We live in the digital age. It is rare to come across someone who doesn’t have some form of social media. While apps like Instagram and Twitter can be useful for keeping us in touch with our loved ones, they are also notoriously breeding grounds for insecurity as we compare ourselves to the highlights of others’ lives.
I confess that I have struggled with a dependence on social media. In the past, I have found myself sharing private information online or self-sabotaging my happiness by seeking out content that makes me feel worthless.
Though I—along with many others—have used social media in harmful ways, I comprehend, too, the good that it can bring. I wondered—how can I return to appreciating the Internet as a tool instead of a weapon?
In response to that inquiry, I logged off for a week. At first, it was difficult. I didn’t realize how much of my free time I spent scrolling mindlessly through an online “feed” until I found myself frequently reaching for my phone and realizing I had no apps to turn to.
Another challenge arose whenever I had some news to share, or even just an interesting thought. Ordinarily, I’d reach for a “tweet” or “post” button, as though the attention and community I received online had become a replacement for genuine connection and real-life friends.
This isn’t to say that my online friends were any less real than those I am around physically. The fact was, I wasn’t reaching out to my online or offline friends; I had merely been shouting into a digital void and obsessively tracking the attention I received, like it was a measure of my worth.
Ultimately, though, my worth isn’t determined by likes or views I receive online. Being offline allowed me to return to my old hobbies, which I do consider an actual component of my personhood. I read more, returned to embroidery, went on long walks in the sunshine and even listened to new music.
Perhaps most importantly, I made an intentional effort to reignite my relationships. Instead of sharing exciting (or disappointing) information about my life online and waiting for them to see it, I called, texted and even wrote letters to them directly. I’m still not the most consistent communicator, but now I understand that my support derives from my direct circle, rather than some large digital platform.
What started as a week of deactivation grew to two, then three and almost a whole month when I received an email from Twitter warning me that my account would be permanently terminated if I did not return. I did choose to reactivate, but I returned to the digital world with a stronger grip on myself, and that has led to a healthier relationship with my social media.
Ivy Marie Clarke ‘22 is an English literature and creative writing double major, double minoring in art and women’s and gender studies. She has served as editor of the Arts & Culture section of The Cluster for the last two years. She also interns with Macon Magazine and Mercer University Press and edits for The Dulcimer. She also enjoys drinking coffee and writing poetry.