If you’d have asked 15 year old me whether she wanted to be famous, the answer would have been yes. Yes, I want to have a talent and be recognised for it. Yes, I’d love to earn a living from being adored for my singing, dancing, presenting or acting skills (none of which I possess).
Turns out I had no idea who I was, just like every other teenager on the planet. And the world is a whole lot different from how it was when I was a wee littlun. I’d say the world is much more invasive and far crueller. When I was a teenager there was no such thing as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Whatsapp.
I’ve since discovered I actually don’t want to be in the spotlight. I’d rather be perched behind a laptop, fingers at the ready, divulging my inner thoughts. Yet, despite being a private person who enjoys distance and space from the big bad world, I’ve spent the better part of a decade being active online and opening up my life to thousands of people I don’t even know.
At least I have the choice now to take my life and my privacy back and disappear into my precious life. I think it’s about time I take advantage of that privilege. Sadly, celebrities and public figures don’t have the chance to do that, even if they try. Their life is always going to be out there ready to be torn apart by trolls.
Why do we share our lives with strangers?
In light of recent events in the media as well as becoming a parent – I’ve come to reflect on what I really want in life. And also, what I really really don’t want. It’s quite shocking how open our lives are these days. I know my late father would be horrified by how much we share publicly. We post pictures and intimate videos of our daily lives. We give complete strangers anywhere in the world the chance to judge us, stalk us, criticise us and just be plain nosey.
How have we got to this point? When did society collectively agree to share every single detail of their lives with not only the general public, but huge corporations? It all began with Facebook. But at least most people on Facebook have predominantly private profiles. On Instagram, we have absolutely no concerns over sharing our daily lives with the world. What we have for breakfast, where we are at any given time and things we feel the need to brag about. It all just seems very backwards.
I often find myself thinking about how I would post things on Instagram. As each moment in the day happens, I’m thinking, this could make a good story. Or, I should video this and post it online. It’s like I’m living life from behind my camera phone lens rather than my own eyes. And when I am looking in front of me, my mind is elsewhere, in the online world.
No, you don’t need to share every moment
Surely the most important thing we should cherish is not the ability to share but the ability to keep our lives private. To enjoy every moment without thinking, ‘Oh, I need to share this.’ And then spending hours wondering what people are thinking of our latest update and how many likes we’ve had. I feel slightly hypocritical writing this because I too am guilty of doing all these things. I know they are bad. I’d love to stop doing them. But I’m addicted to this way of living.
The fear of missing out – it’s a trap
You know what stops people from leaving social media sites and having the will power to shut their profiles down entirely? FOMO. The fear of missing out, and social etiquette. It’s so normal to be on Facebook and Instagram now that if you don’t have a social profile on the world wide web, you are considered to be odd and untrustworthy.
Oh, Joe Bloggs doesn’t have any social presence online, they must be dodgy. You also feel like you should be on social sites in order to keep up to date with social events and gatherings, and if you’re not on there, you’re making it difficult for the organisers. But is it really so bad if they just, you know, text you the details? You can survive without being on these sites, you just have to be strong enough to separate yourself from them.
Don’t let social media burst your bubble
If you set aside one day to pay attention to how social media impacts your thoughts, you’d be shocked. I know I would. Seeing one post by a friend who has something I don’t or a fitness model with abs of steel makes me torture myself. I can go from feeling perfectly fine and content with my life, to questioning things. I’m really, really happy at the moment – I shouldn’t let social media take that away from me.
Seeing people’s achievements and perfect lives makes you constantly want more, to be better, to pile on the pressure. It can make you feel so shit. Take a minute to think how much of your day might be spent feeling not so good about yourself because you’re spending time on Instagram or Facebook.
Who are you sharing your life with, exactly?
For months I’ve wanted to shut down my Instagram account. The public aspect of it scares me. Particularly now that I’ve got a child. I don’t want people knowing details that could put her at risk. I don’t want to spend time that I could be with her updating my Instagram stories or feed. But I feel ashamed, because despite feeling this way – I just can’t bring myself to press delete. I feel like a prisoner in my own life. I really, really want to live in my own reality with no distractions, rather than having half of all my thoughts being about the online world.
We only get one life. Life is short. Make the most of every moment. That’s what we’re told. Yet we are doing the exact opposite. How horrified would you be in 30 years if you find out that you’ve spent two whole years of your time on this planet on social media? What will you have gained from this? A social following? A few freebies?
The reason I can’t press delete on my Instagram account is partially linked to my business. Having a strong social profile does help my writing business. It took me ages to build a decent following. It might send more traffic to my blog. But are these gains worth the sacrifice of something so dear in life? Time.
Time is one thing you can’t get back
Time is something you can’t get back. You can get back your social profile if you really want to, but you can’t get back those hours. Hours that could have been spent with loved ones. Or having new experiences, or even just simply being present in the moment. Think how nice it would be to live in your own bubble, without having constant updates on what everyone else is doing.
If you want to know what your friend is doing or how they are, you could always, you know, call them. Speak to them. If people are that important, they won’t need Facebook or Instagram to stay in your life.
As I’m writing this I feel really torn and emotional. I’m literally sitting here at 11 pm on a Wednesday evening contemplating about whether to give up social media. But I don’t know if I will. I’ve written similar posts to this years ago on my blog – complaining about the online world. Four years down the lines, what’s changed? Nothing. I might use Facebook slightly less, but my account is still active.
What will it take for me to finally take the plunge and live a life free from social media? I guess you’ll have to wait to find out. Excuse me whilst I shut down my accounts. I want to enjoy every single second with my daughter, my husband, my family and my friends. And regardless of the professional consequences – I know it will be worth it. I’m taking my freedom back, are you???
UPDATE – I have deleted the instagram app from my phone. I have put a post up saying I’m taking a break from social media. It’s not a deleted account, but it’s a start.
**main image by Kristida Photography.