Antisocial Diaries

Antisocial Diaries, messy thoughts

Emma is the editor & creator (and occasionally writer) for The Messy Heads. She enjoys yellow curry, print media, and singing to herself.

Antisocial Diaries is an ongoing thread exploring the concept of connection in an age of constant connection. Written by Emma, currently living in New York City and without any social media.

Yesterday I was stirring noodles and catching up with roommates who were crowded around the kitchen. Talking about castings, train rides, how the J wasn’t running, how this date went, how late we got in last night. I dramatically announced that I let social media know I was leaving social media. My friends and I laughed, furrowed our brows shouting at each other, “INSTAGRAM is a TOXIC environment.. farewell everybody,” acting ridiculous, because well it is kinda ridiculous. I was well aware of how extra I was being, but sometimes you have to over do it to get the point across to yourself.

I look around me and know that what I have is enough. I live in my favorite city in the world, I have people who care about me even when I fail miserably, who have forgiven me for making mistakes, who send me new songs and pop into my favorite coffee shop just to see if I’m sitting there. I think about how a year ago, I might have felt the need to publicize these relationships and little moments, maybe trying to prove something to myself. If I can make my life look good, it must be, right?

I could say it started in LA, my unhealthy relationship with social media, but that would be a lie.

I first got a Facebook in sixth grade, first started heavily using it in seventh grade. Planning out captions to be a perfect balance of witty and funny, showcasing who I was in my best light. All of my friends sending each other photo options, this pose or this pose? This caption or this caption? Should I add a smiley face? Overthinking and every last detail for a perfectly curated essence. It took a lot of effort, because we were trying to make ourselves something we were not: perfect.

Seventh grade, that was about when I was 12 years old. I am now 21, which means I have had around 9 years of living on the internet, documenting my life, and most importantly, showcasing my best self to an audience. At times consciously, but all the time unconsciously. I have been thinking about what other people think of me for 9 years, without a break. It switched from Facebook to Instagram, added on a twitter, a tumblr, a Youtube channel. All with the underlying question of: do people care about what I have to say? If they care, would that make me good enough?

A game that was so normal and unquestioned because everyone else was playing along, with these unspoken rules. You can’t be too vulnerable or rant too much. You can be naturally beautiful but only a certain type of naturally beautiful. Be smart but interesting, creative and colorful too. These are all pressures I must have felt, but never confronted, or even really recognized.

I can’t discount the power of social media. It was an amazing tool for an introvert like me. There was no way I was going to get up in front of a crowd and share my creative ideas, but I could post it without a confrontation. I found a niche of people who cared about something more, and created an online community. I learned about race issues, feminist issues, about veganism. I learned that someone my age could actually change something, create something. It was honestly really great, and helped me grow for a while, until it didn’t anymore.

I felt an internal struggle, one that had a voice now. I went to a country with no internet for two weeks and was sad to realize it was the longest I had gone without so much as logging onto social media in 9 years. Two consecutive weeks, out of some 468 weeks.

There was no suppressing how it made me feel anymore. Inadequate was at the top of the list, there’s always someone that’s doing better than you one scroll away. And in real life, you would know how that person is also struggling, but your mind has a funny way of taking a perfectly edited photo as fact. And even as I was aware of all of this, I felt it still effecting me. I monitored my mental patterns when I scrolled, even if I saw a photo of a dear friend living their best life, of course my loudest voice was happy for them, but the quieter ones resounded. Jealousy, envy, detrimental self talk. As much as I worked on it, it was still there.

I remedied by unfollowing everyone on my feed that triggered these patterns. This made it look like I didn’t care about people, wasn’t friends with certain people, and led to awkward texts of, “I love you, but I can’t help but want to skip lunch when I see you post a photo of your body.” I felt like I was being very, very weak. Why couldn’t I trump mind over matter? Why did it seem like this was effecting me silently and nobody else? I felt like it might be my fault: I’m too sensitive, too comparative, I should get a thicker skin and be happy with who I am and not compare myself to everyone. That’s what I preach, what I suggest to do, why can’t I do it myself?

