Today, feelings of insecurity and reliance on others for our self-worth are increasingly associated with social media. At the tail end of 2015, YouTube star Essena O’Neill posted a video regarding her departure from social media which became highly talked about in the news cycle. When I saw the news stories about her expressing her emotions about living in a world that doesn’t truly exist, my heart filled with admiration. She pinpointed an unhealthy habit she had been stuck in for years and chose to make positive changes. Watching the video of tears streaming down her face as she talked about finally letting go of what was holding her back moved me like never before – almost as if it were my own beloved sister Cassie who was speaking directly to me.
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However, let me be clear – social media is not the culprit here.
Although it was designed to encourage communication and share news, social media can also make us feel jealous, irritated, or ignored. We give it a peak into our lives with expectations of what the response will be; however, similar to an unprepossessing friend, social media sometimes lets us down. Hanging on in anticipation only for rejection creates feelings of dismay when we’re met with unenthusiastic apathy from its end.
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The issue does not lie in social media, but within ourselves. We have yet to recognize the power of self-love, so we opt for Plan B: obtaining instant gratification from likes and followers. Can you envision what would happen if we committed as fervently towards appreciating our own selves as much as we do when gathering likes on a latte photo?
Like O’Neill, I’m not too far removed from my own Facebook exodus. A couple of years ago the platform became a burden that was simply unbearable to me; it wasn’t so much about hating Facebook itself as it was about feeling overwhelmed by knowing too much personal information about everyone in my life. What can I say? It’s hard to keep up with so many people! The experience taught me that sometimes you have to take a step back and be okay with living without certain social applications or platforms for your mental health – which is exactly why now whenever anyone asks whether they should get off of any given app, I encourage them wholeheartedly if needed. I was struggling to manage my social media accounts in a way that didn’t make me feel punched in the gut each time I logged out. Likewise, around this same period of self-discovery and identity formation, I made the difficult decision of quitting Facebook altogether.
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In the same manner as O’Neill, I recognized what was ailing my life and made up my mind to do something about it. But one day, an experienced version of O’Neill who is sure of herself could very well be seen on social media again. Similarly, I can’t guarantee that someday I won’t make another Facebook account – but true transformation won’t come from some app or website; it must originate within me!