“Oh my god, did you see what that person just posted?” …No?
A few years ago, I made the executive decision to be absent from social media. The last time I opened Snapchat was three and a half years ago; Instagram almost three years ago. At the beginning of this school year, I deactivated my Instagram account; it’ll be gone until I decide to log back in for whatever reason. I don’t have Twitter, Reddit, or Tumblr either.
It pays to be informed. So why would I possibly choose not to be?
It’s no secret that social media is rotten for teens’ mental health and wellbeing. Personally, I don’t like worrying about people constantly perceiving me, followers and like counts, and the latest heavily filtered photos. I’m not going to shame the people who have it, but it’s definitely not for me. As someone with an anxiety disorder, I usually try to avoid unnecessary things that cause me stress.
I’d say that most information that is crucial for me to know finds me anyways. Word of mouth and having friends on social media goes a long way. It’s simply just not necessary for me to know everyone’s business, or what’s going on with this or that celebrity; I just don’t care. It’s not worth my time.
Important events like the Blair lockdown last month, the COVID outbreaks here at Blake and over at Paintbranch, school shootings in different states; I hear and learn about them because they’re something that I need to know, and something that enough people talk about. Any event that calls to question my safety will always find its way to me, and honestly, I think that’s really all I need to know.
There are still situations where it would be more helpful for me to be active on social media. One of my friends got COVID recently and posted as such on their finsta—I found that out a few days late with plenty enough shock while yelling at my friends for forgetting to mention that to me. Knowing that someone I frequently have contact with is sick with COVID is in a completely different box than just anybody at Blake getting COVID.
Previously, I used Instagram a lot to learn about recent news, especially major events that would trigger activism in young teens. Anything that was important enough to my peers to post about, I figured was large enough for me to care about. But more recently, especially in the past year, there’s been an influx of performative activism on the app. There are less and less genuinely helpful references on people’s stories, and more “Hey, I think racism is bad. Sexism kinda sucks too.” None of that does anything of use, and from my perspective, it just pressures more teens to post meaningless “activism” that purely stresses people out. It stresses me out.
Social media is also increasingly unreliable as a credible news source. The “Don’t believe everything you read” advice is…gone. As soon as one person says something, people immediately believe it, then they share it, and misinformation spreads like a wildfire. Without social media, I use sources with more research behind it to learn about what is really going on; what’s true or not. Generally, that’s a good practice to have, even just as a normal citizen and not a journalist.
This isn’t to say that I have absolutely no internet presence. I have TikTok, YouTube, and Discord (to talk to my friends across the country and the Atlantic ocean). I know nearly everything people reference, I still interact with people plenty, and gain the information I need to write up articles and find out what’s relevant.
I just happen to do so without the use of social media.