Life offline

Suzanne Flynn reflects on what life is like without social media

“Are you sure you want to deactivate your account?” The words blurred across the screen as I hovered around the yes button. Strange how disabling an online profile can feel like disabling your life. I was embarking a new ship to somewhere far and beyond the realm of social media. Upon reflection of the past 14 months without it, this ended up being largely the truth of my situation. 

Academic pressure and an overall feeling of being overwhelmed ultimately led to my decision to disable all social media, except WhatsApp. The deterioration of my own self-worth and the incessant pinging of notifications and watching other people’s lives more than my own fuelled my decision to retreat. Privacy concerns also drifted into my thought process as I thought of how freaky it was that so much of my life was exposed and my personal conversations were at risk of being leaked. We all know those who leave social media and never log in again. Then there are those who return from their social media detox only to relapse into a sometimes more damaging binge. Leaving social media dramatically in a firestorm only to return days later, is something we all can do and be criticised for. However, leaving our online social life, even if only for a few hours has its benefits. 

Although I have returned back to the clutches of Facebook and Twitter, allotting time for myself when I leave my phone down for a few hours has been vital in ensuring my productivity and also my mental health, stays in check. I was introduced to the app Forest several years ago by a friend who used it for studying. Although the app costs €2.29, the purchase genuinely will buy you time in turn. Setting a timer plants a seed in a virtual forest, which grows into a tree if you are successful in not picking up your phone. The tree will wither and die if you use your phone. A simple concept that has become incredibly popular with over two million users, it is a useful tool to have alongside you at home and in the library.

“I can’t deny that I do post pictures for other people’s approval and I don’t know why”

Outside of library time, society life is one of the biggest aspects of a student’s life in Trinity. The main way to know about all the best events and opportunities is through Facebook. Although I still received the weekly emails, there was no way of knowing who else would be going to events, or anyone to message me spontaneously about an upcoming event that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise. It is a shame that if you want to be involved in society life and indeed college life, you need social media. But detoxing from all media and instead reaching out to friends asking them to update you and keep you in the loop isn’t such an arduous task. 

Reloading Instagram to keep up with friends and college culture is something I have yet to do. I was thrilled to learn that Instagram have offered the option to turn off the number of likes visible to your audience. This is a definitive step in the right direction to combat the issue of people defining themselves and their self-worth by how many likes they have. Jesy Nelson of Little Mix fame just recently said in her documentary with BBC One, “I can’t deny that I do post pictures for other people’s approval and I don’t know why.” Despite her fame, I can’t help but feel that Nelson’s remark is a relatable one. I find showing friends some of my pictures by manually sending them via Facebook messenger and Whatsapp, or by showing them in person, elicits a far more authentic response than merely perusing the number of likes you receive or the comments listed under the pictures. We all want photos that are good for the “gram” or “instaworthy”, and that’s perfectly okay, but discovering why we want everyone’s approval is what we all should really be thinking about. 

“There can be a bit of a weird vibe amongst friends and peers when they see you have deactivated all online presence.”

There can be a bit of a weird vibe amongst friends and peers when they see you have deactivated all online presence. Many probably assumed I was being pretentious and took a break for “personal reasons” that appeared far too secretive and dramatic to ever disclose. This stigma needs to change among students, supporting friends who have taken the decision to step back should be the routine response. The 14 months that followed my social media hiatus was entirely different and more focused overall. Although I was on Erasmus, and wouldn’t have been in college to attend any social college events, the general feeling of liberation followed me as I made new friends and gave them my phone number instead of my insta handle or full name for Facebook. 

What I did miss was people tagging me in memes and articles that I might have enjoyed. I missed out on the initial hype surrounding “Trinder” and wasn’t aware of political campaigns that may have existed during the year. What struck me as incredibly strange was the fact I followed so many “influencers” on Instagram and while at the time I thought this was great and that I would gain awareness of all the latest trends and sartorial elegance, I couldn’t understand the logic when I returned to social media months later. Why did I want to keep up with someone whose only goal was to sell me products and exhibit their ostentatiousness? Why hadn’t I followed charitable organisations or news outlets who would deliver me worthwhile information and images that would profoundly impact and encourage a thought provoking response? 

And why did I return, you ask? To get involved in college life as much as I could in my final year. Social media is somewhat of an accompaniment to college life, but it should be monitored on an individual basis. After my degree, when the “Trinity Bubble” bursts, I don’t expect to need social media much, perhaps Twitter for keeping up to date with the news cycle. Escape the reality of the “Trinity Bubble”. I urge you to put down the phone and close the laptop for a few hours every week. It’s often not possible to get rid of social media as easily as I once did, but taking a break for our own mental health and allowing ourselves to cleanse for a few hours can make all the difference.

Suzanne Flynn

Suzanne Flynn is the current Deputy Life Editor for Trinity News, and a Senior Sophister Law and German student.