Social media is harmful. Why can’t we give it up?

Either, we believe that its positives as a ‘social tool’ outweigh the negatives and justify its use. Or, we are ‘in too deep’, too addicted and reliant on social media to delete it or even acknowledge an issue. Assuming you came here from Facebook, I hope this article will be your last. I will attempt to overturn your conception of social media and offer a practical path to finally freeing yourself from its grip.

In November last year, I deleted Instagram, Facebook and Twitter after years of regular posting. I experienced a sudden revelation: I was fed up of incessantly refreshing feeds and mindlessly liking contrived photos of friends and strangers alike. Instead of getting on with my own life, meeting new people, trying new things, I was accomplishing nothing. I was lost and to find myself I had to remove social media, detach myself from its pressures and focus on utilising the opportunities around me.

Since deleting, I have engaged more with friends – ones who don’t expect me to always look my best and have a smile on my face. I have rediscovered old passions like reading, my mind uncluttered by the habitual dipping into other peoples’ public personas, and found new ones like football. I have time to actively reflect on my daily life and longer-term direction and I have become more confident and content as a result.

Why you should delete it too…

Social media is addictive and whilst we are willing to acknowledge that it can be harmful, we persuade ourselves that we are too mature or self-aware to be affected. We ignore or dismiss the feelings of inadequacy it generates about our appearance and life, the fear of missing out and isolation, our own self-absorption or the hours wasted glued to our screens. Even whilst reading this you’ll have been tempted to click off and scroll your feed in search of another burst of instant gratification.

We need to realise that the real strength is in admitting the negatives and changing our habits. Start by recognising the vast disparity between online personas and real-life selves. Understand that the pictures of the party were posted before it had ended, that the kid with a big social media presence is an introvert, that most pictures are taken by someone’s mom and that you can only truly know someone by meeting them, not from their social media presence.

But how do you break the addiction?

You must reconceptualise social media into ‘public’ and ‘private’ platforms. ‘Public’ platforms are feed-oriented (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) and responsible for most social media related harms, encouraging comparisons with unrealistic standards of beauty and lifestyle. In contrast, ‘private’ platforms are for private messaging (Snapchat, WhatsApp, Messenger) and allow us to stay directly connected with friends and family. 99% of the benefits lie with private social media, keeping us connected with those who matter most without the need for hours spent scrolling feeds and liking photos in our fabricated online fantasies.

Delete Instagram, Facebook and Twitter off your phone. Install an anti-distraction add-on on your computer. Do it now. What’s the worst that can happen? You’ll gain time and space to think, breathe, open your mind and expand your horizons. Think about what you want to achieve in life. Get started before you lose any more opportunities because you’re too busy scrolling and liking. Develop more meaningful relationships and actively reflect on your daily life. I promise that you will feel more self-confident and content.

Thank you for reading. Now get off your phone.