It sounds a little pathetic, I know – and I hate to use the word ‘addicted’, as though I found it almost impossible to separate myself from virtual life – but it admittedly almost was.
I first signed up to Tumblr, an online blogging platform, in 2011, after I was left housebound due to bad health. I was feeling low in myself, both physically and mentally, and I needed a distraction.
I decided to join the site, which at the time was predominantly there for the posting and re-posting of aesthetically-pleasing photos, to give myself something to do besides watching TV and studying.
At first, I used it on a temporary basis, posting here and there, but soon after I began posting I noticed my followers were going up and up and so were the re-posts (otherwise known as re-blogs) on each of my photos.
200 re-blogs turned to 25,000 and 500 followers turned to 20,000. I can’t deny it, I loved it.
Online, I was so different. I was someone who was confident, I was someone who received attention and I was someone who others were actually curious about.
In real life, I was at home, on my own, unwell and isolated. Of course, I had friends who would visit and occasionally, when I felt up to it, I’d go out with, but I’d always find myself wanting to come back to Tumblr.
Even when I was busy with my friends or family I’d be consistently checking the website, scrolling through to see who had posted what and how many people were looking at my blog.
I became obsessed with the site. It got to the point where I’d be online from 12 pm – 2 am, repeatedly scrolling through and re-blogging post after post to make my blog look as pretty and as inviting as possible.
Tumblr turned me into someone who though was still insecure in real life, appeared very confident online. However, I’m sure that iit decreased my confidence in the long-run.
On Tumblr, your attractiveness was generally noted by the number of re-blogs you’d receive on a photo. You could always tell whether you looked good or bad depending on how many you’d receive. If you were receiving anything under the usual you knew it was a bad day. This meant I’d often spend time taking photos and editing them just to receive as many as possible upon actually posting them.
I look back and wonder why I spent so much time trying to be this person I really wasn’t to all of these people I didn’t even know. I realise how self-absorbed it all seemed now. But the only reason I can really think of is self-validation, and the need to escape a life I felt miserable in, and a body that made me feel insecure.
Ultimately, Tumblr made my life more miserable. Because of my addiction to the website, I was quick to lose friends.
People grew sick of seeing me post online and conversations always leading to Tumblr and how many followers my blog had received. And I don’t blame them. It was as if no matter how hard I tried to avoid it, the conversation would somehow always lead back to my experience with Tumblr – I couldn’t help it, it was almost like word vomit.
I became hard to even spend time with because I’d never be focused on actual conversation – always blindly nodding along while scrolling through my feed, unaware of what my friends were even talking about half the time.
As time went on, I stopped being invited out so much. People just got bored with me and being around me, because I had only one sole focus and that was on my online persona.
Eventually, my friends in the real world became sparse and most of my social media friends lists were filled with people I’d video-chatted with (at most).
As time went on, it became easier to be online than it was to deal with the real world. Because I’d lost so many friends, I found it hard to focus on my actual life. I worried about going out in case people who no longer liked me obviously avoided me and left me feeling uncomfortable or humiliated.
I hated thinking about real life because it highlighted how lonely it was away from the computer.
Online was a whole different ball game. I was constantly chatting to people, I was probably one of the most sociable people on the internet. On the internet, I felt free to say and do what I wanted. To talk to who I wanted and ultimately to be who I wanted.
It’s just a shame that person is someone I could never have actually been in the real world.
After a year on Tumblr, I decided to get rid of it. Eventually, I worked out how to be the person I wanted to be in the real world.
It’d been a year and I’d moved away and met new people, and it was my chance to make new friends and have people get to know me for me before finding out about my online persona.
I made friends quickly and I became close to them, it was almost as though I’d found my old self once again. I felt comfortable around these people, so much so that every time I logged back onto Tumblr it didn’t feel the same.
It felt more of a task, only doing so to keep up with my followers and to keep the account updated with no photographs.
In the end, I was no longer using the social media site to be social – I was using it to keep the people who were following me entertained. It was no longer for myself, I had everything I needed social-wise right in front of me – physically.
And I feared that attempting to invest more time into the site would only put me in a vicious cycle of my new friends acting just the way my old ones had and leaving me once again feeling alone, with only the help of the internet to make me feel better.
And so, I decided to get rid of it completely. I no longer needed people I didn’t even know to fulfil my social circle. I no longer needed to be made to feel good by people who’d never met me in person – because people who liked me for me were doing that in real life.
While I wish I’d never invested so much time into Tumblr, I don’t regret ever signing up.
Becoming popular online showed me that I can network well and that I have a knack for things such as blogging, which has gone on to help me with other projects that have been successful.
It’s also shown me how easy it is to fake someone you’re not, and how easy it is to fall victim to needing constant assurance from people you don’t even know, just to give yourself some form of self-worth that you may not be getting from the outside world.
But most importantly, it’s shown me how important friendships are. While I still have friends online – and when I say friends I mean friends I talk to on a regular basis as opposed to simply following each other on social media – I now value actually spending time with other people and focusing all of my time on them when we’re together.