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"I deleted social media for 3 years. Here's how it changed my life"

When I turned 10 years old, my parents *finally* let me download Instagram, Snapchat and all the other socials. I thought it was cruel of them to make me wait so long, considering most of my friends already had social media and seemed to be having an absolute blast without me.

I started by posting the typical things you would expect of a 10-year-old: silly selfies with my friends, adorable pics of my chunky guinea pig and the oh-so-inspirational "Keep Calm and ____" graphics. Totally innocent, fun and stress-free, right?

As I got older, however, social media (specifically Instagram) gradually took a turn and began to look *much* different than the casual platform we originally knew. Users started to put more and more effort into their pictures, making sure they fit into a certain aesthetic and highlighted the right parts of their life.

Rather than being a careless, creative outlet to post memes and connect with friends, it transformed into a new form of validation for middle schoolers, high schoolers and young people all across the spectrum. 

By the time Instagram and social media officially changed, I was in my prime middle school days, trying to navigate my way through friend drama, new crushes and the rising intensity of school sports. In addition to all the struggles a tween has to deal with, social media quickly became another burden that no one saw coming.

I strived every day to keep up with the unreal expectations of the Instagram world—from wearing the perfect outfit, to finding a picturesque background, to coming up with a witty caption, the attempt to be flawless as a teen going through puberty was an obstacle that overwhelmed my life and deteroriated my mental health.

My family and I visited San Francisco for Thanksgiving break when I was in seventh grade. While my family enjoyed the beautiful scenery and astounding history, I was purely obsessed with taking photos of myself for my Insta feed. When we eventually returned home, I deemed the trip unsuccessful simply because I didn't get the perfect Insta post. 

The summer before entering high school, my mom and I thoroughly discussed the idea of totally deleting my social media accounts. We both saw the overbearing effect it had on my sanity, and I'd honestly grown sick of the constant facade put on by almost every user, myself 100% included.

After about four years of devoting my life to achieving (often fake) validation over the internet, I decided to permanently delete all forms of social media. I'm 17 years old now, and I haven't regretted my decision for one second. Obviously, my life isn't perfect (no one's is), but deleting social media has drastically enhanced multiple areas of my life...

I don't get as much FOMO.

The fear of missing out is something that'll never totally go away, but avoiding social media *seriously* helps its case. It stinks enough if I'm not invited to a birthday party or if I have to skip a sleepover to prepare for my game the next morning. Twenty reminders popping on people's Snap stories throughout the night just makes it even worse. 

I devote my time to more fullfilling things.

Creating an Instagram post can easily take a couple hours—taking the best picture, editing it with the most flattering filters and then coming up with a funny caption. And we obviously can't forget about the never-ending rabbit hole when you're scrolling and somehow end up on your friend's cousin's hot brother's mom's page.

Now, I try to devote my time to things that will actually bring me happiness, like reading my fave book, talking with my mom or watching literally any show on Disney+ (Good Luck Charlie just never gets old). 

I love myself more.

Facetuning and photo retouching is such a huge aspect of social media that we usually can't notice it because of how realistic those edits appear. But if we're actually being real, no one's teeth can be *that* white, and no one's skin can look *that* glowy 24/7. 

By stopping the constant flood of unrealistic beauty standards into my head, I compare myself to others less often and feel more confident in my own skin.

If social media is affecting you in a similar way, I encourage you to try deleting the apps for a couple of days and see how your mental health improves. It might just surprise you...

Related: Why you should delete social media for a week

Here's why you should try a social media cleanse this year

All GIFs via Giphy. Slider + header image via Pinterest.

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by Elise Jones | 3/7/2021