‘The moment we let go, is the moment we find freedom…’
Before I begin this long and brutally honest post, I want to make a disclaimer. I don’t actually think there is anything wrong with social media, it just depends on how you use it. I have seen the beauty, inspiration, creativity and magic that can stem from it and for that, I would never discourage anybody else from using it. Personally, I am highly sensitive who operates on an ‘all or nothing’ basis which meant I had a very different relationship with it. During my time on there, I found it overwhelming, addictive, confronting and distracting. For this reason, I chose to let it go…
This was not the first time I had uttered the phrase ‘I wish I could live a life without social media.’ I had nearly given it all up a couple of years ago but decided to stay and try to promote my books which ultimately gave me more anxiety than was worth. The thing about trying to create a following is that likes and validation become the bane of your existence. The first thing I would do every single morning was check my follower count. I had an app that told me who was unfollowing me (which I deleted when I noticed a friend did) and obsessed in the rise and fall of numbers. If a picture I posted that morning wasn’t receiving many likes, I found myself feeling gloomy. If a picture did well, I was happy. I soon realised that Instagram in particular was dictating and controlling my moods. I felt like a slave to social media; my motivations based on reward rather than creativity & fun.
It wasn’t until I listened to ‘Big Magic’ by Elizabeth Gilbert that something woke up inside of me and changed my perception of these platforms forever. Elizabeth taught me to create purely for joy and not for any particular gain. I realised long ago that I loved to write regardless if one person read my work or one million. This included writing my novels, my blog that gives me so much joy, journaling daily & scribbling my thoughts/ideas down. She stated that when it no longer became fun, stop. I wanted to spend the rest of my life writing without anything marring that experience. The anxiety and stress that came from trying to build a following in order to sell myself was not in line with my self-love. A famous instagrammer had written on her blog that the best way to build a following was to post every single day. There were so many days when I had nothing to post so I would purposely go somewhere new to eat or create a dish in order to capture it. It’s not that that was a terrible thing but it made me feel fake as the posts were forced and orchestrated. I was never without my phone. My morning ritual consisted of ‘wake up, check social media & scroll mindlessly.’ I could not part with it during the day and it was the last thing I scanned at night. I began to worry about my upcoming honeymoon in November as I knew I would be attached to my screen and not taking in all the wonderful things around me including my new husband. Don’t get me wrong, social media has never affected my relationship nor did Francis ever feel neglected but I knew I wouldn’t be 100% present if I was still connected during that time. I knew I would see everything we did as an opportunity for uploads instead of timeless moments never to be forgotten. I thought about how badly I wanted to live every moment with him. I wanted to lie on the beach and watch the sunrise without needing to capture the moment and desperately post it the second we found WiFi. Big things like house, more travel & kids were on the horizon & I didn’t want to spend my life dependent on a device whilst my actual reality passed me by. I didn’t want to be a mother posing with her children for daily IG content. The thought had scared me so much, I knew I had to make a change…
Firstly, I had to get real with myself as I do before every great act of self-love. I asked myself the tough questions: Are you scared? Hell yes! Do you worry you’ll regret it? Of course! Did it cross your mind all of the things you may be missing out on? Absolutely! However, with every big question, my intuition still told me it was the right thing. What did it matter if I missed out on some things happening in the realm of social media? I would rather that than miss out on real life! So what if I didn’t hear from friends as often? The true ones would contact me via call or text. I kept thinking about my dear friends Nicci & Simon who are my age. They are a beautiful couple that both don’t have a shred of social media to their name. I used to wonder how they did without it whilst envying them simultaneously.
Secondly, I began to wean myself off of all my accounts. You can’t go cold turkey with an addict! The first app to go was Tumblr. A week later, I deleted my account altogether. Tumblr was so pointless. I kept scrolling through it every 5 minutes when I was bored and actually felt sad when nobody was asking me anonymous questions. It served me no other purpose than distress so I got rid of it. Later that day, I made a post on Instagram declaring to the world (or rather 870 of my followers) that I would be deleting all of my social media before our wedding day. I was honest about my intentions and received very encouraging feedback. Francis helped me download all of the YouTube videos I had made onto my computer so I could show them to our children one day and thus be able to delete my channel. This also meant I wouldn’t be subscribed to my usual YouTubers but I was okay with this. There was so much drama in the online community that I didn’t want to be a part of it anyway. Plus, I was becoming obsessed with certain channels and losing myself in the process. At the start of the year, I really wanted to create a channel because I was so immersed in other people’s videos but in reality, without expensive equipment and good quality editing software, my videos were always pretty crappy and I didn’t see the point in continuing. I just didn’t love it enough, let’s be honest! Not only that, I felt extreme pressure. I felt like I had to do interesting things on the weekends to create content when really (as an introvert) I just wanted to unwind. I had 73 subscribers at the time which wasn’t much but I kept thinking ‘they are waiting for new videos and I have nothing!’ Having said that, I really enjoyed making my Highly Sensitive Series and received lots of lovely comments. The same went for my travel vlogs & some of my inspirational videos but it was more taxing on than me than it was pleasurable. I didn’t have Snapchat or Twitter to begin with so that left Facebook & Instagram.
