Today is an unusual day. Today is a day that started out unlike any other. When my alarm went off, I simply turned it off. That’s it. No scrolling aimlessly on Twitter to see what I had missed in the few hours that I allowed myself to sleep. No looking at everyone’s Halloween costumes from the weekend on Instagram. No Facebook. No Twitter. Just silencing the noise that has been alerting me that it is time to start my day. Today, I chose to give up social media, and I use the word “chose” very loosely.
Millennials view social media as if it is some kind of drug. The second we post a photo to Instagram, we need that instant gratification that what we did has been well received by our peers. We need it to feel better about ourselves or perhaps any other self-serving reason.
Is there a reason for this? According to a survey completed by UCLA, whenever our mind wanders and we need a mental break, our brains begin to crave social interaction. You get that social interaction at the tip of your fingers with the various apps geared towards connecting with individuals. The Pew Research center documents that 81 percent of millennials check Twitter at least once a day, most Instagram users are between the ages of 18 and 29 years old, and on any given day, Snapchat reaches 41 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds in the United States.
Normally, before getting out of bed, I spend an absurd amount of time on my phone, long before I have even truly woken up. It’s a habit I have ingrained in my life and one that I wouldn’t have stopped hadn’t it been for a week-long social media cleanse. I didn’t know what to expect from this personal challenge of mine but whatever the outcome, we will go through it together, as I will be chronicling my days without the use of any social media. I’m sure it will be difficult, but I’m up for the challenge. Welcome to the start of the longest week of my life.
Have you ever tried to give up something cold turkey? Like cutting out soda from your diet or trying to stop biting your nails? Giving up social media overnight is a bit like that. It is an interesting feeling. I keep picking up my phone and going to the habitual spot on my homescreen where my social media once was, and it’s not there. The need for carbonation and sugar from a soda that you have deprived yourself of is pretty much how I am feeling. The craving has already kicked in. I went ahead and just deleted these apps off my phone to get rid of all temptation. A temptation that is already there. I know social media is not on my phone anymore but I keep going back. Just give me some time.
I will say that I already have a jumpstart on this paper, so I guess the effects are already showing. However it is only 12:49, I’ll check in again later.
I had an alright night, except for all the times I was trying to document my friend’s 21st birthday on Snapchat but other than that, I’m fine. Everything’s fine (I say through gritted teeth).
I woke up this morning and the first thought that ran through my head was “Okay no social media.” I didn’t struggle with it much. In fact, I set my alarm 30 minutes later than I originally get up. I knew that I would be saving myself ample time not scrolling aimlessly on my phone in the morning.
In my news editing class, we had a surprise professor trick-or-treating at the door. Most students simultaneously reacted in hysterics while grabbing their phones to record. As did I.
I’ve realized that’s the hardest part. Wanting to record a moment in time to share with friends and knowing that I can’t. It’s like picking up the cigarette just to put it back down.
Wednesday and Thursday
The irritability factor is beginning to kick in. Watching everyone around you scroll on their phones and check Twitter, or even post on Snapchat and you can’t, is beyond frustrating. I found myself saying often, “Can everyone just be present?” Alas, the point of the cleanse is rearing its head. Social media really does take away from moments, and since I had ample downtime to realize it, I definitely did.
As irritating as it is to be around friends “using,” they kept me accountable. I almost had a lapse in judgment, but they were there to keep me on the path to being social-media clean.
Today was the truest test of my willpower and I am proud that, despite all, I did not use social media. Friday night, my friend and I attended a concert, and I wanted so badly to record my experience. Typically, whenever I attend a concert or do something remarkable, I want to immediately broadcast it through Instagram or Snapchat, and it was an odd feeling to not do that. Even after the performance, I was lucky enough to meet the act, Gavin Degraw and not one person knows that I did. So, did I even go if I couldn’t brag to my friends about it?
Honestly, all I have been doing the last few days have been having a virtual countdown to Monday when I can go back to normalcy. I’m a huge Christmas person, but even this countdown seems more exciting than the most wonderful time of the year. Sure, having no social media makes you more present in life, but for me, all it’s done is made me think about it more. I think not being on it is just making me crave it more.
What a beautiful Sunday. I woke up alive, and I’m breathing, but none of that matters because tomorrow is the last day of the cleanse. That’s all I have to say for today.
By the time Monday rolled around, the literal first thing I did was redownload all of my apps to my phone. I spent a massive amount of time just seeing what I had missed. In a weird way, it made me appreciate social media all that much more.
The purpose of this social media detox was not lost on me. Social media plays a momentous part in my life, as well as my generation’s life and for that, I understand how purges like this are successful. Personally, I don’t think it has had a large effect on me. I realize how much I actually use it by the sheer fact of how much I thought about it. Random times throughout the day, I desperately wanted to document on Snapchat, and it was hard not being able to. Having it in your face daily was a struggle for me, but I am proud of myself for resisting all the urges. However, I don’t think I use it any less now than I did before. Giving up on social media, in the least dramatic way possible, is likened to giving up a drug.
Millennials can thank dopamine for this. Dopamine is considered the “pleasure chemical” of the brain. When people use their favorite apps and have the desired engagements they want, it releases into your brain, making it harder to resist. Avid social media use also triggers oxytocin the “cuddle chemical” of the brain. It has been documented by studies that oxytocin levels can rise 13 percent, which is a similar rise to that of someone in love.
Science, the need to show the highlight reel of your life, and watch others, are three things going against millennials and their uses of social media. I think breaking away from the internet and your phone, in general, is advantageous. The amount I use my phone is not healthy, and I realize that now. Balance is crucial within every factor of life.
I’m not sure if the days of having your head in the books has been replaced with having your head in your phone, but for myself, I’ll try to refrain from doing too much of the latter. Just maybe not for weeks at a time.