I’m Laura (not Laura of Mama with the blue dress fame, I can but dream). Due to circumstances beyond my control, I found myself beginning a ‘digital detox’ at the beginning of the year. It has transformed my life in more ways than I could possibly imagine.

Over the past couple of years, I had become increasingly dependant on social media to quench my thirst for validation. I wrote a blog called ‘Help me I’m chubby’ and became insatiable for the likes and comments of complete strangers.

I would upload selfies, all glammed up and compare my 37 likes of mostly female friends and acquaintances to those of other single women in my age bracket and see that THEIR photos had been liked by mostly men! I was unlovable! Hideous! These women were going to find the love of their life through a simple Instagram like whilst I would be left on the sidelines with only the support of my 37 female acquaintances.

It wouldn’t phase me when my parents would say to me “why are you filming this?” as we took a walk on a cliff. I would simply think they were completely out of touch. “This is what young people DO!” I would respond in a Kevin and Perry style retort.

The comparison of my life on others became wildly out of control. Never-ending engagements of people I barely knew or hadn’t seen in years would make me question my own love-life. I would become engulfed in jealousy watching five-second stories of people I had spoken to once having dinner parties with their friends as I sat at home alone with some Linda McCartney sausages and a glass of tap-water.

I was caught in a vicious cycle of posting everything I had done on that day to my Instagram stories, swiping up to see who had seen it and would often feel slightly uncomfortable at the sheer amount of people who had seen what I’d had for breakfast that day, or that I was in bed, watching a film and sooooo cosy.. Why, I would think to myself, do I think it will enhance my life in any way if someone who I went to school with, someone I drunkenly snogged on holiday or even someone I worked two shifts with at a failed Saturday job, sees my mundane life?

I would read stories about those who had been on a ‘digital detox’ and would think ‘God, how pathetic that these people actually think they’re addicted to social media’ and, like a true addict I would inwardly say to myself “I can stop any time, I just don’t want to”.

And yet, nothing changed. I continued to link my Strava runs to my social accounts, carried on filming my friends making a fool of themselves, begged my friends to ‘get in for a photo!’, trying to persuade myself it was for the memories and not actually so that my 987 followers could see that, in actual fact, I DO have friends.

Whilst going through my ‘digital detox’ for the first two weeks I was also battling the hardest time in my life, so the changes I’m about to describe might not exclusively correlate with no social media but, I’m pretty sure most of them do.

The first two weeks were very strange. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with any spare moments in the day or when I got into bed at night. I felt completely out of touch with the world. I felt let down that my friends (social media acquaintances) hadn’t noticed I hadn’t posted on Instagram. I started to read the digital detox blogs I had scoffed at only weeks before seeking advice on how to get through this detox phase. I laugh at this now but I honestly felt like I had lost all of my friends, all of my existence! Why did I need to make my life exciting or joyful now if not to share it with the world?

I started to read a book my housemate had bought me for Christmas called “12 rules for life, an antidote to chaos”… It was a bit hard-hitting for someone who hadn’t read a book in almost two years. The font was too small and the sentences too complex, so I put it down and downloaded a book by Brene Brown.
That, was the turning point.

I started to see just how much social media had warped my view of the world. I no longer compared myself to others because I had no idea what they were doing! There are so many people I had thought were a real friend of mine due to our interactions on Instagram and Twitter, but they weren’t, which is fine! I didn’t need 45 best friends! I no longer felt sad or deflated that I hadn’t been invited on a night out with women I didn’t really know all that well because I simply didn’t see it happening. I didn’t feel guilty that I wasn’t eating a rainbow-coloured smoothie bowl because I no longer had a suggested photo feed.

I wasn’t angry at Piers Morgan or Katie Hopkins anymore. I wasn’t constantly anxious about the failure of the NHS or that the ice caps are melting as I now had the choice of content I wanted to read.

My uncle (who is not on social media) hit the nail on the head when we were speaking about my detox:  “Facebook is strange isn’t it, no wonder it leads to so much anxiety, you will be scrolling through your feed and one moment see that someone you know has got engaged, and two posts down you will see that someone’s father has died. You’re putting your own emotions into people you barely know”.

I’m now on week 11 without social media (apart from a 12-hour lapse on my birthday) and, as preachy as it sounds I have never been more content, calm and happy with my life. I am now completely assured of who I am. I know who is really important to me and I’m no longer in an anxious pit of comparison or a search for validation. I run 5k every other day (thanks to Bella Mackie’s Jog On) and have a healthier relationship with my body.

Despite having nobody to validate a selfie or a funny tweet, my self-esteem has rocketed. I’m content in who I am and have no desire to change a single piece of me to please my target audience.

I’m not alone in this, 4 out of 5 people between the ages of 16-24 have reported that the use of social media has made their anxiety worse, 26% of young people say that using social media makes them feel bad about themselves. Of course, it does! How, can you not feel bad about yourself when you’re sat at home alone watching videos of your acquaintances out having ‘the time of their life’.How is it possible not to start the day in a bad mood when Twitter is full of hatred and anger? In ten years of social media use, I have not once seen a post of an average day. Never have I seen the mundane, the kids being little shits, the fall out with a boyfriend or the betrayal of a close friend.

For me, it turns out that the blogs on digital detoxing had a point all along. Yes, there are benefits to living in a digital world but, personally, it’s not been worth my mental or physical health, and has quite simply been the best thing I’ve ever done. If you’re an anxious person, I would implore you to do the same, just for a month and see what difference it makes.

Laura Haigh

If you’ve enjoyed this read and would like to touch base with Laura about any of the matters above, you can email her: [email protected].

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