Courtesy of Ann Basu/The Bowdoin Globalist
Technology / Social Media

Signing Off to Find @Me

“Now you’ve got to remember that YOU are the deal,” Patti Stanger preached (read: screeched) in my ear as I walked down Boylston Avenue on one of my many Sunday trips to Trader Joe’s. Living alone in Boston for the summer, podcasts had become my source of entertainment for those moments of boredom spent waiting for the T or walking home from grocery shopping. That Sunday I was listening to Anna Farris’s Unqualified, one of my favorite uplifting series that I secretly hoped would somehow help me understand why love has evaded my 20-year-old self for this long. Dramatic? Maybe.

Typically, these hour-long podcasts consist of semi-serious-but-mostly-just-funny life and love advice from Anna, her friend and producer Sim, and whatever celebrity guest makes an appearance that day. This time Patti Stanger, infamous Bravo TV personality, was on the air. Patti is most notable for her TV show The Millionaire Matchmaker in which she offers unfiltered “advice” (read: aggressive criticism) to wealthy people who, blessed as they are in their finances, just cannot seem to find love (which may have something to do with their aggressively unappealing personalities, but who knows?). For all her flaws, lack of political correctness, and exceptionally blunt criticism of women’s appearances, Patti is sometimes the aggressive voice (reminiscent of your high school gym teacher) you need to feel a little surge of empowerment. I would not generally characterize Patti as an inspiring figure, but sometimes the most influential tidbits of advice come from the strangest of places.

During this episode of Unqualified, Patti was giving a disheartened listener a tough-love kind of pep talk after the woman expressed her frustration at not being able to find a suitable life companion. Through the overwhelmingly vulgar and sexist advice about appearance and the like, Patti continuously drilled one refreshingly blunt and relevant phrase: “You are the deal.” It’s not a complicated concept to understand, but as a young woman I think it is one of the most difficult ideas to digest and live by. It was the advice I needed to hear—a sign of sorts.

After a summer spent deeply reflecting upon my decisions concerning relationships and love, social media usage, and humanity overall (Too much free time? Let me know), I had come to several important realizations about myself, and had taken concrete steps to live a more authentic life. As someone with a meticulously curated social media presence, including three (yes, three) Instagram accounts—each with its own purpose—I decided to take a break from what I consider a sometimes phony mode of communication. I have had a love-hate relationship with social media for quite some time, particularly Snapchat, which, although sometimes used for sharing hysterical content (I send the best heinous selfies) also breeds unhealthy relationships and expectations in the already uncertain and vague social scene that exists on most college campuses. Someone once described the app to me as “the tool of the fuckboy,” a phrase wholly supported by the lack of traceable evidence accompanying any text or photographic exchange. This is where the cold-turkey elimination began. If social media was not making me happier, why continue to use it?

So, one evening, after trying to Snapchat my run in a subtle way (you know, just so people knew I worked out without being an obnoxious fitness over-sharer), I held down those little vibrating icons and deleted Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook. I’m not going to pretend it was easy—in fact, I was already back on Instagram three weeks later (although I hope to use it more conscientiously)—but the other two apps do seem useless and insincere after this experience. Living in a world without any social media for three weeks was an odd and almost out-of-body experience. Out-of-body meaning that I noticed how much of my self-perception was a result of the image I had curated on my social media feeds, and the images of others I constantly compared myself to. It was refreshing to feel like I could live my life as it happened, in the present, and even have stories to share with friends that they hadn’t already seen on my Snapchat story. What a concept!

While this was a mostly positive and very necessary experience, there were certainly drawbacks, especially as someone living alone. I was most affected by the lack of color in my life during these weeks. I did not realize how much creative inspiration—food, fashion, art—I obtained via social media, particularly Instagram. This is one of the main reasons for re-downloading that app. I acknowledge that social media does have its upsides, and can serve as an outlet for amazing creative work, or as a source of inspiration (also, I won’t lie, I missed knowing way too much about Kylie Jenner’s life).

So, this article is not about the pros and cons of social media, as this topic has been written about innumerable times and is a personal decision. What I am trying to prove with this anecdote is that I did take time to reflect and took steps to feel more authentic and, consequently, happier.

In these moments of reflection, my mind often wanders to the elusive concept of “self-worth.” Two weeks into the summer, I noticed I had a significantly different perception of myself than at school. Although I would say I love myself and think I am a genuinely interesting and kind person, the same self-love I experienced this summer did not carry onto my college campus. It is a strange dichotomy of knowing my worth but not thinking (and accepting) that others do not. It is difficult to understand this concept without having experienced it, but I am (sadly) reassured that I am not the only person who feels this way by the continuous conversations I have about this exact issue with many others on campus. It is also almost impossible to find concrete steps to “fix” this problem as it is so intrinsically intertwined with so many other social and societal issues (think: structural sexism).

As a severe over-thinker with chronic problem-solving tendencies, I found it difficult to come to terms with the lack of solutions this issue presented. In my experience, there really is no quick fix to maintaining and sustaining your self-worth in this mind-boggling social scene. But, do not fret. For those of you who are as solution-oriented as I am, this is what I learned from my social media “detox.”

Simply put, authenticity is life-changing. Actually. If you think about what genuinely makes you happy, and what you know for a fact doesn’t, cut out the bad! There is no use in participating in the problem (for me, this meant deleting Snapchat) if you know there is no benefit to you in the long run. It will be difficult at first, especially since our culture is heavily social media-driven, but I can report that three months later, I feel as happy as ever with my decision to remove myself from certain forms of communication. Two: speak up. As a woman, or any marginalized group, it is easy to feel like we do not have a say in what happens in our social lives, and our interactions tend to be wholly dependent on the whim of the man. As I recently learned in my amazing and life-changing Spanish literature class, women are raised to mold themselves to be chosen by a man, whereas men are raised to choose. This analysis completely resonates with me, and I see examples of it every day on my college campus. So, as another way of being more authentic, it is important to speak up about what you want as well. Because let’s face it, the most important person in your life is you.

So that is where I leave you, dear reader. I hope you enjoyed this somewhat clichéd account of another millennial white girl “detoxing” from social media. All jokes aside, I encourage you to take away the importance of authenticity in living a more fulfilling life (also—so cool—this can be done in so many different ways!) and I have faith that many of you will report back with positive experiences. Until then, stay true to you (wow, that rhymed, should I become a popstar?). Goodnight.