By Tahrima Bhuiyan
Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula
[5 minute read]
In March of 2020, at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, I decided to delete all of my social media accounts. At the time, I had been feeling for a while that social media was a toxic place for my mental health and was not adding anything particularly valuable to my life. Back when I had social media, at times I would delete the apps from my phone without deleting the accounts themselves. But I would always end up feeling bored one day or another and re-download the apps. Upon re-downloading, I always found that the time away from social media made no difference: as soon as I re-downloaded the apps to my phone, I was immediately engaging with them in the same way as before.
When quarantine rolled around, a lot of other things in my life went on pause. A lot of people found themselves burning out and feeling stressed in the midst of the semester due to work, school, and social demands weighing on their time. Thus, the beginning of quarantine was almost a relieving pause for some, providing a mental change of pace that our brains and bodies might have been longing for. We were already gearing up for a spring break when the announcement that USC would be initiating remote learning was made, so many students were ready for some time off at this point. This break from other obligations in my life seemed to create the perfect environment for me to take a break from social media as well, as deep down I had been wanting to do this for a while. So, the decision to delete my social media accounts was not one that I even thought about when I did it. I went on Instagram one day in the beginning days of quarantine and felt instinctively that I wanted to delete my social media. While I may not have needed to think about the decision to delete my accounts at the time, I have since reflected a lot on the decision, its consequences, and what I think about social media and its role in my life. Since then, I have not regretted the decision to delete my accounts even once, and have no desire to ever download social media again. Here is why:
I often found myself tapping away at my phone, clicking on apps and scrolling through social media feeds mindlessly. Social media provides a quick dopamine release–while many know dopamine as the “pleasure” drug, it is not just released when we experience pleasure, but when we expect it. Because the engagement of likes and comments on our posts as well as the reward of messages from friends and family can be experienced on social media, it has a natural pull on our brains. Even when there are no notifications, there is the anticipation of a quick reward with these apps that we turn to throughout the day. This makes the work of our daily life–work, school, studying for an exam, or writing a paper–boring and even difficult and impossible by comparison. This is what causes us to click on social media and scroll mindlessly as a distraction from our daily lives. I found that social media enabled procrastination, especially when I would rather engage in mind-numbing activities than confront something difficult. This is the phenomenon of a disengaged mind–mindless and distracted, using technology, making it difficult to focus. Our lives with school, work, and even social activities can be overstimulating and it can be easier to engage in mindlessness and look for a quick dopamine boost as an escape. When I deleted social media, I realized I was still reaching for my phone often, not realizing the apps were no longer there for me to scroll through mindlessly. This is when I truly realized how often I had been distracting myself with these apps.
Another harmful aspect of social media is how easy it is on social media to compare one’s life with everyone else’s. It is easy to forget that people post their life’s highlight reel on social media and that we can get caught up in comparing their high moments to our behind-the-scenes. Comparison is the thief of joy, and often seeing what everyone is doing can cause FOMO or the “fear of missing out”. Social media also enables us to not just take in what others are doing, but to compare ourselves in terms of how many likes or followers we are getting. I have found that since deleting social media, I am able to live more in the present moment and do things without consideration of what others might think of it.Continue reading Deleting social media: My experience