Elena Adams explores how social media can make us feel pressure to be contactable at all hours, and how we can break out of this mindset.
Ever gone to reach for your phone in your pocket and it’s not there? Your heart drops and you start to panic, wondering where you’ve put it, or if you left it somewhere? If you’ve done this… well, me too. It’s a horrible feeling – but one that’s even worse is the realisation that it really shouldn’t feel that horrible. Somewhere along the way, I had become addicted to my phone, social media, and all the notifications that came along with it.
Social media has such a large presence in our lives, with this having only grown continually more extreme in recent years. Growing up surrounded by social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat has made it seem as if your presence online was just as, if not more, important than your presence in real life. If you don’t post it on Instagram, then did it even happen?
The past year has only highlighted the dependence that I have on my phone because the only way to communicate with people was through the internet. Everything became available online: parties, work, school. Suddenly, we were expected to be available online, 25/8. You couldn’t go home to relax from work because you were already there. You couldn’t go out with your friends for a night of drunken dancing to wind down from a stressful week – instead, it was pub quizzes over Zoom. Over the past few months, it’s been hard to disconnect from social media when it was the only way to connect to the world for over a year.
“It’s been hard to disconnect from social media when it was the only way to connect to the world for over a year.”
There’s an expectation that if you have a phone then you should be reachable at all times. When someone texts or calls you, you’re expected to be available for a chat, no matter the time. However, just because you have a phone doesn’t mean you should always be on it, and even if you are using it, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re available to talk. Apps such as Snapchat and Instagram show your friends when you’re active, and when you were last seen online. This can create high pressure to always reply to messages, even if you don’t want to. People get upset if you take too long to respond, feeling as if you’re ignoring them. However, if you’re not in the right headspace to respond to someone then you shouldn’t have to, especially if it makes you feel anxious.
“If you’re not in the right headspace to respond to someone then you shouldn’t have to, especially if it makes you feel anxious.”
A lot of my anxiety stemmed from notifications, feeling as if I had to respond as soon as possible whenever someone reached out. Constant, demanding notifications made me feel overwhelmed. So I decided to turn them off.
At first, having no notifications made me uncomfortable and I checked my phone more often. It was strange because I thought that as soon as I turned off my notifications it would fix the amount of pressure I felt to be present online, but instead, it was the opposite. I felt as if I was missing out on something without the constant pinging in my pocket, causing me to check my social media apps more often to see if anyone had messaged me. What if I was missing out on something? Or what if someone thought I was ignoring them?
Now, after having no notifications for a while, I feel more at peace with not always being available; I choose when or when not to engage online. Boundaries are important, both online and in real life, so it’s important to establish what you’re comfortable with. Maybe turning off your phone when you want to have downtime will help return a sense of non-digital peace to your life. Try turning off notifications for certain apps – it may help you like it did me. Or, maybe you want to delete social media off of your phone for good. It’s your choice, but I can say that turning off notifications completely changed the way I viewed and felt about social media. I can now be present for absolutely everything.