There are currently 800 million Instagram users every month. Like many others, I would like to enter the new year with a clearer state of mind. And so much of my mind is cluttered with social media fluff. Who’s eating what, where they’re eating it, what they’re looking at, what they’re wearing and who they’re wearing it with.
Social media breeds jealousy. It forces you to draw comparisons between your lives and those of others. Social media is a platform for validation. It’s where we send ourselves to receive praise and offer ours sparingly in return. It is a breeding ground for insecurities.
I speak for the majority of us when I say we have entered a dangerous territory where when given a spare five minutes, we resort to mental stimulation in the form of scrolling through our phones. As if on cue, our hands search for the portable device that claims so much of our daily lives.
Most notably we find ourselves immersed in the world of Instagram. We rely on it to occupy our minds for fear of where our minds might wonder if we permitted it. My fear is that we have forgotten how to be satisfied with our own company. But what is it exactly that we’re doing? We’re spying. We’re examining the lives of others with helicopter-vision. We’re silently judging. If we like what we see, we show our approval in the form of a ‘like’. It’s the reward we offer. It’s social currency and it’s worth bucket loads. Social media largely contributes to our level of happy.
We have become reliant on social media as a means of feeding our brains. And our brains are hungry for more than the spiced Christmas latte photo that Sarah just shared. It’s for this reason, that in 2018 I would like to make a conscious effort to return to spending time in my own company - without the involvement of a phone. Because quite frankly, that’s not spending time with yourself, that’s spending time snooping. It’s too much time wasted in a make-believe-fantasy-rose-tinted-windows-world.
I waste many minutes of my day consumed in the virtual, airbrushed lives of mostly people whom I have never met. With lives that I glance at through a perfectly edited valencia-hued lens. And we all know how we have become masters at editing our lives by erasing the not-so-attractive parts and enhancing the bits we are proud of.
There is a whole universe out there with discrete moments that remain unnoticed but beg to be observed.
During the time spent on our phones, we are missing out on the world and the subtleties it has to offer. We’re rejecting opportunities for our brain to wander. To be creative, to be innovative and to solve problems with our imagination and not through a search engine. There is much to be said for looking out of the window and not down at your lap. Plus, if you’re anything like me your thumbs would’ve started to ache by now. I dare you to challenge yourself - picking up your phone when bored is the easy option. If you’re waking up in the morning and immediately reaching for your phone – something is wrong.
Therefore, in 2018 I’d like to change my social habits - no phone at the dinner table. I’d rather speak on the phone, than text. To not feel the pressure to reply to a text with lightening speed. I’d like to make a conscious effort to look out the window of the bus instead of down at my phone. More time with my neck-held high. I realise I need to re-train myself to observe people in real life, rather than in pixelated format.
In the days before Instagram existed, the time I had alone was spent reading a book. Currently, I have a pile of half-read books beside my bed that I attempt to pick up instead of resorting to Instagram every time I’m bored. I find that I can manage no more than a few pages before having to get a news feed fix. It worries me that it appears my brain is crumbling. I can no longer process words on a page in the same way I once did. Reading was one of my favourite pass times and sadly I seem to have sabotaged that simple pleasure for myself.
This is not to say that social media has the same effects on all users; perhaps I am too aware of the negative consequences, or perhaps I am someone who struggles to manage the balance of real, versus online life. Last year I left Facebook and, not only did I gain back precious time, but the blissful ignorance that comes with not knowing what your friends are up to every minute of the day is – a relief. I think a bunch of us would be happier spending less time engrossed in social media and because of that, I’d urge you to at least cut the time you spend on apps in half next year.
Why are we seeking entertainment in so many areas other than what is in front of us? The world is the stage and you are the audience.