• Mon. May 27th, 2024

A Personal Case Study: A Social Life Without Social Media?

ByRosa Kim

Mar 7, 2023
People partying in a nightclub in Edinburgh

Attempting to Maintain a Social Life Without Social Media at The University of Edinburgh

This is the story of a girl who found out that her situationship had a new girlfriend through Instagram after he ghosted her (again) and promptly deactivated her account in a futile effort to feel some sort of agency by choosing to become invisible. This girl is delusional; this girl is me; this girl will now attempt to evaluate the fallout in her social life from losing all online presence and contact through her rash decision-making.

I am the first to admit that I am not the biggest social butterfly. I have a lot of acquaintances and friends that I see in passing, but it’s a miracle if I go to more than one party a month (and that’s pushing it). Seeing as how I didn’t consider myself very “social” to begin with, I didn’t think that my online absence would affect me that greatly.

Oh, I was so very wrong.

We don’t realise how much of our casual communication, direct or indirect, is facilitated through social media until it’s taken away from us. Initially, I didn’t think much had changed after I went AWOL; I was still texting the same friends, meeting up at the same coffee shops, seeing the same people around campus, but the loss of the smaller interactions that I had been engaging with through private stories, DMs, and offhand feed-scrolling began to slowly build up.

It got to the point where I was sitting in my car and realised: I hadn’t talked to more than four people in over a month. I had lost contact with all of the peripheral friendships I had maintained through social media in an instant, and there was no way to get them back unless I stepped back into the fray. What was I to do?

Obviously, I redownloaded everything. My cold turkey social media break lasted for about six weeks, and I came out of it oddly detached from, well, everything. Because I hadn’t been maintaining those smaller relationships, catching up with friends’ lives through their various online presences, I felt disengaged from them in real life. I had to offer them explanations for my absence to initiate catchups, and those catchups ended up being hours long as I felt the need to dish out the details of my situationship (accidentally seeing him at an alumni brunch and having a mini panic attack), winter break car crash, flatmate moving out on their own and leaving me to pay the full rent, and other super cute life updates.

I missed my friends. I missed the little interactions that supplemented our relationships, and though stepping away from social media gave me the space and quiet to breathe, I concluded that these breaks could and should only be temporary. Too much of my social life was woven into these different social media platforms; I couldn’t just disappear and expect it to stay the same.

During my hiatus, I also realised that I simply couldn’t maintain friendships with people if I only had their Instagram or Snapchat. Where was I going to get their number? Another revelation: there are different types of friends on social media. Many of them I wasn’t close enough with to warrant searching for their personal phone number and texting them out of the blue, especially if there wasn’t already an established line of contact.

Maybe you would have a different experience to mine, maybe your social life would be perfectly preserved regardless of whether or not you kept up with social media, but, if you’re anything like me and have integrated your digital identity with your foundational existence and community since you begged your mother to let you download Musical.ly in middle school, you’ll face a similar fate to mine. Social media, in a way, is your social life.

Image Credit: ‘Edinburgh Nightlife’ via Tom Manning