Social Media Break from HELL!
Social media breaks always seem so glamorous. The idea that you cut off from the noise of social media and use that time to channel positive thoughts and energy sounds great. People presume that closing your accounts gives you immediate control over the content you consume and assume it means that you avoid the toxicity of instagram blog accounts, attacking twitter threads, fast delivery of world wide calamity, celebrity deaths and other devastating toxic information that social media feeds us. They believe that we get to use the time we spend on social media to journal, workout, try a new recipe, consume wholesome podcasts, learn a new skill, finish a TV show and other great positive things.
All this is true. We do get to do these things, but these things don't come easy to us. At this point, I'm going to stop saying 'us' and switch to 'me'. If you read this and can relate to it, disagree with it, learn from it, have to add to it - feel free to share - honestly please, but for now - let me tell you how hard a social media break really was for ME.
Leaving twitter was something I never struggled with. I've given twitter up for let a couple times in the past and there have been times when I'd deactivate, and other times when I'd just stop tweeting. In fact I've changed my @ a couple times too to reduce interaction rate. There are even times I'd delete the app from my phone - then I'd have my insta open, but with increased use. However, this time around, I went cold turkey. Twitter AND instagram - and I straight crashed.
I wouldn't say I'm addicted to social media, but when social media stands as your escapism for experiencing your reality - it's very very easy to become heavily reliant on it to cope.
Social media was essentially my coping mechanism from my reality - and my reality was not ever my favourite place to be. (That's a whole other post). Thing is, I went away for about 2 months, and in those times I was so present in an alternate reality and I managed to significantly reduce my social media usage. I was so busy doing stuff (still avoiding my reality) and creating a new present (which was fabulous and documented - mostly), that I didn't feel the need to escape - I was escaping already. There was no need to scroll endlessly to no avail - watch other people celebrate, and subconsciously be consumed by the spirit of failure. There was no need to engage in mindless banter on the TL, there was no need to see what others had to say about viral videos or whatever - I was just living in escapism.
So when I returned to my actual reality, it hit me hard that I was going to be sucked into the vast vacuum of online presence and exactly that happened. I began to avoid my reality and very quickly became reliant on social media to provide that escapism. Except it didn't work this time. Everything became a trigger - I was seeing more and more toxicity on a plain level. The subtle side comments, the fake relationships, the two-facedness - it all rose to surface level. A break was NECESSARY.
So I deleted my accounts, Twitter first, then instagram shortly after.
And that was the beginning of TWO emotional breakdowns. You see, on these platforms, you get to see people reaffirm your thoughts, and challenge you negative ideas. As toxic and pretentious as instagram posts and tweets can be, there is still validity in them. Forget WHO posts them for a second - but sometimes seeing words made on a Canva template are just what you need. Taking that away from myself and being left with my own thoughts and no knowledge of how to control them made me SINK. My head has always been the one place I'm afraid to go. While it's full of bright ideas, hopeful dreams and strong desire for peace - deeper within lurks the darkness of insecurities, failures, regrets and other depressive thoughts.
As social media has always allowed me to avoid those parts of my head, storing all the gory and toxic stuff I consume and conjure there, stripping my accounts away brought them all to light. I was left to face my thoughts and essentially dance with my demons. I couldn't keep up - they were moving at a pace faster than my brain had ever functioned. One after the other the thoughts jumped out - not even waiting for the previous one to settle. No matter what I did to distract myself, I just couldn't. Everything felt like it required active engagement - and my thoughts, they didn't need activity - they just needed time and space. Social media was passive functionality for me - mindless scrolling with unintentional consumption gave little room for these thoughts to fester.
Online is a weird space - you feel like you've got people, but the moment you're off it feels like heavy isolation, social exclusion and general nonexistence. Which all became alluring to me. However, when you combine these with negative thoughts, you get stuck in a loop of cause or effect - were people waiting for me to disappear or is my disappearance causing this. Nothing is personal, but everything feels like it can be. Not being invited out, not being messaged, not being called, not being noticed in absence. It's just a recipe for a mental eruption - and that followed.
The first breakdown was before I deleted instagram. It was me in my car in a random car park in tears. It wasn't bad, I just went for a crive (cry and drive). I initially thought it was in response to ovulation and insomnia. However, the second breakdown came strong one morning at 2am i and ended at 5am with my in my mother's arms in prayer. It started with me hyperventilating in tears, but mindful that I'd wake my roommate who had work in a few hours, so I relocated to the living room where my mum was. I couldn't contain it and I bawled my eyes out! She rocked me for an hour as I wailed, as I expressed my life frustrations, but more importantly my mental struggle to contain my thoughts and how I wanted them to stop. I couldn't make them stop - I just wanted to live life, have peace and I was struggling in finding peace as everything felt like it was against me. I was so deep in my negative corner, I didn't want to see friends - they didn't want to see me. I hated social gatherings - but wanted to still be invited. I hated messaging people - but wanted to be checked on. My anxiety had peaked and acute depression was setting in.
