Myth: Everyone born after 1985 is on social media. Another myth: These cohorts of people, also known as Millennials and Gen Zers, are totally dependent on social media.
In fact, a handful of young people are resolving in 2019 to try to quit, or at least take a break, from popular platforms.
Many of them told BuzzFeed News they joined social media to find relief from issues they were struggling to confront IRL. However, they have found social media exacerbated these very issues, and even brought on new ones.
While they're grateful to have access to resources they didn't think they would otherwise have in the physical communities around them, some are committed as ever to trying this thing called complete IRL living.
Here's what some of them have to say about this personal challenge — and what they hope others can learn from it.
Krista Poly, 13, from Australia: “I hope others my age consider taking a break and focus on themselves more this year.”
“I’m planning on taking a break from social media for around two to three months since school is starting again. I really want to focus more on that. I also think it would be a better option for me because it would help my social anxiety a lot.
Since having social media from a young age, I mostly just grew up with expectations from everyone online.
The most harmful impact effect of social media for me has been that it has made me very distant to everyone. Instead of talking to someone face to face, I could just send them a message on Snapchat. This made my social anxiety the worst it’s ever been since I couldn’t talk to anyone in real life. It also made me drop my grades in school. Most of the time I was spending too much time scrolling through Instagram instead of studying, which also made me feel not good enough in terms of my academics.
I also hope that others my age consider taking a break and focus on themselves more this year. Many girls my age also have insecurities and Instagram models aren't helping.”
Simone Stephens, 29, from the US: “Obsessing over social media is real. So is having too much access to other people or folks having too much access to you.”
“I am seriously planning to take a break. I’ve done so a few times before and it’s offered me a lot of clarity and more brain space. I left Facebook for two years in 2015, and had previously deleted Twitter for a year in 2013. Because of my work and projects with my partner, I don’t plan on vacating permanently or giving up all platforms at once. I think a break from FB is definitely in order for the time being.
My mental health is what’s necessitating the change for me. Overexposure to negative imagery I can’t control or opinions I don’t agree with... retraumatization via our latest discussions on predators and abusers as well. I think the conversations are important, but I also think taking time to reset your brain is important as well. Sometimes I need that. Sometimes it’s tough to create with so much noise, you know?
What I hope all generations of folks understand is that anything in excess can be bad. Obsessing over social media is real. So is having too much access to other people or folks having too much access to you. I wish older folks could see its value and younger folks would be mindful of the impacts their presence can have, good and bad. What we say to folks on the internet is permanent sometimes. Don’t be that person who is outed as a bigot right after you cop your dream job because you decided to tweet some BS for the clout.”
Hanna Moghul, 22, from England: “I've spent so much time on it since I was a teenager, especially as a form of procrastination.”
”I was just sort of thinking one day, What would my life be like without social media? I’ve spent so much time on it since I was a teenager, especially as a form of procrastination when I should have been studying.
I’ve already deactivated my Instagram and I’m considering doing the same with the rest of my social media. I’m not sure for how long yet, possibly a few months I guess. If I begin to like it, it could be a permanent thing.
I’m not saying all social media is bad, because, honestly, I’ve made some really good friends through it around the world and it’s really helped me by being able to talk to people. I think what’s been harmful for me is the pressure to constantly be 'up to date' with everything... you just kind of want to see what all your friends are doing and what people are up to. Whether it’s updating photos of where you went to eat or where you went on holiday, it’s just a lot of effort.
I don’t think it’s all about posting things to 'show off.' I know older generations probably think that as young people we’re easily influenced by what we see on social media, however, I think there’s many people who use it for good reasons and to help others. I think it becomes unhealthy when we find ourselves constantly needing to post and update things all the time. I think maybe we should learn to stop 'updating' our lives so much on social media and start actually living them instead.”
Jamie, 14, from the US: “The reason I am who I am is because of the internet.”
"I’ve been thinking I need a break from social media — not forever, just for a few days or a week... maybe a little longer, I'm not really sure yet. The reason I was planning on taking a break is because I constantly see things that invalidate what I identify as (I’m nonbinary). It makes me feel really horrible about myself.
I think a lot of older people believe that social media is a dangerous place for young adults and kids, but if you are careful you will find a great community of people. The reason I am who I am is because of the internet. I found out that it’s OK to feel the way I’m feeling and there are millions of people that feel the same way.
Remember to hold your head high, because at the end of the day, none of [the negativity] matters. You have people who love you, who are on your side, and some internet trolls shouldn’t be able to control how you view yourself and your life.”
Jacklyn Rittenberry, 23, from the US: “I tend to consume myself in stories like that, and it affects my mental state and sometimes it even ruins my day.”
"I probably won’t ever ~actually~ quit social media but I do occasionally take a break from Twitter time to time when I realize it’s too consuming, but it’s usually just three to four days.
What I find to be harmful to me on social media is articles of abuse or assault. I tend to consume myself in stories like that, and it affects my mental state and sometimes it even ruins my day.
I hope [anyone] ill-informed about social media knows it’s not all drama, and shit-talking and bad news. I’ve kept up with a lot of my old elementary school friends and my biological family on social media.”
Amber Bartell, 19, from the US: “Rather than talking about the issue, I'll tweet in a humorous way so as not to raise concern.”
“I use social media as an outlet for my feelings rather than talking to my friends, and it's becoming very detrimental to my mental health. Rather than talking about the issue, I'll tweet in a humorous way so as not to raise concern.
Yeah... I kind of need a break. It's getting really unhealthy for me, and life is getting too overwhelming as of right now. [My break will be] probably a couple of weeks
[Social media] is not this tool to prevent us from going outside or experiencing real life. It was designed to help us stay connected to the people we care about. However, I'd want for other people my age to know that social media isn't an outlet. Tweeting your feelings doesn't constitute as talking about them, and if they're really hitting a hard time, they should talk to someone about it. Keeping up personas on the internet isn't as important as keeping up your own health, and it's OK to take breaks sometimes.”