Your immediate reaction to the title is most likely one of the following: WHAT??? WHY??? How could you?? I could never… Or something along the lines of… Okay, cool 👍 Is that…a big deal? Literally no one cares. …What's Instagram again? If you are younger than 20, though, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that your response probably belongs to the first group. Pardon the generalization, but stereotypes do exist for some reason. Deleting one of my primary sources of social media was a decision that was one of many in my quest to maximize personal growth, success, and happiness… but it also stemmed from a lot of mysterious discontent in my life, of which the exact roots could not be traced. Of course, as an 18-year-old, I have always known that social media has a very strong presence in our lives. But truthfully, I never really thought deeply about the extent to which it had an influence over me and the role it played in my life, my growth, and my overall happiness. Until now. But what prompted this profound train of thought? The answer: a well timed-series of events. (Life has a funny way of making that happen.) A few weeks ago, one of my good friends deleted her Instagram. At the time, though I fully understood and agreed with her reasons, I didn't believe that I could do it myself — to just go and delete years of memories and connections that, though documented virtually, were still made in real life. The idea of all those memories and connections gone made my heart ache. After we talked about it, I didn't dwell on it too much, but not long after, upon my return to university, I unfortunately started to struggle with my overall happiness again. Something I had difficulty with in a totally new environment was finding people who I had a natural connection with: similar interests, values, lifestyles, etc. But this time, another layer of complexity was added. While the last time I had struggled with finding new kindred souls, now, I was having trouble staying on the same wavelength as some longtime friends. To be honest, in my desire to constantly learn and grow, I believe that a gap was widening at an exponential rate, and an obstruction had been reached in some of my relationships: I don't believe that you have to have everything in common with someone to be friends, but… the differences had started to outweigh the similarities. In attempt to solve my problems, I tried to pinpoint one identifiable thing that attributed to why I felt out of place sometimes with people around my age. TikTok. Okay, hear me out. I'm really not against people having a good time but TikTok has always seemed a tad frivolous to me. Yet, a crazy amount of people my age and younger are quite active on the app, and I started to wonder… why is it such an epidemic? And just how many people have been pulled into the greater vortex of online culture due to peer influences and desired connectivity? Moreover, I wondered if, despite my prideful resistance, a part of me was also feeling natural pressures to be like the “average” person my age… I have always been told that I am quite mature relative to my peers, but despite that, was I still being held down by age expectations? I mean, so many times, I have felt the subconscious urge to say something out of character in order to produce a laugh or be “relatable”. Though the Internet breeds insane creativity at times (Youtube and Instagram, especially!), it is also quite proficient in stunting individuality. I think most people can understand the feeling of doing something you don't really want to do, saying something you don't really believe in, or hanging out with people you don't really like. I've come to realize that this whole “trying to stick to the status quo” act is truly a waste of time, energy, and potential… not to mention a huge hindrance to our personal growth. Social media having the ability to direct my growth and my ideals more than I am actively aware of is something that I now want to inhibit, or at least be able to control completely. This is how everything that I have been feeling AND observing — isolation, loneliness, alienation, insecurity, insincerity, fear, uniformity — comes together. And ultimately, this is why I chose to delete my Instagram. I wanted to detach from something that I've been connected to for many, many years of my life during a critical period of growth. I realize that I need to grow by myself and become the person I want to be without an excess of influences pulling me in all sorts of directions that may not reflect what I truly want. Sometimes you need to distance yourself from what you know, from what is familiar, to figure out who you are. And who you aren't. I suppose I can understand now why people go on those mysterious silent retreats into the mountains… Anyway, I don't want to mould myself based off of other people anymore. From now on, I want to be my truest, individual self. My own self.