I am a 20-year old student at Manchester Uni, with friends all over the UK, and even further afield. I use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep all these friends updated about my life. A few months ago, I would have quite confidently said that, ‘Yes, I need social media to keep these friends’. All 1,238 of them. One thousand, two hundred and thirty eight. I took pride in telling people I knew them all, and would never accept anyone I didn’t know. This is true; I did know them all and never accepted anyone I didn’t know… But there’s knowing the girl four years above you at high school, and knowing the boy who works in Londis. Which is not really knowing them at all (and I had both as Facebook ‘friends’). Why is this considered normal? Why are there so many people desperate to tell their hundreds of ‘friends’ what they have had for their tea, what they bought in Topshop, what they went to see at the cinema? I can quite confidently assume that if I saw the girl four years above me at high school in the street, I wouldn’t feel it necessary to go and tell her what I was doing, where I was going, what I was having for tea and what colour socks I had on, and neither would many others. It was a horrible realisation that every picture of new clothes I posted to Instagram, every Tweet about where I was going out for tea and every Facebook update was simply posted looking for approval. The more ‘likes’ I got, the happier I became. As soon as I pressed ‘Post’, I would wait with anticipation for a little notification to indicate someone’s approval. It’s such a poisonous way to live; wasting my days documenting everything I was doing for everyone to see, but not really seeing anything myself. The worst part is, when I wasn’t busy updating everyone on my own life, I was trawling through other people’s Facebook’s, Twitters and Instagram’s, comparing my life with their’s. I thought these stalker-ish tendencies were just something I struggled with, but after talking to friends about how much social media impacts upon my life, I became aware of how bizarrely we were all living our lives. I mean, how weird would it be if all 412 of my Twitter ‘followers’ actually followed me around all day, seeing exactly what I got up to?! And how many of these 412 followers actually care, or are they just using me as someone to compare their own life with? Taking all this into consideration, it should seem as though it’s easy for me to delete all my social network accounts, but as I said at the beginning, I’m a 20-year old student, living in the centre of Manchester with friends all over the place. The university uses Facebook and Twitter to promote events and discussions happening throughout the year. I use Instagram to keep in touch with a friend in California and see another part of the world through his eyes. Using my accounts in this way is positive, but with the baggage of an excess thousand people judging my every move, how could I get out of the hole I had fallen into?
Deleting my old Facebook account and reducing my friends list to less than 200 people and working through my Twitter and Instagram followers, removing people I knew didn’t care about my life felt like the biggest weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I can happily say that now, when I tweet (nowhere near as much as I once did), when I post a status or when I put a picture on Instagram, it’s because the people I’m telling are my close friends and my family, who genuinely care. There’s no competition in it anymore. I’ve stopped searching for happiness in my news feed by comparing what I’m doing to what she’s doing, and it’s giving me more time to find real happiness, with real life people, in real life places!