The thing is, I COULD. When I logged out of left my phone at home. I connected with friends in a real way, loved myself. Appreciated my life and moments all around me. And just one scroll could trigger my anxiety. Was this suddenly happening? Or has it always been happening? And above all, why is nobody, NOBODY, else talking about this?

A lot of other people are feeling it, I know this. I know from comments or messages I got. I know from hazy in the dark 3 am conversations. I know from how I have seen my own friends facetuning their photos at a bar before posting them. I know from modeling agencies signing people with followings over people with talent, how people seem to hang out in groups where everyone has relatively the same amount of followers. How I have literally gotten texts from my friends asking me to tag them in the last photo I posted. How stats have been added, and now we can see just how many people care about us. I know it’s effecting all of us in some way, but it’s so normalized we don’t really know where to start, what to change.

excerpts from my journal

July 20
I think before social media we did a lot more living. We did things for ourselves, for our immediate community, because present was what we cared about. I think current social media is a bit of a barrier to finding out who you are. When you get constant feedback on which version of you is more liked, it must, at least subconsciously, shape who you are.

Aug 27
I am becoming more aware of my dependency on social media. I really need to grow outside of the realm of Instagram so I can feel less dependent on it for my success. It seems the more I “need” it, the less I want it. I hear my ego: if I was skinnier, cooler, lived in the right place, I would get more praise. I can get more people to like me! I can! When in reality I never thought I would make it here and should be overwhelmed and grateful, not hungry for more. I think when I get to New York I should swear off social media until the end of the year. Put more time and effort into podcasts, videos, blog posts, rather than just an image. I think that’s a good idea. to keep me focused on my goals and being my happiest self, not necessarily my most liked self.

Sep 1
I have decided I’m going to not use my Instagram until 2018. Right now its making me too sad and distracted. I want to focus on loving me and getting settled and my relationships before I think about adding it back into my life.

Sep 5
I don’t think I need it anymore, I don’t want to need it. Of course I am afraid, how can I succeed in this day and age without it? Will my projects and ideas be strong enough to stand on their own? Will anyone care? But then I think about how people have become numbers by a name. How someone is uninterested in me until they ask for my Instagram. How much more creative and free I feel without it. I know no matter what someone else’s opinion is, I know how I feel, I know how it effects me, my perception of myself and my self-value, and I need to stop ignoring that.

38 Comments

  1. Siobhán says

    Thank you for posting this, I’m having a similar internal struggle with social media and how it makes me feel/behave.
    Will you be posting on the Messy Heads Instagram, or will someone else be doing it on your behalf from now on?
    Much love x

  2. I absolutely love your writing Emma, everything you stated in this post is so important and we should be talking about it.

  3. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️😎❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
    Yer gramma

  4. Monica M says

    This resonates so deeply I had to constantly remind myself while reading that I didn’t write this! I feel everything you said and I think it’s finally going to make me take the same step you did and stop using my instagram for the rest of the year. It’s become a place that I go to and leave feeling empty, and self conscious. It no longer is a place where people go to be creative and express themselves through art and pictures, it’s all about numbers and ads, and it breaks my heart. I stated hang instagram to share my pictures but now Im usually too self critical and picky to even post anymore. Thank you for being so open and honest Emma! 💕

  5. maeve says

    so interesting how u posted this at the exact time in my life where i’m starting to question the reliance i have towards my phone. your confidence and decision of deleting social media is inspiring me. i love serendipity.

  6. I know from modeling agencies signing people with followings over people with talent, how people seem to hang out in groups where everyone has relatively the same amount of followers. How I have literally gotten texts from my friends asking me to tag them in the last photo I posted. How stats have been added, and now we can see just how many people care about us.

    This is so real, I live it on daily basis.
    https://tereromances.com/

  7. I agree with absolutely everything. Social media has so much power to do good, but quite often is detrimental to our mental wellbeing and growth. Emma, I am proud of you for taking this step and sharing this (how wrong is it that your actions are so rare and brave…). You are always so open and beautifully raw and have helped me realise that i desperately need to monitor how often i find myself scrolling through my phone, thank you <3

  8. Olivia O. says

    Emma, I quit social media for my freshman year of college and it was one of the most enlightening experiences of my life. I eased back into over this past summer and already feel the negative repercussions so I’ve deleted it all again. I know that it’s wonderful and worth it, but I’ve definitely wrestled with those same questions of how it seems nearly impossible to be an artist without that platform. I find a lot of solace knowing that others are wrestling, too. Proud of you!

