By Alexandra Cochran
Blog Content Contributor
Most days, you can’t walk on the sidewalk or even on campus without noticing everyone looking down at his or her phone. From this observation, I knew that social media was more than just an addiction; it had become the norm to be distracted whenever you’re out for a walk, driving, or even in the comfort of your home! So I decided to quit social media for a week to tell you how it went.
One day I realized, “Wow, I should really get out of bed before I’m late again.” The seconds added up, but as every new day began, I didn’t realize how much of an addiction social media was until it wasn’t available to me. The first few days weren’t as easy as I thought it would be. I felt inclined to tend to my phone as if I needed to hold check for something, as if I needed to refresh something. It irked me that when I unlocked my iPhone, I couldn’t do anything other than surf the web and respond to text messages — I couldn’t even tell you how many times I checked the weather app or how many steps I took every day according to my Health app. This did, however, force me to be more aware of how much time I was spending on my phone instead of paying more attention to those around me.
Have you ever gotten to class before scheduled time and just sat in your seat scrolling through your phone? I was guilty of this, and because of it, I didn’t make many friends my first semester here. But while I experimented without social media, it was still the beginning of the semester. I met new friends within this one week without social media and it was difficult to stay in touch with them without having a virtual form of keeping up with their life. This started to worry me about future endeavors. While studying to pursue a degree in journalism, networking is a method recommended to stay in touch with people who influence you. I began to realize how dependent I actually am with the ability to connect with others. When used correctly, the platform of apps like Instagram can promote your work and demonstrate your efforts of contribution. For example, when I write a new article, I always try to promote it to my followers, and in return I gain more views and recognition. Without social media, I feel a sense of isolation from a community of friends and future colleagues, overall making it more difficult for myself.
I also found that the less I’m on social media, the better I felt mentally about myself. Unsurprisingly, studies have also linked phone and Internet usage to depression and body dysmorphic disorder. Is anyone else constantly annoyed when your significant other is on his or her phone when you’re eating a meal together or when you’re lying in bed watching a movie? Yeah, me too. How about all of the accidents caused by usage of telephones? Dangerous! I’ve had one too many friends pass away in a car accident. When I learned that one out of four car accidents are caused by cell phone distraction, I was even more inclined to stay off my phone. Although I feel like most people find difficulty in physically texting and driving which keeps them from pursuing it, the distraction itself, whether from handheld devices or hands-free technology, lowers our reaction time on the road meaning lowering your safety to those who are driving nearby and distracted as well.
So how do we learn to use social media to our advantage and not let it take over our spare time? When you have free time, begin to replace your habit of grabbing for your phone, and start training yourself instead to listen to music, grab a book, step outside and go for a walk, or make yourself something to eat. Stay off your phone while walking to and from places, and just take a look around you. It took me by surprise how many people around me were walking and on their phones. It was like being in a horror movie, everyone seemed like zombies. I was totally able to spend more time with my cat, Finn, sit outside more to read, drink cold tea, and watch more sunsets. Overall, I felt more liberated without constantly staring at an LED screen, morning and night.
After a week passed, I wasn’t even that excited, to be honest. Since being back on social media, I haven’t felt too inclined to access the apps of Instagram, Facebook or even Snapchat. I would say this one-week experiment was a great way to focus on more important things and reminded me to take breaks often, pay attention to my health more rather than the comparison of myself to others, spend more time with my loved ones in active conversations, and overall spend more time on myself like reading a book or researching topics I’m interested in. My break from social media was certainly helpful, and I would highly suggest anyone who is feeling a bit overwhelmed to follow the same and delete the apps!
Overall, I certainly appreciated the freedom I had with my time to get more studying done, wake up feeling more refreshed, having more time to eat and get ready before class, and having one less thing to think about with everything else I already have on my mind. If you’re ever feeling off or not so much yourself, it’s safe to disconnect from the world when you need to.
Featured image by Alexandra Cochran.