Photo by Igor Omilaev on Unsplash

Likes, red hearts and inner dialogs

Adriana Leboss

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Most people won’t admit how much social media means, or has meant, to them. Social media has been a massive part of my life since 2007. I have opened many accounts and pages here and there, and I gathered crowds for my book signing events thanks to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. But that’s pretty much it. The rest was delusions.

I don’t know how much you’ve used social media sites and apps over the years, but for me, after heavy social media use- nearly every waking hour of every single day, it was finally time for a reality check.

Facebook and Twitter

I won’t even try to count how my life and overall well-being have improved since I quit Facebook and Twitter 18 months ago. Although super active on both, I had never witnessed the toxicity of any of these two, or the darkness of human nature as I never followed anything religious/ political/controversial, until one day someone commented on some very neutral news channel account that the deceased didn’t deserve prayers because they weren’t affiliated with a particular religion.

That was it for me. I wasn’t involved in the comment itself in any way and could have let go and kept enjoying my oh-so-many posts and oh-so-many interactions if it weren’t for the fact that I am a big anti-fan of human nature, so imagine what such a comment could do to my psyche.

Delete account. Deactivate account. Are you sure? Yes, I’m sure.

My cynical friends joked, “Sure, we’ll see how long that lasts.” (It makes me even prouder of my willpower, by the way).

Instagram

This morning, while telling my friend about my newfound happiness sans my Instagram account, which I thought I could never live without because, and I quote myself, “at least on Instagram you don’t get to read the venom that people spit left center and right,” the friend mentioned “popcorn brain,” and that’s another significant advantage as I already suffer from fleeting attention spans. My focus and productivity have indeed increased.

All the benefits mentioned above are lovely. But one super tremendous benefit of quitting social media — at least, is the reality check on my social life.

For everyone else, it was Covid. For me, it was getting off social media.

Everyone and their mother talked about the friendship lessons they learned during the pandemic. My awakening came from disconnecting from social media. Lastly, from Instagram. A platform I venerated and heavily used.

My typical day with Instagram:

Wake up, look for a cute photo where the flaws of my face aren’t obvious, and post it with a sun sticker and Bonjour. Keep checking the views and enjoying the burst of love from all those adorable little red hearts. I scrolled through posts all day long, offering likes generously, even when the content didn’t particularly resonate. Even if I didn’t really like it because, hey, all my followers are friends or friends of friends. And we’re supposed to be friendly to both. (That’s precisely why they reciprocate, by the way).

Lunchtime. I never post food photos, but I love posting pictures of wine glasses and rings. (Sometimes, I’d have a manicure just thinking about the potential hand shots I’d miss without one). A photo of my hand with one of my favorite rings holding a glass of wine. With or without a caption. It doesn’t matter. This was already my “trademark”.

Another round of likes. I was interrupted by a client meeting on Teams. Mute mic when meeting gets super dull, and I start liking and sending hearts on Instagram and checking who’s picking my posts and sending hearts. And if I’m traveling, it is constantly posting stories with street art, subtle signs on every corner, and whatnot.

Sigh. I’m tired and appalled just reporting all that.

Hundreds of likes and comments. Around the clock. People say they love my stories and travel with me every time I travel, blah. Blah. Blah. Motivation to post more.

Connection. Friendships. Instagram is so excellent! Opening it always feels so new. So refreshing. Whenever I post something online, and people like it, I feel so strangely good.

I have a massive list of friends that value me. I had around 1700 followers that I also mistook for friends.

But these are just delusions.

And then, one morning, I woke up and had an epiphany. Suddenly, all the psychology books I had read since I started appreciating books returned to me. A mysterious force opened my eyes to my feelings and motivations using Instagram. And I felt so shallow. And I felt so vain. And if there’s something I hate, it’s looking down on myself.

I wanted out. And I decided to quit.

Having the time to sit back and reflect on the friends who are present and engaged in my daily life has been life-affirming. Of the 1700 followers who never missed a post, only 2 or 3 asked me if I was ok as they noticed my absence. Hehe. My best friends already knew I quit.

During the first few days without Instagram, I felt strange. I didn’t know what others were doing. I didn’t know what new places opened in my city. But the best part was I no longer needed to know.

Immediately after the first week, I felt a sense of freedom. Oh, and privacy! People were denied access to my private life (which I willingly overexposed). To me, that’s a huge takeaway. It felt like breaking myself free from invisible shackles.

Restored interest in social gatherings

Before I quit, I always knew what everyone was up to, and whenever I met up with friends, I already knew their latest from their Instagram photos and stories. So, we had nothing to share as we continually followed up on each other “online.”

After quitting Instagram, I am restarting to enjoy the new quality time with friends. Their travel stories. The cute little bar they just discovered. Accurate life recommendations that I take note of.

And while I am listening to their adventures, I am not scrolling up and down my feed to see who liked my new photo.

I am entirely there.

In the now.

Offline.

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