As the results of the election were rolling in on the night of Nov. 8, I felt nothing but panic. I was refreshing my Twitter feed for relatable tweets, just to validate my emotions. As dramatic as it sounds, watching Trump leading in the polls had me crying for hours. It was one in the morning and I needed to sleep, since I wanted to wake up for Fajr prayer and had class the next day.
Eventually I woke up at 5 A.M. and checked Twitter—celebrities encouraged the minority groups victimized by Trump to be strong while others tweeted their frustration, including me. Then, after school, I could not put my phone down. All I did was refresh, refresh and refresh my feed, although it was filled with nothing but negativity. I was tired from that and that’s when I decided to delete the social media apps off of my phone. Dramatic, right? No, I was not done with social media for good. I just needed a break until this chaos died down.
It’s really hard to put your phone down. I would advise taking baby steps while limiting yourself, without getting too comfortable. The only exceptions I made were texting, group messaging, and WhatsApp, and these were meant only for discussions that didn’t have to do with the election. If someone did bring up the election, I would just change the subject. Call me a hypocrite, but just because I was off social media for a while didn’t mean I couldn’t communicate. After all, this was my first step.
I didn’t think I would do fine taking this break by myself. My best friends and I share the same views about social media and they don’t log on as often. So, I asked them how I could make the most out of my break. We came up with productive activities including: studying, taking care of mental and physical health, and finding unplugged activities. A great friend of mine, who checked in on me, invited me to a group chat with her friends which served to discuss intersectional feminism and, for once, didn’t call for a mass migration to Canada. One of my colleagues even introduced me to a group chat with Islamic reminders in a positive and supporting setting. Through these forms of communication, I found my purpose for this break: a positive outlook during this difficult time.
Deleting the applications off of my phone caused me to unglue myself from its screen. I felt a better sense of self-control. One of my best friends even reminded me that it’s better to be productive instead of “draining hours watching someone else be productive. At most times people are only sharing their highlights making it seem like they are perfect when they aren’t.” That cannot be stressed enough! We wait until Monday to be motivated and double tap on others’ accomplishments. We don’t put our phones down to accomplish ours. It’s like wake up, check social media for inspiration, sleep, and repeat. Another important point is that the people you think are “perfect,” because of their looks or relationships, don’t live a perfect life. These people have insecurities just like you, but they put a filter on it to feel better about themselves. You don’t have to know your worth based on your follower count or if your Instagram posts reach past eleven likes. You don’t need to live like them to seek validation. You have to live for yourself and not for the numbers.
Now, I’m not anti-social media. Again, I’m just taking a break. Sharing on social media can open up one’s eyes to the world. It’s even helpful for businesses and causes. As a minority, social media can get your voice out there when people don’t listen. I never closed my social media accounts, because I have faith that social media can be used with a real purpose - to amplify our voices.
Going back to the election, obviously hate won. How did we Americans react? With more hate. We blamed races, non-voters, green party voters, etc. How can you say “Love trumps hate,” but in reality you act like it’s the other way around? Yes, it’s okay to be sad, angry or scared. You are entitled to your emotions. Let the entire world know that with a hashtag. However, at the end of the day, this is politics. You cannot afford to feel that way for the next four years. Social media might not fulfill that, especially during this difficult time. What should actually matter is taking care of and working hard for yourself. That will always be more important.
I’ve been on break for three weeks, which is unreal! Funny thing is I’m not as close to my phone as I used to be. In fact, I get very bored. The second I open a social media app now, it’s the same old stuff. After my break was over, I reinstalled Instagram and didn’t feel like scrolling down to “like” posts that I missed. Nothing has really changed except for the updates and posts. The value is what I thought would change.
In the future, I hope I can use social media for a good cause and not as a pleasing pastime. Also, I hope other girls learn to love themselves and look past the beauty standards. This break has become an unplugged experience for me and I hope it will for you too. No matter how long you prefer to take your break, whether it’s one hour or one month, just take a break. It will be worth it.
Ahlam Abdelkader is a writer for MuslimGirl.com. You can check out her work here. When she’s not writing, she’s either reading or finding a way to save the world.