I’ve Been Social Media Free for 6 Months and Couldn’t Be Happier

This afternoon, I went for a walk with my roommate’s dog. It was nothing extraordinary. I just wanted to take in the fresh fall air. While, it’s almost winter and snowy in most of the country, in L.A., it’s crisp air, 50-degree weather and golden leaves.

On my walk, I took time to look at the imprint the tree limbs made as they swayed against the wind. I looked at the tops of the trees, observing the changing colors, the lively leaves up top and the dying leaves hanging below. I listened to the wind whistle around me, the car horns honking, the music blaring from the speakers. I smiled at passersby and let one pet the dog’s belly. (Boy, was she happy- the puppy I mean.)

Moments like these, when ordinary, everyday sights and sounds can be appreciated and soaked in used to be rare for me. These days, I am more present. I am more aware of life around me, of other people, of the frailty of time and how quickly it comes and goes.

Maybe this change of mindset is a testament to getting older, growing up and becoming wiser, but it would be narrow-sighted of me not to connect the dots between being more present and disconnecting from social media. In June of this year, I decided to go completely dark online. I deleted my accounts for Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat. All that I have left are my LinkedIn page and a professional Facebook I use for work purposes (on which I have a whopping seven “friends”.)

Let me tell you, I have not once regretted my decision. I couldn’t be happier. I sometimes forget I am not on social media until someone asks me about it or talks about something they saw on Facebook or Twitter that day. For me, it feels like a breath of fresh air. It feels like freedom to just be myself without performing for anyone else. It feels like freedom from running a race I could never win. It’s sweet. It’s quiet. It’s simple. It’s real.

“It feels like freedom to just be myself.”

When I first went social media free, my roommate at the time asked me, “But how will people know you?”

To give you a little background about my old roomie, she is the type of person who shares pretty much everything, everything, on social media, car troubles, work troubles, the dress she bought today or the celebrity she meant at Target. Everything from the extraordinary to the mundane, she crafts and cultivates into an exciting post for eyes to see and join in on a conversation about her life in Los Angeles.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that- if that is what brings her joy. For me, social media is burdensome. It is draining. For me, it became a rat race to keep up with the Joneses. It was a false sense of community and relationship.

It seemed as I was growing, maturing, making mistakes and learning from those mistakes, I was taking people from my past with me into my present, and it didn’t feel good. It seemed unnatural. It was an open door to pry into the lives of people from different chapters of my life while giving them permission to do the same to me.

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I am not sure what I said to my old roommate when she asked how people would know me once I was offline. Now, if I could answer, I would tell her that they’d know me how they always have, through phone calls, through cards and kind notes sent, through quality time spent, through wine nights with friends, through happy hours and bible studies, through community, real, authentic community.

In my time off social media, I honestly can say I haven’t lost one friend. If anything, my friendships have been strengthened. I talk to people on the phone regularly. I remember birthdays more. I check in to ask about hospital visits and sick family members. I am more present, not perfect, just present.

I am more present, not perfect, just present.

Don’t get me wrong. Social media isn’t bad, but the simple fact that millions of people around the world use it daily, multiple times a day should be a cautionary sign. There is no one equation to life that works best for any two people. It makes perfect since that social media won’t work for everyone. I am one of those people. So please, don’t judge me for not being a fan of social media, and I won’t judge you for being attached to your phone and taking photos everywhere you go.

Recently, on a visit to Georgia, my godsister told me that I seem happier. This brought me so much joy. It was better than being told I looked pretty or in shape, that my outfit was nice or that I was successful in my career. She said I seemed happy. And I am. I truly am.

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Do Your Own Thing

I once had a boyfriend tell me the most profound thing. It’s been a few years so my memory may be a little fuzzy, but to paraphrase, he said, “Stephanie, I am always with people, but you, you do things on your own a lot. I am not like that.” Neither he nor I probably understood the weight of the that statement at the time.

I am pretty sure I actually took it as an insult. My thought process probably went something like, “Is he calling me a loner? Hey, I have friends and plenty of them! I am a very social person. Is he calling me anti-social? I get along easily with most people.” Pause. Hold the phone. Hit the breaks on my overly sensitive 20-year-old brain. Luckily, my perspective has shifted since then and I’ve matured to see things differently.

The truth is, my boyfriend at the time was right. He saw something in me that I didn’t see or wasn’t willing to see, my ability to forge my own path and do my own thing. While I consider myself to be an outgoing person, I also have a little bit of introvert blended in my personality as well. Sometimes it feels great to go out with a group of friends and spend time together, but other times, it feels so good to spend time at home on the sofa listening to music, resting or writing (guilty as charged at the moment). I had never thought of myself as someone who liked to be alone until someone else pointed it out, and he was right!

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody)

“What is in other people’s minds is not in my mind. I just do my thing.” Audrey Hepburn

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In a social media obsessed world where everyone knows what everyone else is doing at every moment, I take solace in quiet. I love the moments of peace in the mornings when I go for a run. I love roaming around a book store for hours in search of finding new writers to inspire me. I like to turn up my music and get lost in the beat while I’m cooking a meal. We all need these moments of solitude to think, to recuperate, to channel our thoughts. It becomes an issue when we can’t take time to ourselves and become more concerned with what everyone else is doing.

I challenge you for the year 2014 to spend time on your own. Get to know yourself. Get in touch with your inner voice and find some peace and quiet. Unplug your phone and disconnect from social media for days or weeks at a time. Having friends and being social is a good thing, don’t get me wrong. However, too much of anything isn’t good for you.

Don’t be afraid to go your own way. The way to find your truest desires and dreams is by getting to know the person staring back in the mirror. Make sure to nurture and honor that person. Don’t be afraid of a little solitude. As Audrey Hepburn said, do your own thing. Because that is the only way you will live a life worth living.

-Stephkt