When I wake up in the morning, after hitting snooze a few times on my alarm, the first thing I do is pad to the kitchen to turn the kettle on. While my coffee brews, I stretch, open my curtains, and make my bed the same way I have a million times and will do so a million more. sip my coffee, slowly, while I sit, legs curled under me, on my blue armchair. I remain glued like that, reading a few chapters of whatever novel is captivating me at the moment. Texts and emails come much later, once I reach campus. This is my favourite part about living without social media: noticing every sweet detail.
In 2020, I deleted all my social media accounts. While there were many factors that precipitated this, I was honestly just fed up with living half my life in a virtual world. As someone who downloaded Instagram and Snapchat at age 11, I was practically raised on the Kardashians and Cosmopolitan’s advice columns. I experienced first-hand all the effects tech researchers warn you about: anxiety, poor concentration, terrible sleep… the list goes on! After nearly a decade of documenting my life online, I decided to quit cold-turkey and have never looked back. Here are a few things I notice about my life now.
1. I have more time for what I love most: reading!
Since time immemorial, humans have wished for more of that elusive, magical, fleeting thing we call time. We want more time with our family, our pets—or, in my case—our hobbies. I’ve always loved to read, but I used to feel compelled to pause every now and then to check my phone to see how a post of mine was doing, or whether there was anything new said in a Snapchat groupchat. When I think about all the hours I wasted on social media, even as a mere child, I feel sick to my stomach. That is time I can never get back. The good news is, I have the rest of my life to live this beautiful, disconnected lifestyle! When you die, no one is going to remember that photo of yourself at brunch you spent half an hour debating posting: least of all you. If you’re lucky, you’ll remember doing the things you loved or being with people you love. Here’s to more of that!
2. I’ve developed confidence that isn’t based on how I look.
TikToker Serena Shahidi faced serious backlash when she posted a video declaring that no young woman is too pretty to leave her personality undeveloped. Her main point: “Who cares? Go read a book! Get a hobby!” Shahidi’s words struck a chord with me and I found myself appreciating her bluntness. At the risk of sounding preachy, I’ll regurgitate this age-old maxim: looks aren’t everything. I feel so much more secure in who I am as a person now that I’ve dedicated time to developing my interests, be it Russian literature, Taylor Swift, or writing.
3. I’ve made more genuine friendships.
Like most people, I was terrified at the prospect of making friends at university, especially coming out of a year and a half of online school. I worried that my lack of social media would become an obstacle to this. It turned out, the exact opposite was true. By simply exchanging numbers with people I found kind or interesting, I found my friendships developed much more quickly, as texts led to plans. This was a stark contrast from the pattern I was used to: meeting someone, exchanging Instagrams, following one another but—more often than not—never seeing each other again. I also love getting to choose who gets access to me. The people who are in my life have my number. They get the photos and life updates. Everyone else is free to imagine what they please, which is what people are bound to do anyways.
4. I became content with my own life and stopped seeking an escape.
Like most people, I was addicted to TikTok during quarantine. My expertly curated algorithm showed me exactly what I didn’t need to see: gorgeous, fit people with aesthetically pleasing, travel-filled lives. My awareness of the inherently fabricated nature of such content—and by extension, the impossibility of attaining that which I was observing—did not, I am sorry to say, make me any less sad about my own COVID-limited options. Indeed, having a pandemic essentially restrict my life to the virtual sphere pushed me to get rid of that altogether. Once I stopped obsessing over other people’s fake lives, I realised how much loveliness there was in my real one.
5. A quick note on productivity.
The number one question I get asked when I tell people I deleted all my social media is whether I find I’m more productive nowadays. The short answer is no. Do I feel far less stressed about school and work? Absolutely. Does it take me less time to complete certain tasks? Sure! But productivity is simply not something I care about anymore. All I can say is, once I started living with the certainty that I have enough time, everything got easier. Believing that I have my whole life—starting now—to read the books I want to read, to see the places I want to see, and to continue to learn what I’m passionate about is a luxury I never felt before. Sure, I might see things differently later, but for now, the world feels big and bright and beautiful, and I’m glad for every second in it. So no, I don’t “produce” more than I used to. The amount of work I’ve had to do has stayed consistent, but the prospect of getting things done no longer seems scary, but a privilege.
6. I still get distracted.
Growing up on social media meant that my brain was so used to the stimulation that clicks and likes and scrolls gave it, I didn’t know what to do with myself once that was gone. For a long time, I replaced Instagram with Aritzia; online shopping became my primary means of procrastination. Even now, I sometimes fall into wormholes on YouTube; I’m human, people!!! What I mean to say is, don’t get discouraged if you don’t immediately notice a huge change in your life the minute you get rid of social media—or even if you start to miss it. That kind of addiction doesn’t just vanish overnight.