My name is Lily McKenna and I am 17 years old. I attend an independent school in North London. I gave up social media several months ago when I realised the negative sides of being on social media outweighed the positives. I did the infamous ‘social media cleanse’, but rather than returning a week later, I decided to run for the hills.
By writing about my experience, I am not trying to spur a global-cleansing revolution; I
know that many people benefit from social media, and the studies surrounding social media impact are often inconclusive and conflicting. By writing this blog I only hope to offer you a personal perspective on it all.
Social media is a tool, and like any tool it can be used for good or bad. Certainly, it can
provide a space for communication and the development of relationships. I, however, was beginning to find that my involvement with social media was having the opposite effect, it was isolating me and preventing me from having real human interactions.
I found that after deleting it, while I did lose some ‘friends’, I had more time to focus on the people that really matter to me; those who motivate and inspire me and help me to grow as person. If anything, it strengthened my relationships since I had to actively try to meet up with those friends face-to-face in order to catch up. I am pleased to report that my relationships became more meaningful and powerful.
Social media, I discovered, had distorted my self-image and was beginning to have a profoundly negative impact on my self-esteem. I know that much of the evidence linking social media to bad mental health remains inconclusive and conflicting but, personally, I feel much more positive about myself since going off grid.
People often talk about the pressure to portray the perfect life on social media platforms and how damaging this can be. This was my experience. Seeing the endless
stream of perfect people achieving the ‘perfect life’ (posting about a partner they
never fought with, or photographs of their endless friendship groups, and their perfect
flawless bodies..) was starting to take its toll. I am aware that people will often
use photoshop or only show the good parts of their lives, yet It was still hard to
disentangle the fake from the real. I was beginning to notice a growing discontent and
I’m not trying to say that my engagement with social media was all negative. Social media platforms enabled me, in part, to see positive posts about female empowerment and more natural pictures of young people celebrating human flaws. The ratio of negative posts far outweighed the positive ones in my own experience.
One last contentious issue I had with social media: It provided too much information, much of which was fake. Having something that runs 24/7 is always going to be overwhelming; the constant need to pick up and check my phone was also impacting my sleep and, as a result, my anxiety was increasing. Each time my phone sounded, I felt my self tense.
I do recommend that everyone try some kind of social media cleanse, whether it’s simply limiting your time on social media, or having an entire week off. If you’re a student, I
would highly recommend doing this during exam season. Many of my friends have
done this and swear by it. You have less time to procrastinate on your phone and more time to focus on revision, health and wellbeing.
Leaving social media behind, I feel much more content with myself. I now set myself more realistic goals and have noticed an improvement in my mental health.