  9. Lauren W. says

    I definitely understand the “friends asking to tag you in the photo”. Sometimes I don’t even get a hi how are you text from my friends before they lunge in with the “go like my insta photo”. At that point I don’t even reply and like the photo. Social media really drags me down, I am so tired of seeing other people living their life; I just want to live in my own. Love the point of view you narrated.

  10. Carla Turi says

    Emma, I quit Facebook this past summer and it alleviated so much unnecessary anxiety/stress, though I haven’t been able to completely quit all social media yet, though I do want to. At the same time, I struggle with wanting to be the kind of person who is perfectly okay with it, and doesn’t NEED to have to delete it. To be balanced in that sense, to know that this doesn’t have to consume me or my day….though it does, and I consciously let it happen. Clearly, I’m not that person I guess. Regardless, I am proud of you.

  11. Jikke Smidt says

    Wow you discribed my struggle exactly. Two weeks ago I deleted all my social media, my friends were confused. No I know how to discribe the reason why to them. Lots of love from Holland xx

  12. I desperately want to do this too. I know it’ll be difficult and hard but I so want to. But I’m in the process of building up my own business, own creations, own life …. and I don’t think I can do it without social media. I don’t know what to do.

  13. Oh Emma, you don’t need social media. Reading this and then going down to the comments its clear that you are reaching people on a much more personal level when you write so openly on messy, rather than posting a photo and caption on insta. I’m at a similar point at the moment, but still struggling to find a way to fit social media into my life – maybe I’m just not at a point I can let go yet. Very interested about reading more about your experience in the future xx

  14. Maria says

    After I finished school at the end of 2015, I deleted all of my social media accounts. I was sick of being friends with people online who i didn’t give a fuck about in real life. I was sick of comparing myself to every perfect image I saw on my phone screen and most of all I was sick of finding validation in numbers on a screen. I’ve been social media free for two years and it’s been the best thing. You notice the disconnect within others too, when they ask for your instagram and you tell them you don’t have social media and they respond with Oh… and then don’t talk to you again. It helped me shun the negative energy out of my life and allowed me to start making real connections with people. I hope it does the same for you Emma.

  15. i really want to do this too but i dont think i can leave social media for a long time (i tried deleting all social media apps in my phone and i re-installed them the next day). im going on a trip this weekend and i will leave my phone at home so i can connect with the people ard me. thanks for this, emma <3

  16. Emma I enjoyed reading this piece so much. Deleting all of my social media apps has been lurking in the back of my mind for a while, but like you said, I’m nervous my projects can’t stand on their own without it. This leads me to start weighing my priorities. While I feel my anxiety lessen when I’m not using social media or even my phone for that matter, I can feel the potential of my creative projects start to go down. It’s such a hard hard thing to determine, but reading this has made me realize I need to choose myself over this weird media addiction.

  17. you’re such an inspiration emma… whenever i feel lost and need guidance i come here. whenever i feel sad and need positivity i come here. whenever i feel happy and wanna enjoy some good writing i come here. this platform is always here for me, thanks for that.

  18. Malvika Wadhawan says

    I feel as if social media has all the power in our relationship. No matter what.

    XO

  19. Malvika Wadhawan says

    I feel as if social media has all the power in our relationship. No matter what.

    XO

  20. Recently I signed off of social media because instead of using it for a personal art platform, it dictated my thoughts and my overall emotional wellbeing. The thought of that terrifies me.

  21. this is everything i’ve been thinking put into words! i am constantly deleting social media for about a week before i feel the need to get it back in my life, but lately i feel so dependant to it. i’m constantly wondering what other people are posting and wasting time thinking about others and not about what i’m doing. i feel so much more creative and motivated when i know its not on my phone to check. i am much more at ease and content with myself and my life when i am not constantly comparing it to others. glad i’m not the only one in this state of mind.
    love your writing emma!

