By Abby Gray, ’18
Crowds of people flooding down the sidewalk, buzzing past me, every one traveling a different path to a new location. Each has a background, a life, a story I don’t know and very likely never will. In each direction I look, there are buildings with a random array of lit windows into rooms with business meetings and interns trying not to spill hot coffee. Taxi horns echo through the streets, taxis full of human beings rushing to their nail appointments or doctor’s appointments and tourists traveling to see a Broadway show. It’s a complex city, an intriguing city and a beautiful city. Each person is completely surrounded yet almost completely anonymous. And through it I walk, my head down and face illuminated by the glow of Twitter. I’m compromising experiencing everything real around me for the artificial profiles members of social media portray.
In a way, social media is like New York City. You’re surrounded by thousands of people, but you’ll never truly know most of them, you’ll only know how they chose to portray themselves on the outside. Most of the time you’re completely consumed in how you should portray yourself, while everyone else is focused on how they should portray themselves- both in order to momentarily catch the attention of another user enough so that they would take the five seconds to like or retweet anything put out.
Just recently I deleted all of my social media: Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram, because I realized that I was so consumed in creating a perfected image of myself online, that I was missing experiences in real life. I was sitting with my grandparents over holiday break, but I was invested in scrolling through pictures of what everyone else got for Christmas instead of listening to my grandfather tell funny stories about my dad. I was surrounded by the largest city in America, but I was too busy spending time trying to get perfect pictures of christmas lights in storefronts to talk to my taxi driver.
So far in my social media detox, I’ve realized a few things. First of all, I never knew how self-obsessed I had become until I deleted Snapchat. I used to look at my own face 100 times every day to snapchat my streaks; now I look at myself maybe ten times a day. I’ve realized it makes me think less about my appearance — I don’t worry about small stupid things, like a flyaway hair or a small blemish my makeup didn’t cover. I’ve also realized that losing social media makes me less dramatic. There’s no getting upset a specific person doesn’t like my picture or tweet. I can talk to people fine through texting, facetimex- and real life conversation, so it’s not like deleting social media has deprived me of communication. I’ve started relying on actual conversations and experiences for social interaction and real news articles instead of Twitter for knowledge.
Whether I’ll eventually give in and decide to re-download social media or not, we’ll see, but for now I’ve stepped out of a fake world of people behind screens, putting out only their best selves, and focused on the things actually going on around me.