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Like most people who live in this day and age, I have made numerous attempts to limit my social media usage to a time that I deemed more acceptable. I have tried setting limits on my apps — only to tap the “15 More Minutes” button over and over again until it had accumulated into hours. I have attempted to temporarily disable my accounts — only to give back into them a day or two later. I have made goals of only checking social media during certain times of the day — only to not be able to hold myself accountable.
It was not until I decided to delete the apps that I was actually able to keep social media out of my life for an entire week. Although I do not believe social media to be inherently evil or addictive, I was and still am at a point where I cannot use social media in moderation. Using it for even a few minutes can send me down a rabbit hole that leads to hours and hours of endless scrolling. In order to break this habit, I knew that I had to reset the way I use technology by doing a complete cleanse; I had to cut off my access to it completely and work my way from there.
The first thing I noticed after getting rid of social media was just how frequently I went to check it throughout the day. Upon waking up that first day, I grabbed my phone and opened it, only to remember that I did not have social media for the time being. While you would think this would be enough to remind me of my social media cleanse for the rest of the day, it wasn’t. I continued to mindlessly pick my phone up at least several times an hour, only to rediscover that I was not using social media at the moment. Checking my newsfeeds had become such an integral part of my day that I did it without even thinking about it. I slowly had to relearn how to not reach for my phone when I did not have a true reason for doing so.
After I got over this bump, I saw just how much time I had throughout the day — so, I had to figure out what to replace it with. Initially, I felt tempted to find some other mindless activity to fill the void with. I opened cheesy game apps that I had not touched in years and began to pass time on those. I also hopped onto the news apps I had and began scrolling through the tragedies of the globe. This made me realize that it was not just the content on social media I was attached to; it was also the fact that social media filled every bit of silence and stillness in my day. Without social media, I automatically jumped to the next app on my phone, even if it was something I did not enjoy. Once I realized this, I deleted those apps too and kept my phone out of reach for most of the day.
I knew that I needed to become more comfortable with the silences in my day: the 10 minutes between classes, the three minutes while I waited for my food to microwave, the first 20 minutes of the day where I was too tired to do anything but too awake to fall back asleep. I knew that if I was not content with these lulls, I would never be able to fully end my reliance on social media.
Initially, it was difficult and bored me easily. I had not realized how dependent I was on the instant gratification of social media. I had the urge to consume information constantly and quickly. I wanted to distract myself from anything uncomfortable I could be thinking about, like upcoming exams or other stressors in my life. However, not using social media forced me to sit with any thoughts I was having and to find healthier ways to deal with them. Once I worked through those, the silences in my day became enjoyable and welcomed.
In doing this, I began to notice and appreciate smaller things around me. I began to pay more attention to the sky outside my window and the sunsets outside. Around campus, I noticed other people and my surroundings more. I felt as if I was noticing life around me to its fullest extent for the first time in a while.
I also found that without a constant stream of instant gratification coming from my phone, I had patience for activities that used to overwhelm me. I could sit down and do homework for longer stretches of time. I could practice harder pieces on my instrument now that social media was not calling my name.
Many people likely do not feel motivated to take a social media break during this point in time given the pandemic. Social media and technology are how we can safely connect with others, and things will likely be this way for a long while. However, it’s important to ask yourself how connected social media is actually making you feel to others.
I noticed that, in an odd way, I grew closer to others without using social media. Instead of posting something I wanted to share, only for my friends to like it or comment something vague, I was now forced to share it with them personally. This meant calling them to tell them something I would have posted on my newsfeed or texting them to show them a funny picture I found. In turn, we had more personal conversations that went far beyond a comment or a like.
I also realized that social media made me feel more lonely; it served as a comparison to my own life on a daily basis. Seeing others as appearing to have these great social lives during a pandemic began to make me feel incredibly isolated. However, with having time away from these glorified glimpses into the lives of others, I became more content with the way my life is. I did not worry so much about the need to socialize and instead began to explore ways to enjoy my own company, whether it be through trying new hobbies or reading new books.
While social media is not a bad thing, everyone can benefit from a detox sometimes. Too much of anything can always become a bad thing, especially during a time like right now when we have so much free time to mindlessly fill on our phones. Try giving social media up for a while. You may be surprised by the impact doing so will have on you!