I reach for my phone, as I do every morning, to check Facebook, look over Instagram, then review stats for all my social media accounts. Before the morning’s obligatory coffee, I would have spent half an hour browsing meaningless posts, liking and commenting out of habit rather than interest.

My name is Hung, and I am a recovering social media addict. This is my story.

It began innocently as my first foray into blogging. I wanted to share travel stories. Up until that point, I barely used Facebook. I didn’t even have an Instagram account.

As I watched my well researched and articulated articles flounder about on the Internet abyss, I started seriously devoting time into the craft. I also researched techniques to improve page views and authority.

Jumping into Social Media

The information overwhelmed me, but when the dust settled, I had met the social media whales. Thus began my journey into the treacherous and never-ending forest that is social media.

It began innocently as my first foray into blogging.

I joined numerous Facebook groups for bloggers. No one in these groups cared who you were. The only requirement and truly only social thing about them was participating in reciprocal events (follow for follow, comment for comment, like for like).

I opened an Instagram account. After a few months of stunted growth, I grew frustrated with the slow progress and eventually bought more followers. I bought likes. I spent hours visiting other accounts and socialized.

It worked.

Two months after the aggressive social-ness approach (yes, “social-ness” is a word now), I amassed a fairly sizable and active following.

The likes came in. The comments followed.

I became addicted to the numbers. To maintain that high, I began fundamentally changing my life.

I shall illustrate.

Effects of Social Media

When going out to eat, I would order interesting food that I thought would do well on Instagram. Instead of savoring the meal, I would snap pointless pictures that I’ve never since looked at.

When traveling, I would find the most picturesque places – not for the pure enjoyment of living in those places, but for the potential to go big on social media. I was more interested in taking pictures with my camera than capturing the moment with my mind.

I planned my itinerary around potential blog posts.

To maximize exposure, I would wake up earlier on the weekends to post at the ideal times.

The more social I became online, the less social I was in real life. I started calling myself an “influencer” and used that excuse to justify my absence from the beautiful reality before me.

The more social I became online, the less social I was in real life.

The perpetual questions to satisfy my virtual friends (I started calling them “fans”) haunted my days, “How would this look on social media? How can I capitalize on this very real moment?”

I remained in this state for a couple months.

The Realization

One day as I was preparing dinner, the social questions came to mind once again, but this time it was followed by another clarifying question, “Why the hell would anyone want to see this?”

The epiphany I had that night became the proverbial straw that broke the social camel’s back. In the quest to please people I would probably never meet, I had forgotten about the people I’ve already met, shared laughs with, and exchanged meaningful thoughts beyond the “Oh wow, nice shot!” indifference.

In today’s dizzying world, technology has bridged distant lands, making it possible for new relationships to form without barriers. While some relationships do penetrate the surface layer, the vast majority will flutter just above it.

When those flimsy virtual relationships overtake substantially real ones, they become counterproductive to our social happiness.

At the inception of social media, I would argue that the social interactions were more genuine. I fear that we are now too jaded and overexposed. We add friends for the sake of adding friends.

Pressing the “like” button is merely a gesture of lukewarm interest. The button was there and it costs me nothing to press it. I’ve done it many times. Sometimes the person would contact me to offer further explanation or backstory on his post that I liked and I would have no idea what he’s referring to.

Awkward. Sorry, I feigned interest in your shit.  

Striking a Balance

The experience made me realize the addictive power of the social media experiment. I have an appreciation for how it can reshape your life. It further emphasized the importance of fostering and maintaining meaningful relationships.

I still use social media to share and talk with friends. I’ve met some great people through these mediums and have struck a healthy balance; but, social media no longer have a hold on me.

To truly live in those moments, investing our full attention and engaging honestly, is all the sharing you need to do.

As I grow older, the more I appreciate the simple moments shared with friends. Those simple moments don’t need to be captured and documented. The beauty of those moments rests in the fleeting nature of them. To truly live in those moments, investing our full attention and engaging honestly, is all the sharing you need to do.

How about you? Do you have a similar story to tell? Share your thoughts below.