I Went On a Social Media Cleanse & Nothing Changed

Whether you have millions of followers or barely a hundred, we all have our fantasies about giving up social media, right?

Living life without mining our daily lives for content, worrying if we chose the right caption when the likes don’t instantly start flooding in, or being forced to look at another tastefully edited brunch still life — and think of all the time we’d free up.

At least, that’s the way I thought.

I’m 27, so I still remember the pre-social media era. Back to dial-up tones, flip phones without internet access, and having to constantly delete text messages because your phone only had enough memory to store about 20.

And yet, I can’t remember the last day I smoked pot and left my phone under my car to go chase the moon for a few hours. I rarely go more than an hour or two without checking in on all my various feeds.

I can’t help it.

It’s not that I’d call myself addicted — I don’t get the shakes and cold sweats if I’m stuck in a building without service for the day — it’s just that it’s a reflex. It’s what I instinctively do whenever I get bored, nervous, or want to put off something I don’t feel like doing.

And recently, I’d begun to fantasize about giving it all up in more than just a theoretical “oh wouldn’t that be nice” kind of way, which led me to more or less volunteer out of the blue to go on a social media cleanse.

I figured it would be challenging, but after reading our article on all the things you won’t miss during a social media cleanse, I thought it would be doable.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t hard at all.

That Tuesday night, shortly before midnight, I moved all my social media apps into a folder marked “Don’t Use.”

Then, after realizing that was a slip-up waiting to happen, I deleted them.

I was spending the rest of the week back home in Baltimore for Thanksgiving, so if I knew if I kept them it would only be a matter of time before my boredom would get the better of me.

The next morning, after instinctively opening up Facebook on my computer, I signed myself out of all my accounts.

And after that, it was a cake walk.

I still felt the tug of my curiosity from time to time, but I was confident I wouldn’t be missing out on anything major. Just more of the same old.

But then, something happened.

Instagram sent me an e-mail telling me I had 35 new likes, 7 new comments, 8 new tags and 4 new followers, and I started getting antsy, counting down the days until I could revel in the glow of my popularity, which made me realize something that I probably should have already known — my attachment to social media is pure vanity.

I don’t care that my frenemy from high school posted another selfie showing the world how hot she is just like I don’t care that Bella Hadid walked another red carpet in Paris, I just like it when people pay attention to me.

I consciously know that when somebody likes my photo or tweet, it’s not actually me that they’re liking, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t notice a direct correlation between the amount of engagement I get and my mood.

And that’s not even the most depressing thing I learned from my cleanse — are you ready for the real doozey?

I wasn’t more productive.

Not even a little.

Going on my cleanse, I realized that giving up social media may change how you fill the down moments in your life, but it’s not going to change you.

I may not have wasted all that time scrolling through my feeds, but I didn’t spend that extra time thinking about that play I keep wanting to start writing or researching my expose into the scandalous lives of the women who voted for Trump either — I spent that extra time watching Gossip Girl.

What I learned is whether you’re wasting time with Netflix, Instagram, a book or your latest relationship, you’ll always find a way to distract yourself from the work you tell yourself you want to be doing.

It’s not social media’s fault if you’re not achieving your goals, it’s just your fault.

And that’s the main takeaway my cleanse gave me — which isn’t to say you shouldn’t go on a cleanse of your own if you want to, just don’t go into it with the same naive hope as I did.

You’ll still be the same old you, just with slightly less to do with your phone.

Although on the bright side, once you realize that social media isn’t the problem, you’ll probably give yourself less shit about using it, which could actually help you feel a little bit better about yourself and your life choices.

Every little bit helps, right?


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