When I was 11, I made a powerpoint presentation for my parents that argued why I should have an Instagram. They wouldn’t budge, naturally, so I had to get through middle school without any social media. “I just want to be like everybody else,” I argued. And it was true. I had the worst case of FOMO (fear of missing out), and I wanted to be in the loop with the “hot middle school gossip.”
Fast forward to Dec. 2017. It is a humid night in Hawaii, and my mom randomly comes up to me and tells me I can get an Instagram. For the rest of the trip, I am glued to my phone: posting things on my story, trying to gain followers and seeing what everybody else was doing. I don’t get to enjoy the last bits of my winter break because I am too stressed out over the fact that I only have 100 followers.
It is now Oct. 2018, a little bit less than a year later. And my Instagram is deleted. I deleted it back in August, and, to be honest, it came out of nowhere. But looking back on it, having a social media affected me in ways that my 11 year old self could’ve never imagined.
The main reason I deleted Instagram was because I was so tired of caring about what other people were doing. Every post, every comment, every tag that came across my feed gave me anxiety, and I hated it. Why wasn’t invited to that party? Why won’t he like my posts? Why do I care so much? I had always thought that Instagram would connect me with my peers and keep me in the loop, but it completely backfired and instead lead to me caring far too much about what people were doing. The first day of summer I told myself that this was going to be the year that I worked on me, and not worried about other people. And in order to do that, I couldn’t have everybody else’s life shoved up my face.
In today’s society, our worth is measured in numbers. Everything from SAT scores to our GPA apparently defines who we are and how much we can contribute to society. These are things that teenagers don’t necessarily get to decide. Yet every day, a countless number of teens across the nation choose to let a new number define them: likes.
I deleted social media because I was so tired of looking for validation of my self worth in numbers. I am a human being. I have beautiful thoughts and powerful emotions and will and drive. There is so much more to me than who comments on my photos and how many likes each photo gets. Yet every second I had a social media was another second in which I chose to let numbers be what gave me confidence. I was a slave to the screen and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t stop looking to social media for validation. And I’m not the only one. A study by the Royal Society of Public Health shows that social media is linked to anxiety, depression, and lack of sleep in teenagers.
Finally, I deleted social media because it prevented me from living every moment to the fullest. I distinctly remember a day in summer when I went to Santa Monica with my best friend. It was the warmest day of the year, and I had a terrible sunburn from falling asleep on the beach. It was perfect. Yet every time we went somewhere new, I had the urge to take a photo and put it on my story as to document it, because “if you don’t post about it then it didn’t happen.” Little did I know that that was probably going to be the last time I saw my best friend for a long time, because she would soon be announcing her school transfer. I regret not living in the moment. I regret not soaking up every last bit of summer that I had. Instead, I was prioritizing capturing the moment and instead of living it to the fullest.
So there. That’s my story. I deleted social media because I was tired of letting it affect my self-esteem, relationships and ability to live in the moment. Not everyone is going to agree with me. There are plenty of people who use social media and manage to not let it affect their lives. I don’t know which one you are.
All I can say is this: life is so much more than what other people make it out to be. Happiness can’t come from reaching a certain number of likes. It can’t come from perfecting the selfie angle or finding a perfect filter. Happiness is from real life. From real relationships. From real self confidence. And none of that comes from social media.