How I Spent 3 Weeks Without Social Media

art: shelly dean

I’ve been on social media since the 6th grade. Now, flash forward eight years later, I’m a college student who’s phone never leaves my side. A month ago, I decided to cut my ties with social media. This meant deleting Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and TikTok. I told myself that if I could make it through one hour, then one day, and eventually one week, I’d be fine. Turns out, I was more than fine.

As a disclaimer, I have to admit that this idea was not one that I came up with on my own. There are various inspirations I’ve come across in the past that encouraged me to give myself a break from my online life. One of which is the documentary, The Social Dilemma, by Jeff Orlowski. The film shines a light on the addictive and destructive qualities social media has on the human mind. After watching it myself, I had an itch in my brain that made me rethink my own lifestyle. I’ve always been skeptical of the effects my digital life had on my physical reality. How did my parents, or even grandparents, survive their adolescence without cell phones?

I finally decided to go through with the premeditated social media fast, even though I was hesitant. I wondered if I would be bored, feel excluded, lonely, or disconnected from the world. I knew that if I could just find ways to keep myself busy, these feelings would be less pertinent. 

Part of the deal I made with myself was to embrace hobbies that would fill the time slots I typically would’ve spent online. This included reading, writing, meditating and crafting. To my surprise, I realized that I was busier than I had thought. Most of my time was spent on school, work and other side projects. In my downtime, I picked up a book instead of my phone. At first, it felt very strange, but after a few days, I grew accustomed to this new way of living.

Hanging out with friends felt especially altered. With a lack of notifications there to distract me, I was much more present. Conversations were deeper and I was able to pay more attention to the activities going on around me. Being in a group setting felt all the more authentic. Before the fast, I thought of myself as someone who lives in the moment, but I began to question this after the fact. Was my phone preventing me from enjoying my surroundings before? This question easily answered itself.

I feared whether or not I would lose my chance to promote my creative endeavors.

Halfway through the fast, I landed a job as a radio host for Black Squirrel Radio. Part of my job as a radio host is to manage the social media accounts for my show. This meant that I had to break the fast to create an Instagram account for my new show. Although the temptation to check on my personal Instagram arose, I shut it down quickly. There was something rewarding about staying strong and sticking to my word. Although it was enticing, I didn’t eat the forbidden fruit.

Once the initial shock of the fast wore off, it was much easier to get by. It felt like I had just taken a satisfying deep breath for the first time in a long while. My thoughts were much clearer. About 10 days in, I began to think very deeply about all of the philosophical aspects to this change I was making. The time I had on my hands to just sit and think was slightly maddening. There were a few times when I went on tangents to my friends about the epiphany I was experiencing.

Three weeks later, and I decided it was time to slowly start entering the online world once again. I have yet to redownload any apps but Instagram. I don’t think Snapchat or Twitter are necessary entities, so those two, I’m avoiding. After all is said and done, I learned quite a bit about myself and what I actually enjoy spending my time on. I did miss some news and drama, but life went on.

My biggest takeaway from this experience was to not let a small object prevent me from living my own life, according to my own rules. You are allowed to turn off your phone to take a breather. You do not need to post your life or perform for people you don’t see on a regular basis. And lastly, you don’t need to dedicate an entire Instagram story to wishing your best friend a Happy Birthday when you could just tell them in person.

SUPPORT STUDENT MEDIA Hi, I’m Maria McGinnis, a senior journalism student from Stow, Ohio. I’m also the editor-in-chief of A Magazine. My staff and I are committed to bringing you the most important and entertaining news from the realms of fashion, beauty, and culture. We are full-time students and hard-working journalists. While we get support from the student media fee and earned revenue such as advertising, both of those continue to decline. Your generous gift of any amount will help enhance our student experience as we grow into working professionals. Please go here to donate to A Magazine.

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