Social media is an addiction, one many are fond of. Every “like” and funny animal video that gets sprung at me just increases my fervor to never disconnect. Essentially, I am a slave to my handheld device. My cellphone beckons, and I heed her every command. Every chirp, every vibration — all invites me into a wormhole of destruction otherwise known as the Internet.
With all of that in mind… I decided to quit social media.
At least for a week.
I figured my brain power was stronger and my will to live independently without a permanent glowing appendage glued to my hand was greater than anything my apps had to offer. Honestly, it was the best decision of my freshman existence.
With college midterms approaching in the near future, an idea thrust into my head: kill the distractions and focus on your school work. Of course, I know the effects Instagram and Twitter have on my brain for periods of time, but I wasn’t quite sure the extent of them. In fact, many college students nationally are in the same spot that I was in. Yes, we want to kick ass on the big exam, but, at the same time, we wish to stay connected with our globally and internationally connected world. I decided to test my theory. I would limit my activity on my phone and use the time I would normally be using for recreational scrolling to do some productive things and pay more attention to myself.
It couldn’t be too hard to live without my phone for a week.
Boy, was I mistaken.
The initial day was hopeful and a bit naïve. I figured that it would be child’s play for me to part ways with my beloved apps that had previously held me together. I devised a system in my bullet journal to help track how many times I accessed Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat. Throughout the day I found myself running out of things to do or obsess over. I studied for two exams I had the next day but found myself lacking in the realm of overall life. I was disappointed because without constantly checking my feed, I had to find meaningful things to fill my time.
The second day was just as frivolous as the first had been. I still had the mindset of that this was a punishment rather than a way of bettering myself in the long run. I took my exams and instantly wanted to be rewarded for doing such tasks, but I had to remember to not check my notifications killing myself internally in the process. Updates on campus life and student protests were plastered all over social media, but I had no clue what was happening, and so I felt lost and incomplete.
On Wednesday a definitive shift occurred. I was nervous at first because it’s during the midweek that I usually have the most free-time, and I’m not as focused on academics. During this day, I decided to change my outlook on how I viewed the cleanse. Instead of viewing them as burdens, I began to look at my days strategically and deliberately.
From then on, I maximized my existence on campus. I was able to visit a local art museum, focus on my personal relationships, self-care and my studies. One of the most rewarding experiences I received was from a yoga class I took to kickstart my day.
By the end of the week, the pain I had first had when quitting all forms of social media began to dull. I had noticed that my sleep patterns were very consistent when I wasn’t able to check my notifications in the middle of the night which contributed to my participation in classes and lectures. My general mood increased, and my roommates noticed I was more engaged without my phone.
The most important part of this experiment was the deeper insight I had gained about myself and my needs. In the future, I don’t plan to cut out social media apps for good because it’s just not realistic in this globally connected world, but I do encourage those who are yearning for a change in their overall wellbeing to take a step back and look deeply at themselves away from a glowing screen. •
By: Ajà Miller
Graphics by: Cierra Morrisey, Wendy Du
Ajà Miller is a freshman Sociology and Psychology double major at the University of Texas at Austin. This is her first year writing for Spark and it publications. Ajà was interested in becoming an English major, but found the program to be too pretentious and thinks her participation in Spark Magazine will be ‘just fine’.