What is happiness? Happiness is something that has become a very abstract and elusive mindset in my world. It’s something that I think we often confuse with pleasure and this state of constant euphoria. With that definition, I believe many people never truly see what happiness can be for someone’s life and are discouraged from achieving this mindset. However, I have found that this perfect yet flawed emotion has much more complexity to it that not everyone sees. While I have only scratched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding happiness in my own life and I still have a long way to go when it comes to comprehending the abstruse nature of mental health, I hope sharing my own experiences may help someone reading this.
My mental health journey began during my Junior year of high school where I found myself juggling a never-ending number of tasks and priorities. Which included keeping up with all my classwork and keeping myself focused during the track season all while balancing that with my social life. This proved to be a challenge that created a lot of anxiety and stress, which ultimately led to me having a dark and negative outlook on life. At one point I remember my life felt like it had become nothing more than a giant whirlpool of mental strain. That’s when I knew I had to make a change and be proactive with my mental health. Up until that point I had enjoyed the luxury of having everything eventually work out before things got too bad for the entirety of my childhood. However, I soon learned that as you grow up, you not only have more responsibilities owed to others but to yourself as well. From that moment I began to pinpoint areas of my life that had caused my mental health to deteriorate. The biggest flaw that I had found was my use of and perspective on social media.
Social media in a global sense has changed the way we communicate, learn, and bond forever. It has caused our world to change its pace, with the whereabouts of everyone you know and follow available in seconds. Our generation has been forced to adapt to a new interconnected and high-speed world. While social media has allowed people from all over the world to enjoy new mediums of entertainment and communication it has also created endless sources of mental strain on its users. I had often found myself using social media to compare myself to others and using that perception as a measure of my worth. I would also gauge my self-worth using the number of likes I would get on an Instagram post or the number of Snapchats I would receive. I found myself gaining confidence in moments when my Instagram likes or Snapchat activity would meet a certain level which in turn made social media in my world, very addictive. However, I also found myself losing confidence when the opposite would occur. This ultimately made me view and use social media in a very toxic way that had a very detrimental effect on my mental health.
At first, I attributed these swings in emotion to being a young teen with too many hormones to keep track of. Eventually, I realized the root of my issues and decided to go on a cleanse from social media. I deleted Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram completely from my phone and immediately began to feel better. It was like night and day; I began to feel happier and realized that I should never allow anybody or anything dictate my feelings. That gave too much power to other people when in reality you should selfishly keep that privilege to yourself. While at first, I did feel a sense of boredom with social media use previously taking up a good portion of my day but I soon found myself filling that time with more productive activities. This, in turn, boosted my morale and confidence because instead of feeling guilty for wasting time on my phone I could feel proud of myself for being a better student, athlete, brother, etc. On top of that, it was actually surprising to see who would still call me or text my number when I was off of social media. I learned that social media made it easier to be my friend; it allowed people to access my life and who I am on a day to day basis and with that presence not available to my ‘friends’ anymore they simply didn’t want to put in the effort to reach out to me even if they had my number. In a sense, I also found out who my real friends were and made me appreciate those people in my life more than I had in the past. That lesson was also instrumental in showing me to be true to who I am whenever I do choose to express myself on social media regardless of what people might think of me.
To sum it all up, the entire cleanse proved to me that social media can be dangerous and that it can even blind you from the truly important things in life, including one’s own mental health. I found that through this experience I was able to fully appreciate life without having to be distracted by the latest trends or drama. Instead, I was able to be more grateful for the situation that I have been blessed with including my family, friends, and countless opportunities in my life. While improving one’s mental health is an ongoing and forever changing battle, I truly believe that deleting social media proved to be worthwhile and taught me lessons that I could never have foreseen.