“Get off your phone,” “This generation is so obsessed with social media” and “Did you really do anything if you didn’t post it on Instagram?” are one of the many complaints made about our generation and its addiction to our phones. However, while it’s easy to make the assumption that it’s just the phones that are the problem, it’s really what’s on them that keeps us glued to the screen.
This week, I decided that telling people to take a break from social media wasn’t enough— I needed to do it myself to see how hard it is and if life without social media is as boring as we think it is. Moreover, it was to make the thought of taking a break from social media seem less intimidating because let’s face it— it’s almost unnatural for people to not be on social media these days. That’s right, I spent five days cold-turkey with no Snapchat, BeReal, TikTok, BopDrop, Pinterest and, most importantly, deactivated my Instagram.
The first step in any healing process is to recognize that you have a problem, and boy did I have one. I found myself immediately turning to TikTok and Instagram as a way to “wake myself up” in the mornings. However, what it really did was make my morning go by that much faster with all the time I lost scrolling on social media.
So I made a list of reasons why I needed to delete Instagram, which is the main source of where I waste my time on my phone. Here’s what I came up with:
- It’s toxic for me.
- I spend too much time on it.
- I’m comparing my current self with my old self.
- The explore page ruined my life.
- I compare myself to others too much, whether it’s people I know or not.
Just to clarify, this isn’t an article telling you to deactivate your Instagram. This is an article telling you to step back and recognize whether any apps are too toxic for you. And for me, Instagram was the most volatile thing for me, so it was time for a break.
And with that, I deactivated my account, felt a weight lifted off my shoulders and my phone was boring again for the first time in probably over a decade.
And that feeling stayed with me, oddly enough. I didn’t feel obligated to take pictures of every second of every day because I wasn’t living for my life online. I was finally able to exist for myself and not the person I wanted people to think I was.
Everything seemed so much clearer to me. There was a specific moment when I was in an elevator with two other girls, and as soon as the door closed they immediately buried their faces in their phones. While they scrolled, I was left to my own devices without any social media to protect me from the awkwardness of everyday encounters with strangers. But this is in no way me trying to bash these other girls and their reliance on their phones. It made me think more about whether or not this is what I really looked like in public, so above interacting with strangers I needed to be with people online, almost as if it were a comfort.
While I could write a novel about the things I learned without an online presence, here are the top feelings I experienced and what you can expect on your next social media detox:
While the whole point of this detox was to disconnect from what was making me feel overstimulated, the entire process made me even more hyperaware of what was going on around and in me. It made me more aware of all of the things I was feeling when I didn’t have the safety net of the Internet to cling to as a distraction. It gave me the chance to face whatever challenges I was going through and to actually do something to face them head-on.
With the amount of schoolwork I was able to get done because I didn’t have TikTok distracting me, I have a hard time believing that I was truly ever able to get work done while it was on my phone. I was beginning to get a head start on my schoolwork because it’s not like there was this giant chunk of time that I had lost scrolling when instead I took my boredom as an opportunity to actually get my sh*t together.
I feel as though my relationship with social media has gotten stronger, in the sense that I’m not turning to it as often as I once did. I’ve learned to be more conscious of the time I’m spending on social media, and make sure that when I do it’s not counterintuitive to wanting to relax by letting myself down a rabbit hole of comparison.
So what do you think— could you handle five days without social media? Who knows, maybe it’s what you’ve been needing this whole time? When you’ve finished your own cleanse, tweet us @VALLEYmag with your thoughts.