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29th January 2020

I fell off the social media grid for a year: here’s what I learned

Lilly Rosenberg reflects on her year with no social media and explains why she no longer feels guilty about her scrolling habits
I fell off the social media grid for a year: here’s what I learned
Photo: John Morgan @ Flickr

A year off.

Like lamenting over my intolerance to dairy and gluten while shoving my mouth full of cheese and bread; a hypocritical martyrdom.

Going off social media for the year. My brother had suggested the idea on New Year’s Eve, when the arbitrary passage of time has human optimism at an all time high.

Yet dread and envy, as always, managed to slip into my thoughts when I saw a photo of someone from high school posting about their study abroad in Paris, obviously underneath La tour Eiffel with a baguette, so “why not?” I thought. I naively assumed people would immediately miss me and that I would come out the other side enlightened, standing on high moral ground next to the Dalai Lama.

Within the first few months, no one noticed. Okay… but surely people from back home will wonder what I’ve been up to? When I saw my extended family and friends back home for the first time, everyone asked the same robotic questions, not really listening to the answers, and it dawned on me – really no one had noticed.

What I did notice was my need for validation and for people to recognize the arduous task that I had taken on. Tell me you could never do what I’m doing! Tell me I have self-discipline! No one but my immediate family would indulge me, and one of them had suggested I do this in the first place. I kept repeatedly saying my lack of social media presence to anyone who could hear it, always unprompted. Hearing myself need validation was a crippling low.

I kept thinking about why I was doing this. I like mindlessly scrolling, so why did I feel the need to hide it from myself  and tell others I didn’t enjoy it? Once I met a TV critic and asked him what his favorite guilty pleasure was. He sat with the thought for a second and then looked at my directly in the eyes: “Nothing is a guilty pleasure. If it brings you pleasure it can never be guilty. Have you ever watched Love Island?”

Social media has vices, and the discussion of its toxicity is everywhere with everyone involved: the plethora of university students writing dissertations on the subject, grandparents I have met at random holiday parties and, once, a very opinionated Customs Officer at Heathrow International airport.

This year gave me clarity with my own understanding of honesty. Does our toxic environment of social piranhas need a lesson in honesty? I believe so. If it brings someone pleasure, let’s not act as if it doesn’t. Let’s not edit our feeds to only show the best aspects of our lives. Let’s be honest. Instagram ads are honest! I do want more wool for knitting and a new pair of overalls, so keep the honesty coming!

If you are taking yourself too seriously, then it becomes a hassle. Social media was made to see other’s lives, to be fun and, of course, for Mark Zuckerberg to steal our crypto-data for big bucks.

As an already insecure girl, I refuse to become more crippled by anyone’s photo. For now, it’s nice to see you and I wish you happiness, I will not feel anything but those things while I scroll. So yes, I now have achieved enlightenment. I finally achieved a New Year’s resolution.

Thanks for asking.

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