Facebook, I decided to keep, however I deleted the app off of my phone so I could only check it when I was on a computer. I left my account open for two reasons: 1.) I was in no way addicted to Facebook and 2.) I wanted to be able to share things about future events with my loved ones plus all of my blog posts. By deleting the app, I could only check it when I was at work or on my laptop and as I had nothing to prove to my family and friends, I didn’t feel it impacted me negatively at all. Now you may think ‘doesn’t keeping Facebook mean that you haven’t really quit social media?’ I don’t see it that way. I hardly check Facebook at work except to post my blogs and in the evening/weekends I just game and watch shows on my laptop. It was my app that was causing me issues. The app is now gone forever and so too is my interest in social media. Plus, I made Francis a promise the first time I wanted to quit that I would keep FB to share wedding, baby & big event news with our families. This is all it will be used for when the opportunities arise and I find myself on a computer.
This left Instagram! Instagram had been the main culprit and was the hardest app to rid myself of. I had already made my sweeping declaration online about deleting it before our wedding day so I figured, why not just delete it now? What was I waiting for? Instagram tried tempting me by offering a break or to delete the app but I went the whole way. All or nothing baby! Some people asked me ‘why didn’t you just take a break?’ Well, I could’ve taken a break but the second I returned? I would be right back to where I started. The instant I deleted it, I felt a giant weight fall off of me. I was ready to be me and enjoy life to the fullest. It wasn’t even difficult! It’s amazing how much we rely on social media but once it’s gone, we function normally and with ease. Friends told me that their lives had opened up so much more when they took breaks from social media in the past. This made me look forward to the rest of my life opening up and most of all, feeling free from its absence. Self-love means ridding yourself of things that don’t fulfill or bring out the best in you. I could tell before I did it that I would be so much more at peace without social media; especially after the sigh of relief that came when I made the final decision. Some people can use social media and it doesn’t impact them in the slightest. I admire those people. I became obsessive and couldn’t seem to come across as genuine (in my eyes) as I do in real life or in these blogs. Not only that, the thought of my growing popularity scared me. I saw ‘famous’ Instagrammers receiving hate comments and feeling pressured to keep up appearances for the sake of their viewers. I remember saying to myself ‘I can’t wait to get to 1,000 followers.’ But then what? So I would have 1,000 strangers following and validating my photos…is that truly important? My mum told me a story about a man who saved his whole life for a red corvette as he believed it would make him happy. When he finally bought one however, he realised it was just a car and it didn’t actually make him any happier. More likes & followers never would have fulfilled me; it just would’ve increased my anxiety to keep pleasing even when I had nothing to give that day.
Francis kept his social media although he doesn’t use it often. He continues to take the photography for my blog posts but the nice part is that now I can use his gifted imagery to accompany my words. I really don’t care who reads or doesn’t read my blog. I have one because writing brings me so much joy and it is a wonderful online diary to share my thoughts and inspire others. To delete my blog would be to do myself a disservice (see post ‘Why Do I Blog? here)
I remember my first social media free night. It was July 27th (only a couple of weeks ago) and I was watching Francis play a game on the couch. I was so immersed in the story. In the past, I would’ve been glued to my phone whilst he played and that night, I was 100% there. I was so happy which told me it was the right decision. On July 30th, we had a family dinner for my Uncle who came to visit from Macau and the entire evening we talked, laughed and looked at old photos. Not once did I look at my phone and that left me feeling so light. I had literally taken back control. On August 3rd, I had been social media free for a week. Francis asked me that morning how I felt and I replied ‘I have never been happier or more relaxed…’
I know it may not seem like a big deal to others that read this but social media is such a massive part of life for most of us. It was a huge part of mine. I can’t even begin to explain how happy and relaxed I’ve been since I walked away. I am so excited about leaving my phone in the hotel room for our entire honeymoon as I won’t need it now. I even laughed and said, ‘I don’t have to take pictures of my food anymore’ (which was the majority of my IG content) except for travel blog posts. In fact, any pictures worth capturing, Francis could take. I’ve been noting down in my journal what life is like without it. Maybe I’ll share some snippets with you all but mainly it has been interesting to record how exactly life has opened up for me. For example, my phone is rarely touched now. Instead of scrolling mindlessly, I’ve been reading inspirational stories, listening to music, going for longer walks, paying more attention to the world around me and most importantly, feeling stress free. At the start, I couldn’t have possibly conceived giving it all up but once I did, I found it quite simple. The reality was, I had lived without it before and therefore could do so again. Moving forward, I will be able to immerse myself heart and soul into my beautiful life without distraction.
Before I go, I wish to express that I’m really proud of myself for listening to my intuition, choosing self-love again and learning valuable lessons. I remember reading an article weeks before I cut ties that said ‘how will you know if you’re liked without the likes?’ That made me so sad. Please don’t let social media validate who you are. It’s so unimportant in the grand scheme of things. What I’ve realised more and more since I found self-love is how important it is to be real and honest. If something doesn’t make you happy, let it go. Don’t continue just because everybody else is doing it and you dread missing out. I don’t regret my time on social media at all. It was enjoyable for the most part and a great way to connect with people but in the end…it just wasn’t for me.
I would love to know what you all think! Have you ever tried quitting before? Do you see the value in a life without social media?
Thank you for reading. Peace & Love xoxo