Caroline Biggs is one of six people tracking their resolutions with Apartment Therapy in real time.
I guess you could say I have a problem with overusing social media. Of course, I don't consider it a real problem, per se—especially when compared to some of my over-sharing peers—but whenever I tell someone close to me that I'm giving up social media for a full month, they can't help but express equal parts concern and relief. Sure I share selfies regularly (and across multiple platforms) and definitely don't shy away from a solid status update (or two) from time to time, but come on, it's the digital age. It can't be that bad if it's how I unwind after a long day, right? Besides, everyone's doing it. This doesn't sound like an addiction at all. No way.
Except if you ask my mom, who adores me but still refers to my mobile phone as an "extension of my arm," or my boyfriend, who was overcome with joy upon hearing about these resolutions, I can't help but feel like maybe, just maybe, something isn't right about my relationship with social media after all.
As with any habit (unhealthy or not) sometimes you have to step away from it for a short while to see how it really impacts your life. And so, for better or worse, that's what I plan to do for the next thirty days: break from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat to determine what exactly they're doing for (and to) me. Whether or not our cultural obsession with social media is simply "generational" is impossible to say—but I at least look forward to figuring out my own fixation.
My History With Social Media
I officially joined Facebook in April 2005—back when I was an undergraduate in college—and by the end of the year was active on MySpace, too. We're talking daily messages, comments, image uploads, and everything in between. Flash forward to almost twelve years later, and I'm still checking most of my social media accounts at least once a day, and sometimes more, depending on my schedule and the platform.
While all this might seem fine and normal on the surface, the truth is, social media has created problems in my personal life since day one. Pick any year from the past decade and I can name a boyfriend, colleague, friend, or family member upset with me about something social media-related. And whether it stems from an untagged pic or a mistaken song lyric is irrelevant, because the facts remain the same: What I'm sharing online isn't necessarily what's happening in my real life, even if I am technically the one posting it.
That's not to suggest I've only had bad times with social media, either. For the most part, my ten odd years online has come with way more ups than downs. I can reconnect with old friends, stay in touch with family members, and get the daily news all in one place (so to speak). Whether this comes at a personal cost is what remains to be seen.
Why I'm Giving It Up
I'm giving up social media for two reasons. The first is simply that I want to be more present in my real life. Even though it might feel like a real experience, every time I log into one of my social media accounts, I'm mentally checking out of what I'm really doing. Kind of like daydreaming, but digitally. Also, I'd be lying if I said I hadn't offended nearly each and every one all of my loved ones at some point or another by being more interested in social media apps than their company. And while this behavior continues to be to be excused as "generational," personally, it's starting to feel pretty crummy.
"You can either live your life as a voice online or as an actual human being. I'd like to to try out the latter for a change."
The second reason I need a break from social networking came to me while reading Andrew Sullivan's recent article for New York Magazine, "I Used to Be a Human Being." Every once in a while, if you're lucky, you read something that changes the way you see the world, and more importantly, yourself. Sullivan's story about social media addiction (or what he describes as "distraction sickness") wasn't just eye opening, it was a call to action: You can either live your life as a voice online or as an actual human being. I'd like to to try out the latter for a change.
Ideally I would go 100-percent social-media-free for the next thirty days, but due to the nature of my profession as a writer, there will inevitably be times that I have to access Instagram for photos or research on a post about a celebrity I'm covering. However, my plan is to sign out of and uninstall from my phone all four of my social media accounts: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat. If and when the situation arises that I need to check, say, a specific Instagram profile for a story I'm working on, I will go directly to that IG page via a search engine link, never signing into my own account and therefore bypassing any exposure to my personal feed. Also, it goes without saying that uploads of any kind from my account are totally off limits.
Additionally, I'm asking my boyfriend to change all the passwords to my accounts and keep them to himself for safe measure. That way, in the event of an emergency, I can still access my account, but won't be able to compulsively log in during a weak—or wine-induced—moment. Since so much of social media involves being flooded with images and updates from other people's lives—even ones from people I don't talk to in real life—I'm hoping that disconnection from my personal account will give me the kind of distance and clarity I really need.
What I'm Expecting
Just like anything that demands personal growth, I imagine this process will be difficult but rewarding. And like any addiction, I also expect to experience symptoms of denial, loss, and withdrawal. Mostly, I think I will have a lot of extra time on my hands, which hopefully I can seize as an opportunity to be compulsive about something healthier, like power walks or Spiralizing.
Here's what I don't expect: To be cured of my habit in 30 days, to denounce my old online ways, to be done with Facebook for good, and to not still be permeated with social media images via email, news outlets, and primetime TV. Like it or not, we're living in a digital world, and I am a digital— you get the picture.
Most importantly, I hope giving up social media teaches me something about myself. And in turn, I hope whatever I learn helps make me a better person, partner, and friend. Lastly, I hope this process inspires others to step outside their comfort zones and try something new for the sake of self-improvement. It certainly won't be easy, but I know it will be worthwhile.
Caroline will be checking in mid-way through January, and again at the end of the month to share her journey with quitting social media. Until then, follow along with our other writers' resolutions.