One Month Without Social Media
By Jane Miller '20
Apple introduced a program a few years ago called screen time, which allows users to go in and see how much time they spent on their phones, including the breakdown of each app. I used to see the notification at the top of my screen and quickly swipe it away. I was embarrassed to admit the sheer amount of time I wasted on my phone. Despite constantly telling myself and others that I didn’t have time for things like reading and exercising, I was wasting hours of my life staring at pictures on Instagram and sending mindless Snapchats to people I didn’t talk to in real life. One day, I spent 7 hours and 58 minutes on my phone. That's an entire school day! The screen time notification alone didn’t inspire any change in me. It took coming across a video from the YouTube channel Yes Theory and a TED talk from Georgetown researcher Cal Newport, to spark that change. In both these videos, the idea of social media’s necessity was challenged, and there was a call to action for a digital de-cluttering. A digital de-cluttering is a challenge to go 30 days without any form of social media. For me, that meant no Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Netflix or Hulu.
The first few days of the challenge were really difficult. I didn’t know what to do with myself, and I constantly grabbed for my phone only to find there was nothing to do on it. I resorted to texting my friends and scrolling through my camera roll. One afternoon, I was so bored that I dusted my entire house. I didn’t see any benefits at all, only increased boredom. Previously, when I felt bored I would simply scroll through Instagram. I realized that I hadn’t felt bored in years.
In an attempt to stay occupied, I gradually began to pick up new hobbies. I hadn’t read a book for fun in months, so I headed to the library and picked out a few. Not only did I rediscover my passion for reading in the process, I found myself so much more engaged in the stories when I wasn’t pausing every ten minutes to open a Snapchat. Inspired, I began to focus on going to bed at a reasonable hour and waking up on time. I actually studied for my exams, and found it was so much easier to stay focused without those added distractions. Most importantly, I spent way more time with friends, interacting in the real world. I stopped feeling the urge to post every moment of my outings with friends, and instead focused on enjoying the people around me and being present in what we were doing. After about two weeks, I realized how unburdened I felt without social media. Several of my friends joined me on this challenge and found similar results. Abbie Szewczyk, 12, said “I learned that social media is very draining mentally and physically. My days still consist of the same activities as before, but now I go to bed every night with energy. I believe that the time I created to care for myself rather than scrolling on my phone gave me this.”
Social media is not essential to life, as much as it can feel like it sometimes. After this month long challenge, I decided I did not want to return to the way things had been before. This thirty day challenge made me more productive, more engaged in life, and more prepared to enter into 2020.
Take the plunge and try 30 days without social media. Your mind, and your data bill will thank you.