I grew up on the cusp of the social media age. When AIM, Sidekicks, AOL chatrooms and MySpace started to replace hand written notes in High School hallways. I say cusp because I lived a good amount of time without social media. I remember a time when talking face to face, picking up the phone to talk, or writing a letter were the only forms of communication.
T9 messaging and home phones were phasing out while cell phones and Facebook were phasing in. I remember being at the tail end of my high school career and thinking, “Wow, way more people are accessible.” Not only were they accessible to me, I was accessible to them.
I was addicted.
Insert profile making. Overnight, pictures of myself and what my bio said next to my profile picture became way too important. I was addicted. Something that my fellow millennials tend to be in denial about, I am confident that is when I became addicted to social media. Not drugs, or alcohol, but social media. It was a “thing”.
Throughout college and into my 20’s, I watched social media mature, becoming a multi-billion dollar industry creating jobs and inspiring my fellow older generation of millennials to capitalize on the digital age. As a willing participant, I witnessed and experienced a new wave of addiction take over world. A world that went from, “What’s MySpace?” to… “You deleted your Instagram?!” A world people can’t fathom living without.
After funneling through AIM, MySpace, Blackplanet, Facebook, Twitter, I found my way to Instagram. A new, cool platform where I didn’t have to write much to get people to engage with me, all I needed were pictures!? Count me in! While some are brilliant at showcasing their art through this photo-sharing platform, all I was really in it for was to upload pictures of myself, and sometimes my son, to show a semi-true depiction of not just how glamorous my life was, but how attractive I was (hurts to type that, but it's true).
For context, I was a young, broke, single mother, in my 20’s… aka a lost little puppy trying to find my way in life with a tinier baby puppy running behind me who’s hungry and needs a place to sleep. My life was far from glamorous. In fact, at 26, I had just ended a dramatic relationship with my live-in boyfriend so I was staying at a friends house with my stuff in boxes. I was a freelance publicist so work wasn’t stable, I had a 3 year old son who I was raising alone, driving a car that my parents paid for and I was on welfare.
Let my Instagram tell it… I was a strong, financially stable and empowered mom, a successful entrepreneur who worked with celebrities, drove a luxury car, lived in downtown Los Angeles, and of course… I was pretty and took really good modelesque photos. Now, all of that may have been true, but without all the context, it was a facade.
There I am, on my friends couch, scrolling through Instagram, and something hit me. I asked myself, “Why are you on here?” Now sometimes you can lie to yourself, this was not one of those times. My response was, “To get attention.” No lie, I almost threw up in my mouth. I was disgusted with myself. I knew, without a doubt, even if that was the woman I was in that moment, that was NOT the woman I wanted to BECOME. I told myself, “Delete your Instagram for 3 months.”
So I deleted my Instagram, sorry… deactivated my Instagram account. They make it really hard for you to delete it. I deactivated it with the intent to reactivate it when the 3 months was up. I was completely committed to staying off of it. Not just deleting the app, deactivating the account. In the first week, I realized how addicted I really was. I found myself picking up my phone and going to the place the app used to be! Like second nature, unconsciously. It was not a habit I was proud of, and a habit I was prepared to break.
Without Instagram, it registered that I had to fill my time with something else. I had to get my fix some other way. The revelations that accompanied this detox changed life. Here are 3:
Revelation #1: How MUCH time I had now that I was off of Instagram, really put into perspective how much time I was actually spending on it. It was like my entire world opened up. I read more, spent more time with my son, worked smarter in my career, built my network, and most important… I spent time with God. I began living a more intentional and purposeful life. The best part was, I wasn’t so entrenched in my screen that I could actually feel and enjoy my life. Even through the bad parts, I was present.
Revelation #2: I did not NEED it. I am a Public Relations professional, the world tells me I need to be on Instagram. Not only did I prove that theory wrong by experiencing the most growth in my career while not being logged on, I also proved to myself that abundance can flow into your life when you put your time and energy into the right things.
Revelation #3: I found I was subconsciously comparing myself to others. From people I went to school with, to Oprah, and people I didn’t even know, if someone else my age appeared to be doing better than me, I would internalize that and beat myself up for not being further along in my journey. I wasn’t meeting this fake standard that this virtual universe was setting. When I freed myself of that, I could be at peace with where I was, and bask in my own journey knowing I was right where God wanted me to be. God moves you along a lot faster than when you’re trying to move things along yourself.
The 3 months came and went, and I swear to you, I didn’t miss Instagram. 3 months turned into 3 years. In those 3 years, those facades I was trying so hard to paint, or should I say upload, became real. I went from basically being homeless to being stable, from a struggling entrepreneur to Business Woman of the Year, and from having a withering relationship with God to having a heart after God.
At 29, I reactivated my account. I figured, “I have a handle on this now, I know who I am, I can make it work for me.” While that may work for some, that is not my journey. I was back in that world, a little more mature, but back in it nonetheless. Out there counting likes, responding to DM slides, and having my son take pictures of me in hopes of at least one being “post-able.” Don’t get me wrong, as a marketing executive by trade, I was also using it as a productive space. That right there my friends, is what we call justification. I was full aware of how toxic it was but tried to justify it with my career. That’s my truth.
A year went by. In my “off Instagram” years, I created healthy habits that helped me at least stay planted in who I wanted to become. I figured I could still practice those habits, be on Instagram and get the same results. Wrong… I wasn’t growing at all. If I was, it was slow. Not to mention, I was falling into old habits. At 30, I deactivated it, with zero intent of logging back on. It’s funny, the older we get, our desires change. I know I will have to continue putting in the work to avoid relapse. Yes, I said relapse. It’s real.
This life is meant to be lived intentionally and purposefully. One thing I know for sure is that in order to be intentional and purposeful, we have to be present. Social Media has been a gift to our world in its own right. I do not judge those who are embedded and engaged in it. It has given people a platform to share their story. This is mine.
My prayer is that we share our truths, our real truths. Not saying be out here telling the world your broke and homeless, per say, but not to loathe in fear. Instead, to be authentic in who, what and where you are in your journey. My prayer is that we become present enough to be honest with ourselves, to become more of who we are called to be, to become more conscious. That way, the world can really see us, in our true light.
“When we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.” — Marianne Williamson