Why I've [Temporarily] Quit Social Media

By OneMoreLightLB - January 15, 2020

I'm sure most of us have been there; the social media grind gets too much, and we find ourselves spending countless minutes mindlessly scrolling through timelines full of other peoples' highlight reels or just endless misery and suffering, then wondering why we bother.

As much as I've built my blog around sharing experiences on Twitter and met some amazing people because of it, social media can be a difficult place to navigate.

I've talked before about "experience inflation" - where each time activists, advocates or content creators post we tend to make it a little more personal, give a little piece of ourselves away just to fuel engagement. I guess the honest truth is that I never really realised how much of myself I was giving away, that I'd been trading myself off in little packages in return for a few likes and RTs. And it was never enough.

I struggle a lot with perfectionism and craving external sources of validation. I have literally always been this way. I'd interrogate my parents about exactly what teachers said at my parents' evening reports, needing every word. I'd lament my failure at university if my grade wasn't the highest in the class, and berate myself even if it was but it was below some arbitrary threshold I'd set myself.

In some ways, I'm addicted; not to social media itself, but to the feeling of getting someone's approval. Maybe it's an award or an achievement - jut something quantifiable that assures me, briefly, that I have value.

On social media that easily translates into kind comments, a RT, a like.

I've been pouring so much of myself into social media just craving that validation and becoming more unhappy and resentful when I don't get enough. Despite the fact that no amount will ever be enough.

I've built a modest platform based on talking about my mental health. How great it was, at first. I'd open up and I'd vent about my past and in doing so maybe help someone else who felt like I did. But I just couldn't resist chasing that validation, and spending so much time on platforms that literally reward popularity and prettiness and eloquence - things I am objectively none of - and which exist based on peoples' need for acceptance and validation was becoming toxic. I don't get paid for this and it's hard work, and in turn I make it needlessly harder for myself. I'm using validation as currency, when I know it's something I struggle with already.

My mental health has been on a downward spiral for a while now, but 2019 was particularly notable. For those that follow my vent account on Twitter, you may have a little idea of what's been going on.

I have two opposing forces in my brain that are equally strong, and I'm caught in the middle. I see people - people that I love and admire - being brutally honest about their struggles and receiving so much support in return. And oh God, how I long for that. I can't even tell you how much I want that support, but I know that really, I want the validation that lies fundamentally underneath that. I want people tweeting me with words of encouragement and telling me nice things about myself, because my brain is seemingly incapable of doing it for myself.
But on the other side, there is the crippling inability to open up to or even in the vicinity of people I know. I find it not only uncomfortable, it actually makes me feel physically ill. The more I make a connection with someone, the closer I feel to them, the less able I am to talk to them about anything "real". So I make intense friendships really quickly, then find myself needing more connections to fill the void that I create. On my worst days, I feel like some kind of succubus, draining everything I can get from people until I move onto my next victim. I know that's not true, I love all of my friends, but I still feel like a bad person when I can't give them the attention they deserve or the effort because my head is a mess and I can't talk to them about it. It is so tiring.

Social Media not only channels my need for validation into easily quantifiable numbers, but enables this self-sabotaging cycle with access to millions of people online. We're all looking for connection, and it's literally the point of these platforms. But it's fleeting and often superficial. It's designed to leave you wanting more, and for someone like me, that is dangerous.

How embarrassing it is, though. A literal grown woman putting so much stock in RTs and likes. I know that it's ridiculous, but I can't turn it off. I see other people getting support and I get jealous. I convince myself that everyone hates me, or just simply nobody cares, and my "numbers" confirm these thoughts. It's the latter that is particularly dangerous for the head-space I'm in right now. It's been a slow burn, but this has been building for a while.

I'm putting too much of myself into the wrong outlets. I've just got married, I'm going on my honeymoon and I have a book set to be published this year. I have so many positive things to be turning my efforts to, and instead I spent too much of my time online.

So, I'm taking a small step back. It's only been one day, but already I'm feeling more free than I have in a while. Yes, my blog traffic will suffer - but that's sort of the point. To prove to myself that my worth as a human being doesn't fluctuate based on how many people engage with my work or my tweets. How sad that I've got to the point I needed to re-learn that, but I guess it's better late than never.

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