Why I Took a Step Back from Social Media

I knew the pitfalls.

but I didn’t know myself.

 

About eight months ago, my best friend and I started this blog. We called it A Re.Styled Life. Its aim? To encourage women to find contentment in every season, and to inspire eyes to be opened to everyday beauty. My friend, the branding whizz and photographer, set up a beautiful website, I wrote four posts to get our content library started, and we were off! We knew that growth would only stem from marketing, so we started to broaden our social media influence in an attempt to get our blog in front of more eyes. Along the way, I started to realize the power of social media influence.

There is a big online world out there of which I had no knowledge. I had no idea of the scope of the influencer platform. I didn’t know that there is a competitive market for people hoping to get paid for their social media presence. I did not realize that every twenty-something female has a blog they are trying to market, each blogger creative and hardworking, with a message to share, and a much longer blogging career than my own. I just slowly began to notice that my social media follower count—for which I had never spared a thought before—was at a dismal 299, compared to the 100K devoted “followers” supporting some of my favorite bloggers. A number that had meant nothing to me before, now seemed a direct indicator of my success as a writer, creator and blogger. It took but a moment to deduce that I needed to grow that number as soon as possible.

I began to pour an excessive amount of time and energy into creating lovely content with meaningful captions, building intentional community with my followers, and doing whatever I could to boost engagement. And surprisingly, it began to work. I did not go viral of course, but in six months of hard work, I did see growth. I began to form real virtual relationships. I saw my words of encouragement make an impact. I was refreshed by many Christ-following bloggers I encountered. But I also experienced discontentment. I knew discouragement. I felt frustrated by slow growth. I became well acquainted with comparison and envy. I bought into the idea that everyone else’s lives are perfect. It was about this time that I began to write this post, an honest appeal to vulnerability on social media. I was, at times, frustrated, but I was still grinding away, trying to keep purpose and perspective in a competitive social-media world.

But then one evening, something changed.

My husband proposed a sunset walk down by the harbor. We drove the couple blocks down to the lake and I realized I had forgotten my phone. I experienced a moment of panic, thinking thoughts like, “Oh no, now I can’t document this sunset!” and “How will I share that we’re not watching Netflix for once, but that we’re actually out somewhere beautiful?” After the panic faded, it was replaced by intense shame. The kind of shame that makes you feel so relieved that other people can’t read your mind, or else their stomachs would be filling with the same disgust that’s filling yours now. I decided right then and there that I was going to take a break from social media. At the time, I planned only for a week-long break. But throughout the course of that next week, I became aware of more phenomena that made my skin crawl. Such as making a beautifully-garnished breakfast and feeling disappointed that I had wasted my time when I had forbidden myself from sharing it on my stories. Or setting up a cozy candle-filled environment to journal and drink coffee, but wondering why I had bothered when I couldn’t document it. If you are not a big social media user, I am sure you are embarrassed reading about these thoughts I had (and I assure you, not more embarrassed than me). But I am hoping that, in my honesty, you will gain insight into how social media is molding the minds of my generation. Because if you are reading this and you are very present on social media, like I was, I expect you understand where I am coming from.

What I realized is this: when I was unable to relish a sunset, prepare a beautiful meal, or enjoy a cozy environment without sharing it on social media, I was not only “doing it for the gram” (as in living for the purpose of posting on social media), but I was also de-valuing my experiences by parading them past strangers and giving them the power to appraise. I was handing over my real-life experiences to be judged by others, without even stopping to intentionally enjoy them myself.

Next time you go out for drinks and you’re cheers-ing your friends, instead of reaching for your phone to record, ask yourself, “Who am I living this moment for?” When you bake a loaf of home-made bread or re-decorate your living room and feel the need to snap a pic and post it, ask yourself, “Who am I really doing this for?” If you are not content to leave your life undocumented and unshared, I might have to wonder if you are living it for other people. For the gram. For the pic. For the story. For the likes.

I do not say any of this in judgment. Or if I do, I am judging myself only. I share this rambling self-reflection solely on the off-chance that someone needs to hear it. It took me less than a week of Instagram-fasting and brutal transparency to realize that social media—at least to the degree I was using it—was causing me more harm than good.

Maybe I needed this journey to come to the realization that this blog does not need huge social media presence. That maybe it’s okay for it to be small and meaningful to only a few. Because in its intimate and honest existence, it is meaningful to me.

And in the end, we are all more than social media. We are flesh and bones, beating hearts, feeling, experiencing human beings with a limited amount of time on this earth. I want to be present and intentional in my life today. I want to enjoy a great latte for just myself, take a walk with my husband for our own pleasure, share a moment of joy in nature with the Creator only. I want my eyes to be opened to everyday beauty and to find contentment in living a non-Instagrammable life. It would seem that I have come full circle.

A Re.Styled Life: To encourage women to find contentment in every season, and to inspire eyes to be opened to everyday beauty.

Lilli Van Natta2 Comments