Feeling Social Media Burnout + Why I'm Going to Take a Break
Lately, I’ve been feeling social media burnout. What do I mean by this? I mean, every time I check Instagram or Facebook, I leave feeling WORSE than I did before. I think this is a pretty obvious symptom of burnout.
Today, I had several epiphanies about this.
My first epiphany: I was sitting at a fancy afternoon tea place with my mom and soon-to-be stepdad. I had planned this surprise a week before, having my mom’s fiancé orchestrate a surprise at this afternoon tea shop for Mother’s Day. The surprise worked, and my mom was successfully shocked when she saw me sitting in the shop (after being tricked into thinking she was meeting a friend). Of course, we took many pictures after the food arrived. But as the clock ticked, I noticed that my mom was constantly on her phone checking and editing the pictures we had JUST taken. She didn’t even touch the pretty food in front of her until a full THIRTY minutes later. (Okay, I love you mom and will totally let this slide considering that it’s Mother’s Day.) BUT, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of irony: here we were, sitting in this expensive, beautiful tea shop with a gorgeous display of tea snacks in front of us. Yet, we were hunched over, peering intently at our blue screens to edit pictures of ourselves to post on social media. We could literally do this any other time, but instead of savoring the moment, we were too busy perfecting the images of this supposed moment to share with the world.
My second epiphany: I was randomly scrolling through my Youtube feed when I came across a video on “Why Instagram is Ruining Your Life.” My curiosity was piqued, and I clicked on it. The video brought up something very interesting that I hadn’t realized before. Instead of arguing how social media is bad for others—because it presents a skewed highlight reel that makes people feel depressed about how their own lives pale in comparison; the host argued that this sort of image management is bad for us because we are essentially putting our own experience second to the image we wish to create. This means sacrificing the happiness of being in the moment for the pleasure of getting likes/recognition (e.g. editing pictures of food in a restaurant instead of actually enjoying the food). Watching this video put words to what I have suspected for a while now: constantly being on social media is detrimental to one’s happiness, self-image, and overall well-being.
Before I continue, I want to confess that I am an Instagram addict. I just love being able to share my life with my friends online, and I love the aesthetics of pretty pictures on my feed. It brightens my day to see pretty pictures of the little moments in life—I consider it a welcome escape from the harsh realities of real life. To give you an idea of my Instagram habits: every time I’m sitting in a pretty restaurant/cafe, I feel compelled to snap a picture/video to post on my Instagram story. And every time I’m at a restaurant with friends, I pause to take a picture of the spread before letting my friends dig in.
Don’t get me wrong, I recognize the tremendous benefits of social media. Social media sites like facebook and instagram allow me to stay connected with friends living on the other side of the world, are powerful tools for networking, and (like I mentioned above) can sometimes be a good stress reliever. But as the saying goes, too much of anything is bad for you.
Here are some of the key points I’ve reflected on in my personal social media consumption:
Social media is enjoyable, but only in moderation.
There is nothing wrong with curating pretty pictures to share with your friends. But if you overdo it, you will find yourself enslaved to the process of constantly taking/sharing images—which can detract from you being able to enjoy real life.
Social media can potentially rot someone’s self-image.
In the video I mentioned previously, the host explained that as we continue to curate our online identities, we are slowly chipping away at our own true selves. For instance, if we are editing our pictures to erase all blemishes/imperfections, we will only feel worse about ourselves when we look at our unphotoshopped selves in the mirror.
Social media portrays an unrealistic standard of living that can be toxic if constantly compared to real life.
This one is an obvious one, but it is dangerous to see life on social media as how real life should be. If you spend most of your day scrolling through social media looking at curated images of people’s best lives, this can easily lead to feelings of depression and disappointment at one’s own life.
Social media is easily addictive and therefore needs to be intentionally controlled.
Even though I think of myself as someone with a strong will, I myself feel the strong lure of checking my instagram and facebook constantly. If I just checked it three minutes ago, I DO NOT NEED to check it again three minutes later. But somehow my thumbs find their way scrolling back to the app. If I don’t make some serious changes, this behavior will continue.
All of this said, I realize now how unhealthy my social media consumption has made me. To put it bluntly, I have become someone more concerned about the way I am coming across to others online than how I actually feel inside. And frankly, I’ve noticed how social media has completely consumed the people around me. Not to throw anyone under the bus, but both my parents are avid facebook users (more so than I).
I find it disturbing when I look around me to see MOST people on the streets, in restaurants, on public transportation with their necks craned over a small rectangular glass gadget. (There was a news story in Taiwan a couple years back about a murderer who stabbed multiple people on the metro—he was able to stab so many people because most of the people were on their phones and didn’t notice him.) This behavior is simply not natural, and unfortunately, society hasn’t taught us how to control these impulses.
So, for the next few weeks, I am going to intentionally unplug from social media. That means forcing myself to not go on Instagram/Facebook unless absolutely necessary, refraining from posting photos/stories and watching other people’s stories. I will still be posting on my blog (but I won’t be advertising it on social media). This will be an experiment—I want to see how this shift will affect my life (either negatively or positively), and report back once I feel like I have an answer.