  22. Viktoria says

    I agree with a lot of things you’re writing about. Especially when you talk about doing stuff that will stand on their on, without social media in this age. It is scary.
    I feel like I would wish things and opportunities if I quit it all, but it would probably be the best for my health. It takes up a lot of time and effort I know I could use for greater things. Nice to see someone writing about this…

  23. I love this and I totally feel the same way. Recently I’ve been deleting Instagram and snapchat for a couple days up to a week, and then redownloading them after a little while. I feel that I live in the moment more when they are gone and not on my mind. My goal for the rest of the year is to not obsess over social media. I created an Instagram account where I only follow a handful of artists who inspire me and I finally deleted snapchat, hopefully for good. Thank you for this post, it’s a wonderful reminder of how social media negatively affects me.

  24. Tash Read says

    EXACTLY what I needed. You’re so right… no one talks about this and I thought it was just me! Thank you time and time again xx

  25. Isabel says

    I missed reading your blog, Emma. You’ve inspired happiness inside of me since the first time I read it in 2016, but I’ve been so busy with school I haven’t read in awhile. You’re inspiring me again and I’m so grateful for that. The world is a better place with you in it.

  26. love this! I got rid of social media for this year starting on January 1st and I have not missed the way it made me feel and the way I felt forced to compare myself. While I do believe there are positive aspects to social media, at least for me the negative outweighed the positive. Being without it has made me be more intentional with reaching out to people in my life to see how their lives are rather than assuming I know their life based on their snapchat story. I do agree with what you said about social media being a hindrance to finding out who you are because we are fed ideas of what we think we should be. I feel more freedom and confidence and I question myself a lot less in the last 9 months!

  27. I completely relate to this!!! I’ve had a love/hate relationship with social media for years now. Having an Instagram since seventh grade and now being a senior in high school, I’ve realized how dependent I’ve become on it. I don’t post often anymore but I constantly download the app, check my feed and stories then delete the app. I keep repeating this cycle over and over again even though I know it’s toxic for me. Twitter has helped educate me so much on important issues but every time I’d log on, my anxiety level would spike and I would always log out frustrated so I’m trying to keep myself inactive on my account now. People try to only show the best parts of themselves and their lives on social media. They don’t realize how it hurts them and others in the long run. I want to thank you for posting this and being honest about the toxicity of social media and helping others to realize it.

  28. Jess says

    This is late but i just want to say how happy I’am to stumble upon this post right now. I took a break off instagram for 1 whole month and its actually the happiest month I’ve ever had. And now seeing this, i feel so much better knowing that someone out there is going through the same thing as me and is actually talking about it. I love you and thank you for creating this whole blog.

  29. social media divorcee says

    This is a really great example of the kind of critical thinking that our generation has seemed to have abandoned, and I can’t help but put it down to the submission into social media that has abolished this important human experience. After having been “off” social media for about two years now, it’s been reassuring as well as at times confronting to learn who involves you in things and who keeps in contact despite me not being “connected” online – who picks up the phone, leaves messages on your mirror in your bedroom. Too many important and beautiful things to miss out on when people are scrolling like mindless shells of consciousness on our phones. Ugh.

  30. Lulu says

    Thank you, i’ve been struggling with my feelings towards social media, and this really helped me.

  31. I haven’t posted on my Instagram since July this year and I have never felt so liberated. I used to plan lonesome shoots in my bedroom of a weekend and even found myself planning outings with my friends specifically for the social media content.

    Since, I have started taking photos on cameras instead of my phone so I don’t have an immediate chance to post or edit the image. It’s built up a collection of photos of beautiful candid moments and memories that I am glad wont slip from my mind or be altered by self loathing and low esteem.

    Thanks for sharing this. Miss seeing you on my feed, but love engaging with you on The Messy Heads.

  32. I removed every social media account last year. I was 15 at the time. I can’t even explain how every new interaction felt so much more real since then. I still remember those first couple of days when i felt confusingly afraid of something. Questions like ”how” or ”what now” were mixing together, but once what was normal until then changed, i started to find comfort in that way of living, in that way of thinking, in that way of connecting.

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