A so­cial-me­dia detox forces this can­cer sur­vivor to get (selfie) re­flec­tive.

Stephanie Gil­man at­tempts a so­cial-me­dia detox. Can she sur­vive?

ELLE (Canada) - - Insider - By Stephanie Gil­man

hi, my name is Stephanie and I’m a so­cial-me­di­a­holic. I spend more time than I care to ad­mit tweet­ing, Face­book­ing and In­sta­gram­ming—there have been times when I’ve even, shame­fully, brought my phone or lap­top into the bath­room to avoid fall­ing a few min­utes be­hind on what is hap­pen­ing in the fast-paced mi­cro­cosm of my so­cial net­works. But as I con­tinue on my quest to re­boot my life, it struck me that a so­cial-me­dia va­ca­tion might be just the ticket for find­ing some in­ner peace.

I spent two weeks with­out sign­ing in to my so­cial­me­dia ac­counts. At first, I was filled with anx­i­ety and re­gret over de­cid­ing to take on this chal­lenge; even one day with­out scrolling through my news feed felt like tor­ture. But by the end of it, I had a pro­found re­al­iza­tion: The prob­lem is not with us­ing so­cial me­dia; it’s how we use it. So­cial net­work­ing seems to get a bad rap. Stud­ies sug­gest that it can have a neg­a­tive im­pact on men­tal health, caus­ing us to feel sad and lonely. But I’ve learned that if we all fol­low a few sim­ple rules, we can nav­i­gate the murky wa­ters of the so­cial-me­dia world and come out on top. Here are six key lessons I learned: STOP COM­PAR­ING. A large part of my mo­ti­va­tion for do­ing a dig­i­tal detox was to es­cape from the non-stop bar­rage of happy nar­ra­tives—peo­ple buy­ing houses I could never af­ford, tak­ing lav­ish Euro­pean va­ca­tions, at­tend­ing ex­clu­sive so­cial events with their fancy, good-look­ing friends. The envy I felt as I read about ev­ery­one’s seem­ingly per­fect lives was even more pro­nounced when I was stuck in­side, deal­ing with the aw­ful ef­fects of can­cer treat­ment. I wanted to kick and scream when­ever peo­ple posted pho­tos of them­selves sit­ting on a beach. (Ac­tu­ally, I was jeal­ous of pretty much any­one who was do­ing any­thing other than sit­ting with his or her head in a toi­let.) It’s easy to feel in­ad­e­quate when ev­ery­one uses the In­ter­net to rep­re­sent their ideal self. But that’s all it is: a rep­re­sen­ta­tion, not re­al­ity. DON’T MEA­SURE YOUR WORTH IN LIKES AND STARS. One of the first pan­icked thoughts I had at the be­gin­ning of my so­cial-me­dia cleanse was “What if I lose all my fol­low­ers?!” (@steph_re­becca and pass­mean­oth­er­cup­cake.com) The thought of los­ing my “fans” and not be­ing val­i­dated by peo­ple lik­ing my posts ini­tially filled me with dread. But af­ter I re­turned to my net­works, I saw that ev­ery­one was still there, lik­ing and star­ring as they had be­fore. And you know what I re­al­ized? h

None of it mat­ters. The num­ber of fol­low­ers or retweets you have on Twit­ter has no bear­ing on who you are as a per­son. I feel much more sat­is­fac­tion and hap­pi­ness when some­one pays me a gen­uine com­pli­ment in per­son than when I get a heart on an Instagram photo. And, hon­estly, years from now, when some­one is writ­ing your eu­logy, do you think they’ll men­tion the num­ber of Face­book friends or retweets you had as your great­est achieve­ment? Most likely not. Un­fol­low as needed. Some­times I find my body tens­ing when I see a sta­tus up­date about some­thing po­lit­i­cal that I dis­agree with or some­one com­plain­ing for the 10th day in a row about a mild case of snif­fles that is ru­in­ing his or her life. In­stead of drop­ping out en­tirely, you can take con­trol by un­fol­low­ing/un­sub­scrib­ing from the peo­ple and posts that up­set you. Within mo­ments of com­ing back on­line af­ter my two-week detox, I saw what is com­monly a trig­ger­ing type of “share” for me: a photo of a young cou­ple I barely know an­nounc­ing their new baby and pro­claim­ing par­ent­hood to be “the best thing ever!” You might think that my aver­sion to such posts makes me a hor­ri­ble per­son. But pho­tos of new ba­bies re­mind me that I can’t have one right now, and might never be able to, due to my can­cer treat­ment. A happy mo­ment in some­one else’s life is an up­set­ting re­minder of an empty hole in my own. So when I saw that photo of the happy cou­ple and their shiny new baby, what did I do? Did I stare at it, ob­sess and have a melt­down? Nope. I clicked. Hide and un­fol­low. The par­ents still have their baby, and I get to keep my san­ity. Ev­ery­one wins. Em­brace con­nec­tion. Dur­ing my so­cial-me­dia break, I be­gan to re­ally miss the on­line com­mu­nity. I felt left out of con­ver­sa­tions and be­hind on cur­rent is­sues. Watch­ing award shows and episodes of The Bach­e­lor with­out the witty com­men­tary of Twit­ter made those ex­pe­ri­ences less en­joy­able. I missed out on im­por­tant mo­ments in friends’ and fam­ily mem­bers’ lives—not be­ing no­ti­fied of en­gage­ments, birthdays, new jobs and other mile­stones. I also missed my “can­cer friends”—other young adults I’ve met on so­cial me­dia who are deal­ing with can­cer and share in my ex­pe­ri­ence. My time away made me ap­pre­ci­ate the im­mense feel­ing of com­mu­nity I get from con­nect­ing with oth­ers. Take a break. As much as so­cial me­dia can be a good thing if you use it prop­erly, it’s still a good idea to log out, power down and take a break from time to time. Not check­ing my phone in­ces­santly for no­ti­fi­ca­tions al­lowed me to fully en­gage with what I was do­ing, whether it was wait­ing for a friend in a restau­rant or rid­ing the bus. There’s some­thing to be said for not walk­ing around with your eyes glued to a screen. (You’ll also find that you walk into fewer poles on the street—an added bonus.) So ev­ery once in a while, leave your phone at home, be in the mo­ment and ex­pe­ri­ence life out­side of 140 char­ac­ters. I prom­ise you: If I can sur­vive to tell the tale, you can too. n

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