Giving up social media causes realizations: focus on reality, not comparison

Gigi Cepeda, assistant opinions editor

You hear it on the news. From political candidates. From neighbors. From parents. From houses of worship. They all seem to be in agreement: social media has ruined the new generation.

According to the generations above us, social media creates detachment. They say that we don’t understand that there are real people on the other side of the screen, and so we are more likely to bully online. Is this true?

I don’t think so. Look, kids are going to be mean, there’s no stopping that. But there are some bigger problems associated with social media.

I’ve spent so much time switching between the same three apps, scrolling and refreshing, scrolling and refreshing. I wonder how much more I would have accomplished if I dedicated that time to something productive.

More importantly, I think social media can be really destructive to a teenager’s mental health. We are constantly comparing ourselves to the looks and accomplishments that we see on our feed. And these (usually unrealistic) expectations don’t just come from celebrities and models, they come from our classmates and friends.

Since I first downloaded Instagram in middle school, it had quickly taken over my life. I wanted to live the kind of life that got thousands of likes on Instagram. I wanted to get that perfect picture, find the perfect lighting, only post pictures that I looked best in.

I began to realize that much of what I saw on social media wasn’t real. I’m not talking about celebrities’ photoshopped images- even teenagers have access to apps like Facetune which help you achieve a literally flawless appearance.

That candid photo that girl posted? It was likely one of 20 or more fake-spontaneous photos, picked to maintain the perfect “theme” or aesthetic.

I decided to delete my social media. I didn’t know whether I would call off social media forever, but decided that staying off it for a few weeks, just as an experiment, couldn’t hurt.

I deleted everything but Twitter, which I hadn’t used much before. I said goodbye to Instagram, Snapchat and VSCO, and surprisingly, it wasn’t all that hard. In fact, I think I’ve had an even better time without social media.

Ever been looking through Snapchat stories and realize everyone is hanging out while you’re stuck at home? I don’t have to deal with that FOMO (fear of missing out) anymore.

Society has plagued us with the idea that if an event isn’t on our Instagram, it might as well have not existed at all. I no longer have to worry about taking the perfect picture to prove I was there. Instead, I can just take in the moment.

Take, for example, my time at the Cubs parade. Without social media, I could just take in the moment that we all had been waiting for without worrying about posting a picture. And when I saw that trophy, I didn’t worry about getting it on my Snap story.

Unexpectedly, I haven’t been any more productive without social media than I was with it. Now, instead of wasting my time on Instagram and Snapchat, I waste my time napping or watching Netflix.

I’m not hating on social media. I think it’s an amazing way to show your friends what you’re up to, show off your accomplishments and express yourself. But how often do we actually use social media for these purposes?

It’s crucial to realize that you don’t need to strive for approval through social media. And, at least for me, taking a break from social media was an important step to that realization.

If you distance yourself from Instagram, when you return to your feed you will probably care a lot less of what people think of what you post. It’s important to realize that you don’t need to strive for approval through social media.

There’s something about living authentically in a moment that will bring you new self confidence and joy for life. It was only when I stopped comparing my experiences with those I see on my feed that I realized how great my life actually is.