They say that admission is the first step, so here’s my confession:
I, Amanda L. Gadsden, am a certified, card-carrying, full-fledged social media addict.
I use the term “addict” very purposefully. Addiction begins when casual, occasional, unassuming behaviors become all-consuming and overwhelming. Addiction magnifies fantasy and distorts reality. Addiction somehow makes you feel better and worse #atthesamedamntime. This, boys and girls, was my relationship with social media.
I can spend HOURS scrolling through my timelines, looking for….I don’t know…entertainment? Drama? Excitement? News? Inspiration? Free food hookups? (That last one is ongoing. I ain’t sorry.) I find myself choosing Snapchat over sleep. I neglected important work for trivial tweets and pictures. Scroll. Like. Favorite. Retweet. Scroll. Refresh. Close app. Reopen. Repeat. Every day. Early in the morning. Late at night. On my breaks at work. At dinner with my family. In the car with my friends. Hardly looking up to interact with the people that matter most. My eyes glued to my phone screen until the brightness made my head hurt. It was unhealthy, time-consuming, and wholeheartedly unfulfilling.
So I did what any good addict would do: I detoxed.
In the spirit of self-improvement, I challenged myself to spend seven days without any form of social media and to use the time I saved for more productive activities. I deleted all the apps off of my phone. I forced myself to be consciously and purposefully self-reflective, even when self-reflection got ugly and uncomfortable. Over the course of a week, ya girl made a few observations:
1) I picked the WORST week to vow off of social media. On day 2 of my hiatus, Prince died. On Day 4, #Lemonade dropped. Since I couldn’t share my thoughts on either universe-altering event, I’ll share them now:
On Prince: NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! Whyyyy?! Prince was an artistic genius and was always unapologetically himself. I’m still in mourning. THIS, in fact, is what it sounds like when doves cry. All the legends are dying and it is pseudo depressing. Who are the musical legends of our generation? Future? Taylor Swift? Freaking Fetty Wap? *long, slow, sad sigh*
On Her Majesty the Queen Bey’s new visual and audio masterpiece:
YASSSSSSSSSSS!!! #Lemonade has snatched all my edges and revived my soul and altered the entire trajectory of my life. We are not worthy. Beyonce is clearly sick and tired of being sick and tired and I am HERE. FOR. IT. Tell me one song on that album that’s not amazing. Don’t worry, I’ll wait….
2) I was more productive in a week than I’ve been in the past month. I got more work done, exercised more, spent more time engaged in meaningful conversation, and revived my gratitude journal. Adulting: 4729482824, Amanda: 1.
3) Now that I wasn’t spending so much time with my face plastered to my phone, I was actually able to look up and take in the world around me. I enjoyed sunsets without wondering how to take the best picture for Snapchat. I read a newspaper for the first time in FOREVER. Also, my phone battery lasted a hell of a lot longer during the day. Wins all around.
4) Perhaps my most important come-to-Jesus moment came on the last day of my break when I realized that I had survived seven full days without any social media, and yet I didn’t feel any less connected to my family, friends, or the world around me. Crazy, right?!
What I realized is that what I’d been searching for during those hours of scrolling was validation.
Proof that I’m not the only one struggling to figure out what the hell I’m doing with my life. Proof that my thoughts and feelings and experiences matter. Proof that the world is a crazy and scary and mostly wonderful but sometimes truly effed up place but I can still exist as myself and be okay. Proof that I – a bundle of dreams and nerves and veins and hopes and insecurities and blood and paralyzing fears and earth-shattering faith all wrapped in a layer of skin that’s not always thick enough – am enough.
It was only a week, but it was just enough time for me get hold to the idea that social media is nothing more than a glossy, filtered, edited, dolled-up mirage of a life that none of us really live. Our real lives are complicated and messy and multifaceted, hardly Instagram-worthy most of the time and less than capable of being stuffed into a 140-character-sized box. Every once in a while, let’s look up from our phones and live the hell out of the lives in front of us.