be a positive attribute. Communities that exist online can be empowering and those with good intentions can make people feel a part of something and perhaps even give them more confidence to express a certain side of themselves.
4. Showcase creativity
This no doubt affected me. Sometimes, using a public platform to promote work can actually be a motivator. It’s also a great way to get instant feedback which in turn can help further progression. I always knew I needed something to replace that benefit which is one of the reasons in starting this blog.
5. Gain employment opportunities
In particular industries, certain social media platforms can be used as a portfolio. Demonstrating progress and involvement in relevant activities can lead to more work-related opportunities.
Some benefits of leaving social media…
I’ve come up with a small list of benefits that I have personally found in the time spent away from social media. These are purely based on my own experiences.
1. Increased productivity
It’s no surprise that I’ve noticed an improvement in my productivity. I think the primary reason is simply down to having less distractions. The addictive nature of the platforms would hook me in and restrict the amount of time I had and so by taking this away, it gave me more of an opportunity to achieve in other areas.
2. Boosted self-esteem
Admittedly this may have also come with age, but even so, without a number to base your popularity or likeability on it’s difficult not to care less. Although this was only a brief problem for me, I think giving others the opportunity to judge me through my work and personal interactions rather than having a profile to look at first gives me a positive feeling.
3. More personal connections
Without having those often simplistic interactions through a screen, it’s made me crave more personal interactions in real life. This has lead me to some incredibly interesting discussions and I do think it has helped to boost my confidence also.
4. Improved mental health
I want to be clear and say that for me, there is no direct cause and effect here. However as someone who has always dealt with mental health issues, I do think it’s important to mention that despite the positivity and inspiration that can be found on social media, there is equally a lot of hatred and toxic behaviour. Therefore, it’s understandable that it can have negative consequences at times. So of course, avoiding them altogether has diminished that issue.
5. Being more present
This is something that I didn’t expect initially but began noticing gradually. Over the last 6 months, I have tried to make more of an effort to be mindful and as mentioned before, the less distractions there are the easier that is. It has become my main reason as to why I haven’t and won’t return. This newly-found level of focus is something that I have grown accustomed to and I truly feel better for it. I think deeply and analyse a lot during the day, most of the time without meaning to, and I know that adding the information found on social media would overwhelm me and disrupt my progress. Living in the present has become increasingly important to me and I know that by staying away from social media, I am giving myself a better chance to do so. And in actuality, I have discovered ways to combat some of the benefits I miss out on.
In reality it does not matter at all whether a person uses social media or not. It’s not inherently good nor bad. What’s important is the way in which it is used.
I am lucky that I understand myself enough to know what works for me and what doesn’t. My priority is maintaining mindfulness by giving myself the best chance to do so. Living without social media is completely normal to me now but I am grateful for the benefits it provided in the past.
What’s on your mind?
Do you have social media? What benefits or disadvantages have you found? Leave a comment below!