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I Quit Social Media for a Month to Declutter My Life

And did not regret it.
I Quit Social Media for a Month to Declutter My Life
IMAGE INSTAGRAM/carodaur, viktorandrolf
And did not regret it.

The first month of the new year always begins with promises and resolutions. Lose those 10 pounds, finally tell your crush how you feel, kill it at work, ace those midterms, save up for that trip with the barkada… the list goes on. For the snarkier set, we usually promise not to make any promises and resolutions because we always end up breaking them anyway. There is truth in that. We break the diet, we chicken out and never ask crush out on a date, we procrastinate, and we splurge instead of save. But the thing is, resolutions aren’t straight lines with no room for error, and we should never treat them as such.

I decided to go on a cleanse this year—a social media cleanse, that is. Not that there was much to clean out to begin with since I’m more of a lurker than a poster, happy to read and enjoy the feed, watching online life—drama and all—swirl around me. I may actually be that one person in 1,000 that hates taking photos, and diving into the online conversation repels me like Dolce and Gabbana repels most of China. Facebook reminded me around November that it’s been over a year since I changed my profile picture. You know it’s bad when FB itself is reminding you that your page is gathering virtual cobwebs.

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I spend way too much time just scrolling through my social media feeds, being fed everything from online shopping to angry politicking to FOMO posts to YOLO bragging. Do I need this in my life? Does this spark joy? I keep saying that Facebook is what keeps me in touch with my friends, but when I really thought about it, this really wasn’t the case. If I want to get the skinny on what was happening with my friends, all I really need to do is drop them a line on Whatsapp or Viber or whatever messaging app we happen to use.

Social media can be a lot of fun. How else am I going to get my fill of memes, drag queens, YouTube links to makeup hacks, shopping alerts, and the like?

What Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter were giving me was a voyeuristic peek into different realms... and some alternative realities excellently sorted and sifted through by some creative stylists and social media savants. I was beginning to forget that I had a life outside of social media. I got my news from social media, talked to my friends through social media, learned of events from social media, shopped via social media, everything happened through button clicking and links from Facebook or Instagram or Twitter. It was terribly convenient, yes, but I felt like I was living in TV Land or something, I was doing my living mostly from a screen’s point of view. While it was fun, I really can’t say that they reflected the reality that I was seeing and experiencing in my actual life.

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Then there are the times you get wrapped up in the stress, even if you’re not part of the conversation per se. It can get a bit much and no one else but you can say, “I’ve had enough, it’s time to remove myself from this narrative.” Think of the time when Maine Mendoza broke up with Twitter. While the breakup didn’t last long, it did the trick for the star and gave her some breathing space and clean out the emotional clutter. I’m ready to peel my eyes away from the screen and start looking around IRL. So, thanks Facebook for the fun. Thanks, too, for the trolls who inhabit you and gave me the impetus to leave. Next.

But does that mean I deleted my Facebook account? Of course not. Let’s not go overboard. I mean, it would be nice to do that, right? Get all snippy and climb on a high horse after all the security breaches FB has admitted to in 2018. (Damn, Zuck. The trust has been breached in so many, many ways.) I simply removed the bookmark from my browser and deleted the app from my phone. It’s much harder to stay on FB if you’re not using the app, trust me. There’s no icon to click on habitually when bored, nothing to fiddle with on your phone when idle. I still end up going on once in a while for one reason or another, but I no longer feel the need to check in multiple times a day to see what’s going on.

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Whatever your resolution is for the year, don’t be militant about it. Treat it with the same grace and understanding you would a friend. What we cleanse from our lives, what we keep, it’s all subjective, it’s all personal, and it shouldn’t be about what we think is expected of us by friends, family, or society. Don’t think, “I’m 22, I should be doing things this way now.” We all go at our own pace and no one should rush or judge us for going too fast or too slow. Before we move on, we must be at peace with what we are leaving behind (be they animal, vegetation, mineral, or human).

If you are not yet ready to get rid of social media cold turkey, then don’t. And if you are, be grateful for whatever it is that social media has taught you before you hit delete. Like that magical fairy of tidying up, Marie Kondo, says, thank your things (or in this case your app—with sincerity, with all your heart. Thank them for the joy it brought you and then let it go. Hokey, it may be, but it does work for sentimental fools like me.) It will be much easier for you to pack up and call it a day.

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Giving yourself guidelines are also a good way to begin should you not be ready to go cold turkey. For me, deleting the FB and Twitter apps were a great way to start because the apps’ features make it easier to navigate. Using your phone’s browser to get on may seem simple, but it really isn’t that convenient and you’ll soon tire of it. IG is much less toxic for me so I kept that app. Which apps end up stressing you out most? Pinpointing the apps that stress you out can help you figure out which ones to delete.

For those of you who get a little too involved in the daily drama, make a conscious effort to stay away from the comments section, keep your comments to yourself, or to post only positive things. Take for example Liza Soberano’s recent IG cleanse, which seems to have been sparked by a turn towards positivity and wanting to bring and send out only good vibes. Who doesn’t want to feel that same lightness of being for themselves?

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Another way is to mute or unfollow people whose posts are toxic or trigger negative reactions in you. Think of this as curating your feed to get only the news that you want to see. Now this doesn’t mean you turn ignorant. You should still keep up with the world and tune in to the news and current events. But those people whose posts trigger that unpleasant feeling in the pit of your stomach every time you see it on your feed? Maybe it’s time to hit the mute button. You know the kind: they may not be doing anything particularly wrong or offensive, but there’s something in the way they post an IG story or share an FB status that grates on you. You don’t have to see them on your feed and it will keep you from thinking poorly of these people when you see them in real life.

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I really don’t think a social media cleanse should be done in absolutes, with words like “forever” and “never” in mind, but a cleanse once in a while is something that is necessary and something that we should do on the reg. It’s like cleaning out your closet. Social media is part of our lives and a huge way we interact and connect with the world, but we must remember that it is still an augmented reality, helped along with curation and art direction, to show us facets of real life as it wants to be perceived by whomever is posting it.

It’s amazing how much lighter you feel after a month without social media hovering over you like a needy, toxic frenemy. It really does feel like you’ve decluttered your mind and spirit. You feel reinvigorated almost, with a clearer head, less worried about being judged or being assaulted by too much information or too many opinions. In the end, the opinions that most matter are those of the people you love and respect the most, and that’s all you really need. That realization brings a bright, hope-filled sort of energy with it and a feeling of newness, if not accomplishment.

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