As of 2020, 3.8 billion people use social media*. There is an increasing amount of evidence that these platforms can have negative impacts on mental health. A few years ago, I deleted both my Instagram and Twitter accounts for this very reason. If you’d like to find out about the pros and cons, then keep reading…
A Summary of my Personal Experience: My 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 video projects and Pinterest (@ofsocialcreatures), where I promote this blog. These are easy enough to manage and I thankfully don’t find them addictive. I am considering going back to Instagram in the future but it’s not something I had done yet.
Benefits of Having Social Media
It’s important for me to recognise that social media isn’t all negative. There are plenty of positives to get out of it, which is why many people find it so difficult to quit. Here are some of them…
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”. This allows a large audience to be addressed very efficiently. It can be especially useful for organising events, for example.
This didn’t affect me at the time, but while trying to build a brand, can be difficult without it.
2. Keep in touch with distant family/friends
Because so many people use social media, it’s convenient to keep in touch this way. Many young adults say that they only keep Facebook to keep in touch with family.
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. But that didn’t mean it was impossible, it just meant 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.
This didn’t bother me too much at the time but once again, as a brand it’s something that I would miss out on without having my blog.
4. Showcase creativity
Platforms like Instagram can be an easy way to share your creative projects and get feedback.
This no doubt affected me. Sometimes, using a public platform to promote work can actually be a motivator. 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.
(update) I have now created a LinkedIn profile to help overcome this.
Benefits of Leaving Social Media
Despite the benefits, I did ultimately decided to delete my profiles and so here’s what I found…
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
It would be difficult to say that it’s only down to deleting social media that my mental health is a lot better. And even now I still struggle at times. But being away from some of the toxic behaviour displayed online, particularly on Twitter, I feel calmer. I can focus on myself without being influenced by so much negativity.
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 returned.
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.
Has it been worth it?
All in all, it was absolutely worth it. I was addicted to these platforms and gravitated towards the negative elements. My mental health was in a bad way and being on social media everyday would only amplify these issues.
I’ve enjoyed having time to switch off and spending my time more productively than scrolling through my feed. Perhaps when I feel stronger, I may return to these platforms but only when I have clear boundaries set in place.
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.
If you feel it is damaging your mental health in any way, deleting the app altogether may not even be the answer but setting restrictions could be enough. It’s very personal and you must trust in yourself as to what will best help you. Deactivating your account is a good way to see how that feels before committing to deleting it completely.
What’s on your mind?
Do you have social media? What benefits or disadvantages have you found? Leave a comment below!
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