I had gone from being a social bunny to being scared of seeing people. I convinced myself that no one actually wanted me around. I was sure that if I regressed into the truths that my mind told me, that I no one would even notice my absence. What was my purpose if everything I did and tried, I failed. The things I did held no value to the people around me so what was the point - of this blog, of my podcast, of my fitness group, of my poetry, of social media and of me. I SPIRALLED SO BAD! Everything I gained in therapy - out the window. I was a fraud and failure - I didn't have my shit together, no one wanted me, no one cared about me and disappearing would make sense.
It actually got worse - and after 3 hours of tears and verbal vomit, and an hour of prayer I went to bed. The next few days were the hardest - how do you face people after such a heavy meltdown? I wanted to fold into myself and disappear so bad, but I had things to do. I had built up so much internal tension that I developed a migraine. My mum kept asking 'are you okay?' and I couldn't say 'no' - that would've kept her in a perpetual state of worry. The people around me didn't need to be burdened with my woes either. So I had to passively exist, with a migraine, and respond 'I'm fine.'
The thing is, you can lie to you, you can convince yourself, but you see your body? Your body tells more truths than ever. Your lips refuse to open, your eyes refuse to connect. I couldn't speak to anyone, I couldn't even look at anyone. I just wanted to evaporate - and even though I said it was just a migraine, I was in a mental pit! I was (and to an extent even still am) going through it! I was no joy to be around so I moved from toilet to kitchen and avoided my household.
The thing about rock bottom they say, is that you can't go lower. I don't know if I hit rock bottom, but I remember opening my eyes a few days later and thinking, that's the lowest I EVER want to feel in my life ever again. I spoke to God and told him those thoughts that were running amok in my head, were not his, and if I were to execute his purpose for me, I couldn't do it with those thoughts. As I didn't know how to control them, I told him I'd only think of him and I'd get shit done. I'd study and if my mind wandered even for 5 seconds, I'd play a gospel track. I'd rest and if my mind took a left turn, I'd read the bible. I'd watch something, and if my mind began to spiral, I'd switch to a sermon. I'd fill myself up so much with God, that I wouldn't give room to the negative thoughts.
I remember asking myself, 'but Toni, what about the process? Isn't this passive living? Won't you be absent from things?' but the Holy Spirit replied saying 'you won't miss out on what God has for you.' I'm not going to lie to you and say that was the moment my life changed, because I'm still battling with these thoughts. I'm constantly in battle in my mind and as a result, I'm always so tired. Pretending I'm okay is equally as draining... but I've realised something... I won't have faced my truth of not being okay if I didn't leave social media.
As exposing as the break has been, I figured that I had to release these thoughts to me. I knew my head was feeling smaller and smaller and couldn't contain as much as before. I had lower willingness to engage, reduced attention span, shorter memory capacity and many other things going on. Releasing these thoughts somewhat restored brain capacity.
I'm back to therapy soon, and I'm back to social media and soon, I'll be back to me... but in the meantime, I ask that you are patient with me, and treat me more delicately than you normally would. I'm not fine, but i'll be okay and daily, with God, I'm getting there.
So if you're thinking of leaving social media, and you're hoping you'll come back renewed - the good news is that it can, and most probably will happen. But I just want you to see how it might not be so smooth. It's not as simple as cleaning the closet. You have to get dirty to clean up. But you will sort it out, you will find order and overall, you will be okay and on the days you're not - come here - read this and know you'll get through it.
Each day, actively choose to defeat your thoughts. Let that be your focus. Find your mood lifters and push past the hurt of the mind. I promise you, it'll work itself out. You might think you'll lose out on friends, opportunities, moments etc, but keep the focus on making yourself the best version of you. People will eventually get it. We know these things aren't personal, even though we personalise them - you just have to push. Don't be afraid to speak up - call someone and let them know you're having an off day, work out, pray, watch comedy (Superstore, The Office, Brooklyn 99), go for a walk and listen to MIKA, bake a cake, just keep trying to battle those thoughts and watch as you rise from rock bottom.
I promise you, it's only hard to start - but eventually, you'll get there. Don't beat yourself up if it doesn't happen in YOUR expected timeframe, don't cower to the senseless words of others either. Just focus on YOU.
Oh and if you do decide to leave social media, let me know how it goes, I hope it's less harsh than my experience and that your truths are kinder to you. You might not be fine, but you WILL be okay.