One Week, Zero Media
Two weeks ago, I took a week-long break from all of the social media sites I have accounts on: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Reddit. I wanted to see if there would be any obvious differences in the way I felt on a day-to-day basis. I’m not somebody who posts or interacts with social media a great deal, at least compared to a lot of my peers, but regardless, I was very curious if not using them at all would affect my mentality.
The first day was without a doubt the most difficult day of them all, mostly because I was so used to checking them while doing anything that involved waiting or filling time in a social environment. I didn’t realize how automatic my instinct was to reach for my phone and go on social media in any sort of semi-awkward situation until I no longer had the option to do so. I would still reach for my phone but then have no idea what to do afterwards. So, instead of going on social media, I used different outlets on my phone to stimulate myself. Over the next few days, I spent abnormal amounts of time on Imdb, the weather channel app, wikipedia, etc., places I’d normally spend a minute on, and for no apparent reason other than to be on my phone.
If there’s one thing I learned from this, it’s that I am extremely addicted to stimuli. Even five minutes without one feels strange. A lot of people say now that there is “no such thing as downtime anymore” and this experience made me believe them. If downtime is classified as just relaxing your mind then I can’t remember the last time I had it. If I’m eating in the dining hall, I’m not just eating, I’m on Instagram or Snapchat seeing what other people are doing. If I’m walking to class, I’m surfing music on Spotify and seeing what my friends are listening to. Even if I’m watching T.V., which is already a stimulant, I’ll be on Reddit or Facebook. Taking away social media removed only a portion of my outlets of stimulus, but taking just a portion away made me notice how insanely addicted I am to them.
The most difficult part for me about taking away social media was worrying that my friends were trying to get a hold of me and they wouldn’t be able to reach me. I don’t post often on social media, but I do use Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram to communicate with people a lot. I have group messages with friends from home and at school on Snapchat and Instagram, and some of those are the primary ways I keep in contact with those people. I didn’t go out of my way to tell anyone about my break from social media because I thought it would make it seem more natural if I didn’t. I was constantly worried that people would be trying to reach me and that they would think that I was ignoring them. I obviously didn’t want them to think this, but I still didn’t want to go out of my way to tell people. I was torn and eventually settled on just waiting to tell people until I was done with the week. I hadn’t missed anything extremely important, but it helped show how much I rely on social media for a lot of my communication. My paranoia also made me think about how much of a social norm it has become to respond to people as soon as humanly possible. If someone doesn’t respond within a day or even within a few hours, the norm now is to think that they are ignoring you or don’t know what to say. That kind of expectation is crazy! There’s no reason somebody should feel a demand to respond that quickly.
One thing that was relieving about my break from social media was that I was able to take a break from constantly comparing myself to others. A big reason people post on social media is to show their friends and family all of the cool stuff that they’re doing and are a part of; and that is all fine in its own right. The unfortunate consequence of this is that a lot of people begin to compare themselves to others and become afraid that they’re not always doing the best thing or that they’re not living to their highest potential. I catch myself doing this sometimes, but since my break from social media, I’ve gotten better at realizing when I am. This has helped me better put things into perspective and remain comfortable with myself and my own accomplishments and journeys. Social media shouldn’t try to turn life into a competition; it should just be a fun way to share ideas and information.
Not having social media wasn’t as liberating as I thought it would be, most likely becuase I just found other ways to distract myself when I felt I needed to, and once I got social media back, it didn’t feel particularly good or bad. It felt like I just upgraded my stimulus outlets again, and that was about it. Since this week long experience, I’ve tried to slowly decrease the amount of time I spend on my phone, but, more importantly, I’ve tried to become more generally aware of what I’m doing when I’m doing it. If I’m on my phone, I try and ask myself why I’m on my phone right now, or why I’m on a specific app and see if that reason is a real reason to be on it. Half the time I realize that what I’m doing makes no sense and I’m just doing it for the sole purpose of having something to do. I’m glad I took a week long break from social media, and I’m glad that it did impact me in a small way, even if it wasn’t the way I expected it to.