By Andrew Keith
It came in phases. The first came early January 2017, when I came to the conclusion I had known to be true for a very long time. I was addicted. I couldn’t get on my phone without getting on a social media of some sorts. Every time I unlocked my phone and shot a quick text or Googled something, I would unconsciously swipe to the group of apps I had named “Social Media”. It was a habit I had formed over the many years I had been on social media from Instagram to Twitter to the incredibly addicting and self-serving Snapchat. I didn’t try to break the habit either because, quite simply, I didn’t realize it was a problem. But it most definitely is a problem for countless young adults.
According to Pew Research, up to 90% young adults use at least one social media account. This trend is relatively young and has increased dramatically every year since social media giants like Facebook and Instagram have been launched. Social Media Trends says that the average person spends nearly 2 hours every day on social medias. This is equivalent to 5 years and four months over a lifetime. The question that needs to be asked is why. Why do so many young people feel the need to be on social media so much?
I can’t answer for other people, but personally, I wanted to be on social media because it gave me an insight into other people’s seemingly more interesting lives. I loved scrolling through Instagram and seeing all the cool things people were doing and who was still friends with who. Of course, I also enjoyed the innumerable scandalous pictures that girls would post seemingly every day. Girls post these self-revealing and honestly embarrassing pictures because most of the feedback they get will be about how much they “slay”. We’re all narcissists at heart. We will do anything to make ourselves look good, and not just that, we will do everything we can to make ourselves look better. Nothing beats a good compliment, well-deserved or otherwise. So of course, we love social media for the fake feedback we receive from our online peers that makes us feel loved and accomplished and accepted even though we all know that we were merely locking away the truth about our lives in a small little box called reality. When we neglect the reality of our broken lives and only exude to others an aura of perfection, we not only trick others, but we trick ourselves. I would blatantly lie to someone about something of miniscule importance just so I could receive encouraging words. As time went on, I began to believe the lies myself.
So, the time came in early January when I finally decided to begin the difficult task of reviewing my social media habits. I had become addicted to the lives of others without ever caring about my own. I believe the last time I had posted a picture on Instagram was in early 2015 so it wasn’t like I posted all the time, but I still enjoyed judging the lives of other people. I enjoyed judging other people’s lives because I thought I was so much better than them. I enjoyed the edited and remarkably false lives of all my “friends”. I enjoyed the addiction. So, what seemed to me to be a very sudden decision, but in reminiscence I had really been pondering it for many months, I decided to ween off it completely. It started with the elimination of Instagram. I was mostly convinced by a close friend who had stopped using it, but the real reason I deleted was even more simple than that. I merely asked myself question upon question regarding why I was using it. Why do I use it so much? What point does it serve to my life long-term? Is the amount of time I’m spending on it hurtful to more important things like education or physical health? I concluded that I needed to get it out of my life because it served no purpose in my life other than to make me feel either belittled, as if my life was insignificant and paled in comparison to another person’s seemingly more extravagant life, or distinguished, as if I thought my life was better than these fools wasting theirs away at parties and whatnot. This duality of thought had drastic effect on my character and principled nature. Perniciously, social media battled with my moral compass, my religious beliefs, and my political beliefs, all without any self-objection.
Being Instagram-less wasn’t incredibly difficult for me since I had started to ween off it already without knowing. But the next social media to conquer was, and still is, the hardest to overcome. Snapchat. I had Snapchat downloaded for a long time but never really used it until the fall of 2016. From then until May 2017 I spent probably an hour on it every single day, easily. I started “streaks” and kept them going for hundreds of days. I found that I really truly convinced myself that having a streak with someone meant that they were someone I knew on an intimate level. I believed that having a streak meant that I was actually forming a real relationship with these people. Simon Sinek talks about the dangers unbalanced social media usage poses to my generation when he talks about how a generation so addicted to social media is unable to create real relationships. Instead we have very shallow, basic understandings of people of whom I will refer to as close friends despite lacking substantial knowledge of who these people truly were behind the mask that is social media. We can’t create meaningful relationships. I can count on one hand the number of close friends I have. One hand.
One of the biggest issues I had with my Snapchat addiction was regarding my self-identity. I have been told my whole life who I am supposed to be by the culture, including Hollywood and celebrities, and by my peers. I struggled with, and still struggle with, what a real man looks like. Snapchat, and the many sinful indulgences it offers, was no cure. I sought to show others that I was a real man by falsifying myself in order to be liked. I created a shroud around me to where no one really knew me, including myself. I became disengaged and thought my life was meaningless because I couldn’t be the macho man our culture expects of men in the modern world. I don’t have big muscles, I don’t date all the girls, so what is the point of being a man? I became self-indulgent on Snapchat and utilizing its resources to make me feel like a real man. This became a huge problem to me because the more I did this, the more I saw that my self-identity was rooted in the opinion of others. It was rooted in society’s standards and it tormented me that I couldn’t reach that level of manhood. That’s when it was revealed to me what a real man looks like. His name was Jesus Christ and he was the epitome of manhood. Manhood has nothing to do with how big your muscles are or how many girlfriends you have (hopefully not at one time), it’s about how you treat others with self-sacrificial service. It’s about laying down your life to live for the God among men, the king of all kings, and to exude true manhood as told in the Gospels. Being a man require courage and integrity, two characteristics lacking in our society.
I am nothing on my own. I realized this when I started to question my usage of Snapchat and I realized I couldn’t do this on my own. I couldn’t give up this huge part of my life, where I had created “friendships” and “meaningful” relationships with peers who “loved” me for who I “really” was. It’s hard. But I could not stand idle while I destroyed myself. So, I held my finger over the little yellow icon that had dominated my life the past 8 months. I waited for the X to pop up in the top left hand corner. I hesitated, questioning if I was doing the right thing and thinking about all the people I would become disconnected with and all the opportunities I would miss out on if I deleted it. Then, as if my thoughts proved my inability to do it alone, I prayed that I would be set free from the chains of self-hate, self-pity, self-image, and I opened my eyes and tapped the little X.
Since then, I have felt an immense difference in my outlook towards life and my relationships with people who truly care about me and know the real me, not the fake one I put out for so long. It is incredible to me how so many people ask me in utter awe, “why did you delete Snapchat???” But then I realize, I would’ve said the same thing just mere months ago. The addiction that comes with social media is extremely powerful and can make it hard for people to understand who they are deep down. Don’t let social media be the backbone to who you are as a unique individual in a world full of evil out to strip you of every good fiber of your being. Don’t let social media rot away your inner-self until all you see is the You you’ve created for yourself in order to meet impossible-to-achieve social qualifications. Don’t let social media be your addiction. Don’t let social media be You.