OPINION: I’m offline and better for it


Shanel O’Brien

“Why on Earth would a 21-year-old quit social media? It’s easy. I hated how it made me feel, but most importantly, I hated the person I was transforming into.” Graphic courtesy of Claire Redinger/The Gateway.

I haven’t used social media in two years. No Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram or Tik Tok (which I would never use even if I was on social media) – none of it. Living in the digital age, this will come as a shock to many of you, I’m sure. But my relationship with social media was draining me as a person. Two years ago, I decided to stop logging in, and it’s the best decision I ever made.

Now why on Earth would a 21-year-old quit social media? It’s easy. I hated how it made me feel, but most importantly, I hated the person I was transforming into.

Growing up, I was very insecure and lacked self-esteem. Throughout middle school and my freshman year in high school, I didn’t care about my appearance. I never touched makeup or wore fashionable outfits. When my friends around me started being asked out or being complimented, I started to feel awful and jealous. I wondered why no one was asking me out until I had a boy tell me flat out tell me that I was ugly. I wanted to be liked so bad, but I was just me and I guess that wasn’t enough.

When I started social media, it was a great place to connect with old friends and see funny memes. It was innocent and fun, but then selfies started to become popular. I noticed so many girls on my feed posting the most gorgeous photos, and underneath would be endless admiration and compliments. I was reading words that I wish were being said to me. So, I started spending extra time on my makeup and spent more money on the latest trends and clothing. Selfies became a regular part of my routine, and I loved the camera.

Soon enough, I started to become acknowledged. Yes, me! It’s like the world shifted in my favor and I loved it. Almost every photo of mine had a comment that boosted my ego so high. Whether it was from friends, cute boys or crushes, the attention was on me. I became addicted to the admiration and it was an adrenaline rush like I never felt before. I was finally being noticed.

But years later, the rush was gone. I couldn’t take it anymore. I was posting photos after photos and even though the compliments never ended, the need for attention did. At first, it was exciting and new, but soon became old and tiring. I thought my self- esteem had skyrocketed, but I was more insecure than ever. I began to view myself as inadequate, and I felt ashamed. I believed the only way I would ever feel valued was if I presented myself as a different person – because truthfully, I was never that girl in those photos. I didn’t know who I was. I needed to find my true identity, and the sweet nothings being written to me weren’t helping at all. This consequence was normal according to the Child Mind Institute: “If you practice being a false self-eight hours a day, it gets harder to accept the less-than-perfect being you really are.”

So, in just a click, I deleted everything.

Two years later, I’m in a much better place. I still continue to work on myself and love the best version I can be. Not seeking approval has been so liberating and free. I feel like I know who I am, and I couldn’t do that if I still was in my old ways. I’m not saying you need to quit social media in order to feel good about yourself. For me, this was a personal choice that I felt was the best solution. Do I miss social media sometimes? Yes. It’s a great way to interact with the outside world and I mean c’mon, memes! But it’s something that I can live without. I may be offline forever, but I’m logged into a happier life.