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In December 2020, I deleted Instagram from my phone. Again. This time, for good.

In December 2020, I deleted Instagram from my phone. Again. 

But this time was different. This time, I didn’t just delete the app: I deleted my whole account, for good. 

In all honesty, I think we’re dangerously close to living in Black Mirror‘s social-ratings-driven “Nosedive” society (an interesting critique on what could happen if social media ran your life and if the only thing that mattered is how people superficially see you).

Here’s a look into my decision, journey, research some food for thought to see if taking a break from social media could be the life hack you didn’t know you needed.

The idea of social media never sat right with me. The toxic positivity of Instagram is precisely the problem, with its relentless emphasis on promoting “perfect” lifestyles. 

I recall when I would scroll through Twitter for twenty minutes and feel drained of energy from all of the negativity, racism, hatred, local twitter drama, fat-shaming, homophobia, false news, and unnecessary spam tweets from acquaintances. I would think to myself, “Why do I care to see this?” 

Periodically over the past couple of years, I needed a “social media detox” where I would delete the app from my phone for about a week or two, and then get back on and give my time and energy back to the app. 

When I would take my social media breaks I felt rejuvenated and content. Something about investing time into my life as opposed to investing my free time and energy into people’s lives was so peaceful. 

Then it struck me: I’d rather not see what other people are doing or saying because it does nothing for my happiness or success. 

As Thomas Gray wrote in his poem in 1742, “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College,” ignorance is bliss. I do not care to know what other people are up to, because I do not benefit from it. 

Even Instagram has made the decision to suppress likes in an effort to curb the comparisons and hurt feelings associated with attaching popularity to sharing content. The question is whether the effort changed the damage that comes with social media. 

In a survey, the Pew Research Center identified 69% of adults and 81% of teens in the United States use social media. 

In an article published by McLean Hospital, a question is posed: “But what makes users come back for more even when it can literally make them feel sick?”

“When the outcome is unpredictable, the behavior is more likely to repeat,” said Dr. Jacqueline Sperling, a psychologist at McLean Hospital who works with children and adolescents experiencing anxiety disorders and OCD. 

Sperling compares this behavior to a slot machine.

“If game players knew they never were going to get money by playing the game, then they never would play. The idea of a potential future reward keeps the machines in use. The same goes for social media sites,” she said. “One does not know how many likes a picture will get, who will ‘like’ the picture, and when the picture will receive likes. The unknown outcome and the possibility of the desired outcome can keep users engaged with the sites.”

With so many people hooked on social media, it’s more important than ever to be conscious of one’s own usage and avoid getting reeled into a toxic relationship with social media. It’s time to be clear about how social media affects our relationships and well-being—and what our intentions are each time we log in. 

My experience with this challenge has been revolutionary. I see the world with new eyes: No longer through an Instagram or VSCO filter. 

I love not feeling obligated to “like” people’s pictures because, at the end of the day, it’s just numbers and meaningless data. It means absolutely nothing. It doesn’t measure your worthiness. 

I love not reading people’s opinions on Twitter because people are going to believe what they want. You cannot change someone’s mind, only they can change it for themselves. 

Social media is always telling us what is in fashion and what isn’t, what is cool, and what is weird. 

Authenticity and transparency are values I strive to cultivate in myself and seek in others.”

— Gavin Rodriguez

Without it, I can wholeheartedly be my authentic self. Authenticity and transparency are values I strive to cultivate in myself and seek in others. With that said, social media is more appropriately suited for restrained or less extreme versions of a person through rose-colored lenses. 

Life without social media has been stupendously beneficial for me. This time away from social media has made me a better person, a better friend, a better son, a better brother. 

Without social media, I’ve been given the opportunity to look inward and make the changes I needed to become a better person and, in turn, my relationships have flourished. Now that I am no longer scrolling through an endless feed I’ve been able to give my full attention to my loved ones. 

As I stated earlier, I have had many failed attempts at staying off of social media. 

To ensure that I stayed away from social media for good, I knew I had to delete my account entirely. 

I had the idea that once I deleted my social media, I would immediately become irrelevant and my life would have no meaning if no one would get to see my accomplishments.

We all must break free of that mindset. 

In fact, that’s exactly what the creators of social media want us to feel. In reality, my life holds meaning whether or not I’m posting it on social media, as does yours. 

I think it holds more meaning when we stay away from it. I’ve found that I’m much more productive without socials. There’s always something to be done. There’s always something better to focus on other than other people’s selfies or a picture of their breakfast. This is your life, don’t waste it scrolling through pictures of people you don’t know or like. 

I’ve learned to be so completely content and satisfied with my life that I no longer need anything more than I have right now. Instagram tends to make people compare themselves and leads to dissatisfaction. I’ve felt satisfied since the second I pressed “Yes, I’m sure I want to delete my account.”

Never again will you catch me on social media. See you in real life!