How Do You Define Yourself Without Social Media?: Social Media Cleanse Rambles

julia hiking

Good morning, folks! It’s been a while since I’ve posted on here, but since I’m slowly weaning myself off of social media, I find myself much more willing and able to devote myself to the things I really want to do, like blogging.

Within the past month or two, I’ve been in the process of kicking my bad social media habits. In fact, I deleted my Twitter this morning.

Okay, just my three-year-old public Twitter account. The account I’ve had since 2011 lives on – though now on private. I’m not going cold turkey quite yet. I did however find myself questioning why exactly I had so many social media accounts in the first place. Did I really need four Twitter accounts? Or five on Instagram? Why do I feel the need to segment myself off into different handles on the same platform? I would often find myself going to tweet on my private Twitter account and then closing out the tweet and just posting it onto my public account. My justification behind this account was to have something accessible that companies could see whilst I apply to jobs. Since I have a marketing degree, a lot of jobs I apply to do involve social media in one way or another. My professors in college often advised that we all create our own personal brands on social media for when we start out our careers. But I figured out something recently: I don’t care.

There is joy in privacy. There is joy in a lack of being perceived. Having these separate, publicly accessible accounts was just another way to create an alter ego of myself. The professional, liberal, city-loving, marketing enthusiast version of myself. I’ve come to the realization that sharing everything online for all the world to see doesn’t truly matter in the grand scheme of things. In fact, doing so can come at the cost of personal connection.

One of the biggest obstacles to me just impulsively deleting all of my social media is FOMO. Not FOMO in relation to events and celebrities, but people. Friends that I don’t text but do reply to their Instagram stories. How will I know what’s going on in their lives? Spoiler alert: I’d have to contact them individually via text or phone call. Social media has become a sort of one-stop shop for being updated on what’s happening in everyone’s lives. But how updated are you really? When someone posts a story to their 1,000 followers, that’s 1,000 different people to cater to. I don’t know about you, but I act differently around different friends. I’m not an entirely different person, but I take others’ interests and quirks into consideration when I speak and act. So a story post is actually way less personal than you would think. What your friends post is the condensed version of what they want to convey. How would they talk about something if it was just in a one-on-one setting? You’d probably learn a lot more about what’s going on from a simple conversation than from stalking their Instagram stories.

So, how do we stay in touch with people in the age of social media? Well, we text them. We talk to them one on one. I was talking to my therapist recently about feeling a little depressed and she asked me about my social life. She stressed that group chats and social media are no substitution for getting together with friends – having face time and real conversations with people. That’s what I want more of in my life. I want to meet up with my friends and just catch up. Instead of knowing they visited San Francisco, I can ask what they’ve been up to and learn what they really thought of San Fran. It’s so much more personal and meaningful to have these offline connections.

Alright. I’m going to contact people more often instead of scrolling through their profiles. Got it. But what about myself? As an avid social media poster, how do I transition from sharing to withholding? Simple: I learn to define myself without social media. Okay, maybe that’s a lot more complicated than it sounds. Who am I if not the girl who’s wearing green eyeshadow in her Twitter profile pic? The one with “she/they | cancer” in their bio? The one who posts all their latest baking shenanigans? It’s all very if a tree falls and no one is around to hear it, does it makes a sound? If I do something without posting about it on Instagram, did I really do it? Short answer: YES. Sure I can post a picture every time I go hiking, but does that make me a hiker? No. I used to define myself as someone who loved hiking, but I never actually went hiking all that often. I simply posted a photo whenever I did, sort of as proof of this interest. Now, I’m trying to grapple with this defining interest of mine. I can go hiking every single weekend and not tell a soul. Does that mean I am still someone who enjoys hiking, or, am I being perceived as someone who enjoys hiking? The real secret: You don’t have to be perceived by others to define yourself, your identity, or your interests. Let me repeat that. You don’t have to be perceived by others to define yourself, your identity, or your interests. This is something that social media has started to push back against. But when I think back to my childhood, I think about how much I loved writing and illustrating stories. This was before social media, so nothing was ever shared with anyone unless I took the initiative to share it with people individually, in the real world. I did love storytelling and that was a core part of my identity even without social media. I’m trying to get back to that headspace.

Social media takes up so much of my free time. I often think oh, if I only had more time in the day. If I simply limit my time on social media, I can get back to doing the things that I love, the things that define who I am, without the influence or pressures of social media. I am my most authentic self when I am doing the things I love. That’s how I am defining myself now. Instead of scrolling through tweets about books I should read, I just read them. Instead of watching people do their makeup on TikTok, I experiment with my own makeup. The other day I put on bright green eyeshadow just because I felt like it – and it looked good! I haven’t expressed myself through my makeup in a long time, and I missed it. I had gotten so used to just expressing myself through my social media platforms, that I forgot that self-expression exists outside of social media. I can do my makeup, cut up my clothes, paint my room a random color, and more! Now every time I find myself about to enter the endless social media scroll, I think about what I would rather be doing. Then, I do it. It’s as simple as that, sometimes. And when it’s not simple? When the days get hard, and the depression and anxiety prevent me from doing the things I love, do I turn to social media to vent? No. I journal. There is a sense of peace that comes with venting all your feelings without sharing them with people you haven’t really spoken to in years. It provides me the same relief I felt when creating a finsta post, but without the constant infodump about my mental state on my friends. That isn’t to say I’ve stopped leaning on my friends for support, but rather that I can now work through my feelings on my own instead of shouting them out into the Instagram void. If I am to be someone who prioritizes mental health and takes care of themself, I need to be able to do so without relying on social media.

This post is sort of a ramble, but I think what I’m trying to get across is that there is more to me than who I am online. There is life beyond social media. It’s hard to remember that sometimes, since so much of what happens occurs online. However, working on myself and defining myself by my hobbies and things I do outside of the confines of my screen has been more fulfilling than any social media account I’ve ever started. Hopefully, I continue on this path and relearn how to live life authentically, not digitally.

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