I Don’t Want to Live on the Internet

Gimme a break from the social network

I started writing this piece a while back, with intention of distinguishing our media obsessed culture and my place within such a world. But once I began, I stopped writing after a few sentences. I couldn’t really write a piece, if I was still engaging actively online for several hours a day — talk about not practicing what I preached.

So, instead of changing my habits — I made excuses. I can’t possibly take a break from social media, I’m a photographer — my career relies on my ability to share online. If I take photos and never post them, did I ever really take the photos? I know you’re probably rolling your eyes right now. But in all seriousness, I’ve been conditioned to equate social media presence with career success — especially when it comes to “making it” in the creative field.

I found myself continuing to post, aiming for at least once a day in order to gain traction and attention toward my profile — a method that many “How to Grow Your Social Network” guides pinned as necessary. And yeah, I gain some followers, I lose some followers and overall I never really feel impressed by the results. Maybe I’m not impressed because I take the lack of interest as a hit to my art — as most artists, I’m pretty sensitive about my work as it feels like an extension of myself. Or maybe it’s because I sometimes have the feeling that I’m wasting time, that the hours I spend online trying to oooh and ahhh the people of the internet could be better spent — maybe with doing things like taking more photographs.. genius, I know.

In an attempt to take back my real life, last week I decided no more time would be wasted on social media — or at least I’d try it out and see how it goes, let’s call it a test run. I decided to solely focus on Instagram, as that was the platform that felt the most social (and sucked up most of my time and attention).

For about a week, I deleted Instagram from my phone. It’s embarrassing to admit how much time I suddenly had to finish other projects. When I wasn’t checking my account or thinking of a photograph to post — I wrote more content, landed 2 photography jobs, finished all the essential parts for my visa application, cleaned my room, talked to my family, texted friends back and discovered I liked being disconnected. Can you believe it? It was as if I had taken my life back from the social media sucker. I started to think that I, like many others, spend so much time connected and dialed in that we forget about the life going on in front of us.

If I learned anything from my week long cleanse, it’s this:

Social Media is a Tool, not a Replacement for Interaction

It’s tough when most people want to connect online, but hardly in person. We’ve become a society that sends invites, follows and likes a profile, without ever intending to meet the individual behind the screen. It may seem beneficial to build your network in such a way, but does that mean it’s healthy? We have to remember that even though social media can help us engage and network with people all over the world, we should still be tuned in to in person, real time interactions. When you’re attached to the technology within your phone, having to document every second and detail of your life — you are essentially removing yourself from the present moment and the people who surround you. Remembering that social media is a tool, not a way of life is vital. And if you ask me, meeting someone in person is way cooler than sending messages on the interweb.

Time Spent on Social Media, is Time Lost in the Real World

We’ve all done it. We log onto an application, intending to browse for a few minutes and check in with our network. Before we know it, it’s an hour later — you still haven’t made dinner or folded the laundry or showered. Time on social media is a vortex where all real-life productivity goes to die. For me, I never find myself spending a ridiculous number of hours online, but I spend enough for me to question my behavior. If you put down your phone, you’d be surprised at how much can be accomplished within a day. Instead of browsing, surfing and searching we should be acting, doing, building. Value your time — spend less on the intangible, the illusions of the Internet and more within your own focused and achievable reality.

There’s No Shame in Logging Off

I think most believe that switching off our devices will leave us in a negative state of disconnect. Because we’ve formed countless relationships on the Internet, logging off for a bit may deteriorate these encounters, right? Believe it or not, there was a time before the Internet and technology where people actually lived without always having to be intertwined and available. Think back to a time when people sent letters as communication, not reaching the other for weeks on end. Or when there was no such thing as the cell phone, you’d call a landline and if the person picked up — great! — if not, well you’d have to call back later. These simpler times didn’t ruin relationships, they reinforced them. We need to not be wary of taking a break or going old school in our communication methods. And even despite it’s rapid and continual growth, social media will never be a replacement to true human connection.

Although I ended up re-downloading the app — the week I spent off of social media did make me realize why in today’s state of technology, a social media cleanse is often neccessary. I think now more than ever, we need to realize that technology is a tool, not a way of life. Use it with intention, allow it to help your ideas grow, but take a break once and a while — your mind will surely thank you.

Shannon Ciricillo