By Jordan Metzman

We live in a wild age where being “aesthetic” on social media can a real life, full-time job. And as ~dreamy~ as it seems, it’s not always lattes and yoga and vacations to fancy beaches. There’s a lot to that can happen when you share so much about yourself with the world, from facing constant criticism to the pressures of heavy expectations.

In February 2019, one of our favorite Instagrammers, Lee Tilghman (@leefromamerica), announced her temporary departure from social media for a detox. When she reappeared in July, she shared on her blog about her secret struggle with an eating disorder and how social media’s “wellness culture” negatively influenced her mental health. Since her return, she’s made it her mission to be transparent, balanced, and authentic to herself. With that — and potential digital detox resolutions on the horizon — we wanted to sit down with Lee to discuss this specific experience.

You’ve built an amazing community of people online who are rooting for you. Could you talk a bit about how you’ve approached building community offline in your personal life? Many of our readers struggle with meeting new friends and making new connections, so we’re curious about your experience and whether you have any advice.

Offline community is imperative to a solid, balanced life. We’re social beings, after all. Social media ≠ true connection, in my experience. We need to depend and interact with others in order to survive. The online world is no substitute for offline connection, so if I’m spending too much time online, it can be hazardous for my mental health because it can feel empty, addictive, and isolating.

Before my hiatus, I was pouring all my eggs into my online community, so to speak. I had little connection outside of Instagram. It led to a feeling of emptiness and social isolation. I dedicated 2019 to finding my offline circle. The people in my circle are my MVP’S. They are who I call daily. I see them 4x a week for dinners, lunches, casual hangs at my house, coffees, walks. If you follow me, you probably will never see me post about them. They are too precious and private to post on social media, and I like to keep them separate from my work life.

You need to take action to find community. It takes time and patience. I know it can feel intimidating! There are many ways to do this, but I recommend starting small. Look for things that tickle your interest-what lights you up? Whether it’s hiking, skating, singing, chess, cards, karaoke, knitting, ASL, dance, activism, wine tasting, cooking classes, travel, education, politics, sustainability, book clubs, or art history, there are tons of free events on Eventbrite, Meetup or through your local library. Don’t see one? Start one with a few people you do know. Don’t know what you like? You may have to try a million things before you find your group. Don’t give up, it’s worth it.

Don’t be afraid to look right in front of your own network. Your coworkers, neighbors, and fellow cafe-goers could be your next best friend. Be open to meeting new people all the time and look for the similarities, not the differences.

View this post on Instagram

Hi! I’m back from my hiatus and will be returning to blogging and Instagram, but will be using my platform in a different way. Lots has shifted over the past few months and you will see that reflected in my work moving forward. So hey! Glad you are here. Oh, there’s a new blog post and a new spotify playlist up as well (link in bio) XO - Lee

A post shared by Lee Tilghman (@leefromamerica) on

As it’s your first holiday season since your hiatus, how are you approaching social media this holiday season?

I’m really excited for the holidays this year. My life has changed so, so drastically over the past year (call it recovery, call it Saturn’s return, call it…whatever!) so I’m amped to see family and spend time with them over one of the best times of year.

Surprisingly enough, it’s also the first year i’m not struggling with SADD. I have historically always dreaded this time of year, felt more isolated, depressed and melancholy, but this year, I’m feeling connected to self.

I’m definitely going to take time off from social media this year. I just started a Youtube channel and will be taking off Christmas and New Years from uploading videos. It feels good to set these boundaries. I’ll probably also delete my Instagram app from my phone for a few days too.

Post-hiatus, I don’t just assume people want to be online. If I’m sharing something with my online audience and other people may be in the content, I always ask them first. Some people (including myself) can be private and that is okay. Some moments and certain people are too precious to share on social media. My family and friends always come before social media.

Post-hiatus, I feel I can be much more intuitive and flexible with my social media use, it’s not as rigid as it once was.

What are your top tips for separating from social media to be more present and spend time celebrating this year?

  1. Delete instagram from your phone for a few days.
  2. Turn your phone off during family gatherings or dinners. Don’t tempt yourself with the option to scroll or take pictures.
  3. Lose yourself in the moment. Ask people how they are doing.

The holidays can be a really difficult time for people struggling with their mental health. What advice do you have for anyone who may be struggling? How has this changed overtime?

I’m not a medical professional and can only speak from personal experience, but ask for help. Whether it’s through talk therapy, community-based sliding scale therapy at non-profit organizations, or online platforms like Talkspace, talking to professionals has been huge. If this is unattainable, reach out to trusted friends and loved ones who have your best interest in mind. Don’t isolate- no matter how much you think you “should”. People care.

Finally, because we are a bookish community — have you read any good books lately?

Omg, yes! City of Girls was a highlight over the summer. I also re-read a few of the Harry Potter books during my hiatus, so fun. I am about to break into Demi Moore’s new book. Can’t wait.

Lee Tilghman is the blogger, Youtuber, and founder of @LeeFromAmerica, where she shares bits and pieces about her life and learnings through it all.