In the midst of my junior year of high school, feeling both overwhelmed and stressed with the decisions I would soon have to make – college, majors, roommates, financial aid plans – and all of the work it would take me to get there – perfect SAT scores, AP exams, a 4.0 GPA, stellar extracurriculars – I looked for a way to make it easier, and to take care of my own mental health during this demanding time.
After doing some research and taking some time to think it over, I decided to do a social media cleanse. To do this, I would get rid of all of the social media apps on my phone, and sign out of them on my laptop. This meant that all of my accounts are still up and in tact, but I don’t have any access to them.
At first the task seemed daunting, as using social media had become so integral to my everyday routine. When I’d wake up I’d look through Instagram and respond to Snapchats, and would constantly distract myself during the days scrolling through my Twitter timeline or republishing pictures on VSCO. It was a natural instinct to go to my phone whenever I was bored or felt like being distracted.
Because of this, I spent the first few days of my cleanse constantly reaching for my phone, and then not knowing what to do with it. I’d be in the middle of studying or doing SAT prep, and would find myself with my phone in hand, but nothing to do on it. It felt like something was missing, and that my routine was disrupted.
However, after I adjusted to not having something to distract me at all times, I found myself being a lot more productive, and accomplishing more of the things I needed to. I’d finish my homework hours before I used to, and actually have free time. For the first time in a while, I had time to read books, watch TV, and work on my art without neglecting schoolwork.
And just having this distraction free zone for myself to study in and work in has consequently improved my grades. Without even trying, I saw most of my averages increase solely because of the lack of distractions and the increase of focus during my time spent studying.
Another concern that crossed my mind was isolating myself from my peers, as my generation tends to gravitate towards communication via Snapchats and DMs, as well as share most information about themselves through their social media pages. And while at times I have felt disconnected, not having social media has brought me closer to a lot of my friends. Because I don’t get constantly updated on what’s going on in their lives, it requires both of us to reach out to each other over text or facetime and talk, which is a lot more personal than a Snapchat or a comment on Instagram.
Additionally, not having social media has taken away a lot of my social stress. I’m not worried about who is doing what, and what I should be doing or how I should be acting, or if there was some party I wasn’t invited to. Instead I’m more in tune with what I want to do and how I want to act. It also takes away a lot of my worrying about if someone is ignoring me or not responding to me for a reason, because it’s impossible for me to see if someone was active on Instagram or Snapchat, but not responding to my texts.
I also don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything, because what’s on social media isn’t anything real to miss out on. Every single thing that goes onto someone’s social media is fabricated and idealized. No one’s skin is as clear as it looks on their Instagram, and no one is actually having as much fun as they seem to be having on their Snapchat stories. When anyone puts something on social media, myself included, they make it the best version, whether or not that’s true. So, I really don’t feel that I’m missing out on anything groundbreaking, as I know that all I’m not seeing is a perfect version of someone else’s imperfect life.
For a lot of people I’ve talked to, what I’m doing doesn’t make sense, but I’m okay with that. I know that for once, I’m putting my own needs before what’s expected of me, and I feel great because of it. And I’m not swearing off social media forever, but rather until I’m ready to return. But so far, it’s been a month without it, and I’ve never felt better.
Featured Image Created by Meredith Bushman