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A Letter: Why I Need a Break – jeremy guiman


I’ve finally decided to take a break.

I’ve been on Facebook for almost a decade, Snapchat for about four years, and Instagram for just over three. Not once, in this time, did I feel the need to take an explicit “break” from social media. I would simply be more or less active at times without really defining it as a hiatus.

But recently, from summer boredom or whatever it is, I’ve felt the incessant need to check my phone. It might be to reply to Facebook tags or Snaps or just messages. But even in the dead of night, when I know that few people will be awake or active, I always seem to make my way back to my phone.

It is possible that my self-realization was sparked by something I noticed over a family dinner. My dad was on Facebook, and my family soon called him out on it, telling him to put his phone away. I took this moment to ask him to look at his phone usage data — how much time was spent on his phone and on what apps. On average, about five to six hours daily, used mostly for social media and browsing.

Now, I was shocked by this. Intrigued, I pulled out my own phone, and I was even more shocked to see that I was worse. I spent more time on my phone daily (albeit, only slightly), and I also spent the majority of that time on social media.

Over time (but especially since that dinner), I’ve become more cognizant of what has been occurring on my social media platforms and how I approach social media as a whole.

My personal epiphany has led me to reconsider my views on social media.

An Overarching Culture of Perfection

How I see it is — social media is used to display the things that interest us, that evoke emotion: joy, sadness, anger. Overwhelmingly, though, posts are often content taken and edited in particular ways to fit into a culture of perfection. People share their favorite restaurants, friends, vacations domestic and abroad, and sometimes just simple things at home. Often times, people won’t post pictures or videos that look “bad” because everyone wants to look good and portray goodness. I suppose this applies most to Instagram.

I’ve become more and more aware of the strong social culture that permeates throughout each platform. This culture, which can be both implicit or explicit, delineates what is acceptable to post, how often, when, and the like.

Conventionality and Personal Judgment

And on a somewhat related note, I’ve noticed how great a role conventionality plays in larger groups like those on Facebook. I’m not only talking about generic memes everyone relates to being more popular, but I’m talking about the beauty standards and ethnic/racial norms that people adhere to. I have seen how deviating from these established norms can lead to people being laughed at and even ridiculed.

I started having judgmental thoughts about the content I was seeing, and while I quickly cast these thoughts away, I had to ask myself why. Normally, I am not one to judge. I follow or friend people because it makes me happy to see what makes them happy, even if it involves hobbies or events I typically dislike. Sometimes, I am inspired by people’s determination and passion for what they post. But most of the time, I like and *like* a post because it’s just, cute. Unfortunately, I’ve become so intent on maintaining this normative social culture that I’ve judged people who dissociate from it.

Privacy and Judgment from Others

And more than that, I’ve realized that why I post so rarely is more than my leanings toward privacy. Privacy was a worry I had when I first started adjusting to social media mediums. Really, I post so rarely because I am afraid of being judged, even by people who are supposed to be my friends.

I have become so invested in the idea that I’m going to waste other people’s time if they click on “My Story” or that they are going to criticize whatever content I post. In actuality, I think the vast majority of my friends/followers would have a neutral or positive response (I should hope, haha).

A Time Vacuum

Lastly, it has become such an all-consuming aspect of my life that I just need to let go of it, even if for a little bit. I would have never thought that I spend nearly a fourth of my day on average using my phone. Granted, it’s summer, and I don’t have much else to do at the moment. Nonetheless, I’ve spent my time scrolling through sites and images which I might not even remember in a month or two.

I haven’t been investing enough time in the things I really want to do this summer, especially reading and exploring visual art more. I hope that this break will allow me to do these things.

With all of this in mind, this is why I need a break. There seems to be a greater-than-normal discrepancy between who I am and who I want to be. A lot of my insecurities seem to be manifesting themselves more easily, and hopefully, this time away will also allow me to build on my self-confidence and security.

I know my values. I was always taught to be kind and have an open heart for the people in my life. I was not put on this Earth to judge others. I was also taught to do things for me, to pursue whatever I am passionate about so long as I am positively influencing others.

But I also know that in some form, I’ve lost my way, or perhaps a part of myself. This probably isn’t helped by the fact that I’m not in the best state physically or mentally right now, but this is one step I’m taking to put myself in the right direction.

So this break, however long it is, is an effort to find myself again.

***

With all my love,

Jeremy

P.S. I hope I’ve written all this without coming off as disingenuous because I’m really thankful for being able to connect with everyone every single day. It’s just a break 🙂



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