'Social' media an inaccurate label

Every year for Lent, I try to challenge myself by giving up something that has too much of a hold on my life.

This year, that was Tik-Tok. I anticipated that it would be difficult - that's why I gave it up - and that I would feel out of the loop on trends, new music and other people's lives.

What I didn't expect was to not miss it at all. And after going over 40 days without Tik-Tok, I've happily decided not to re-download it.

Although I have always preached my disdain for social media, I had fallen into its trap.

I spent way too much time on Tik-Tok and Instagram, ruthlessly comparing myself and my life to other girls, and I cared way too much about what other people were posting.

Since giving up Tik-Tok, I feel like I've fallen out of the trap and back into reality - and it's so much better.

To start, I've gotten back into reading. Instead of scrolling for hours on my phone at night, I pick up a book and am reminded of what it's like to immerse myself in a world of characters, who, although fictional, feel more real than the people I see on social media.

I also appreciate the moments I spend off my phone more, like listening to music while I eat lunch or enjoying every sip of my morning coffee.

But the biggest difference is that I have a renewed sense of confidence. Even if I didn't realize it at the time, constantly being exposed to people who appear perfect and have seemingly perfect lives was taking a toll on me. I would wish I looked like somebody else or had somewhat of a different life. Without Tik-Tok, I stopped comparing myself so much to others and came to appreciate the things that make me unique. I am much happier now with how I look, who I am and how my life is going.

Social media is not both a blessing and a curse - it's a curse, simply disguised as a blessing. And it's only going to get worse. According to Pew Research Center, 69 percent of adults and 81 percent of teens in the U.S. use social media, putting them at an increased risk of feeling anxious, depressed or ill over their social media use. Depression and anxiety rates have increased by 25 percent in the past year, and although there are other factors in play, it's hard to deny the correlation between those numbers and the rapid rise of social media.

As social media becomes more integrated into our everyday lives, it is going to get harder and harder to separate technology from real life, which is a shame.

After giving up Tik-Tok and getting back in touch with what matters, I'd pick real life any day. I hope others will do the same.

- Katie Hughes of Hinsdale, a junior at the University of Georgia, is a contributing columnist. Readers can email her at [email protected].