Two weeks without Social Media. No Facebook, no Instagram, no YouTube, no Snapchat. When my friend M. challenged me to quit all these things for a while – because I supposedly was on my phone too much – I was partly terrified and partly intrigued. To be honest, I had been thinking about reducing my Social Media consumption for a while already. But to actually do it, I needed a push. And we all know that I cannot turn down a challenge for my life. So M. confronting me with this came at the perfect time.
Now, before we get into the specifics of the challenge, you need to know some things: I had been quite miserable for a couple of weeks already. At night, I could barely fall asleep: sometimes I only slept for two hours; often I cried myself to sleep. My heart didn’t stop racing, my mind never calmed down. It was obvious to me and everybody around me that I had bit off more than I could chew that semester with too many demanding classes at university and a thousand projects on the side. There was just no time to relax. Ever. And then there was this guy who completely messed up my head. Which didn’t help with the situation either.
But I ultimately fell apart when, one day, I started comparing myself to others again. I saw this one girl’s posts on Facebook and Instagram. I would be lying if I said I knew her well. We had once talked to each other very briefly, but I knew about her. (Because we have a lot of mutual friends, not because I stalked her or anything!) We had studied the same thing, were interested in the same areas and it seemed like we were pretty similar in a lot of ways. Only that everything she did turned out amazing – according to Social Media. And it all looked so easy. It looked like she had figured everything out that I hadn’t yet – and might never will. After her came others I compared myself to. People seemed to have an easier life than me. A more successful one. A happier one. They were simply better than me. At least so it seemed.
Now, you know that I know a perfect life doesn’t exist. And you also know that I am a firm believer of loving yourself and everything you have rather than comparing yourself to others. Yet, I couldn’t hold myself to my own words anymore. I knew I somehow had to get out of this vicious circle of putting pressure on myself and comparing myself to others. Quitting Social Media was the best starting point. I just didn’t know it yet.
Anyhow, thanks to M. and his German strictness I found myself deleting Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Snapchat from my phone one snowy Sunday morning. It was painful, I give you that. But also kind of liberating. Not that I realized it in the moment, or anything. That moment I was begging to keep my apps. Begging and pleading and had I not known that it wouldn’t have any effect on M., I would have started sobbing and crying. I was prepared to do anything. But since there was no use anyways and deep down I knew that this was the right thing to do, I just confronted my fate and got it over with. “Bye beautiful Instagram feeds. Bye Snapchat filters that make my skin look flawless. I’ll miss you.”
And I really did the first couple of days. I would grab my phone all the freaking time, then realizing that there was nothing I could really do with it and having to put it back right away. My first class that week lasted for four hours. The longest four hours of my life – without Social Media to distract me. I didn’t know where to look on public transport, given that I seemed to be the only one not staring at my phone. Nights felt really quiet without my beloved YouTube videos I used to fall asleep to. I could go on and on with that list, but it wouldn’t get any less sad.
What the hell was I doing with my life? It dawned on me that I had continuously wasted a substantial amount of time on watching other people live their lives to the fullest instead of living mine properly. Honestly, guys, it might not seem like a lot, but all those quick browses we’re taking through Facebook & co, they add up. Boy, oh boy, do they add up. There was so much more time on my hand all of a sudden, it was ridiculous. And great at the same time. I started reading more articles, watching people on the train, imagining what their lives might be like. I started writing again, just because I felt like it and because I was thinking & reflecting a lot more than I used to. I did a little, thoughtful thing for a friend – one of those things I used to love doing but hadn’t done in a long time – and it lead to spending a whole lot of quality time with people I cared about. And the best thing was: I was actually present in the moment, not distracted by timelines and selfies.
Of course, I was still stressed, but I slowly stopped comparing myself to others. There was no way I could anyways, since I was not exposed to all those shiny, flawless online lives of others. All I saw were real people, all around me. Friends and strangers equally. Nothing staged, just real-life moments. It was great. After all, life is not shiny and perfect and flawless. It’s messy, which makes it great in its own way. Because the messy bits get us to the happy ones. We just keep forgetting, when all we see is people’s high points.
I recently watched the movie 27 Dresses, and, while you can think of rom-coms whatever you want, the movie featured an incredible phrase that stuck with me:
“You’d rather focus on other people’s Kodak moments than make memories of your own”
Sums up perfectly everything I had learned those two weeks. Maybe I’ll never be as pretty as this person, as successful as that one, or as creative as the next one. There will always be somebody who is better than I am. But focusing on what others have and we don’t will not get us any closer to being the person we want to be. So every now and again, remind yourself that what you see on Social Media is not the whole story. Remind yourself that your life is amazing if you pay attention to the little things. Remind yourself that sometimes, living in the moment is all you need to do in order to be happy.
Photo: Katharina Binder
Editor: Kärt Mättikas