How 30 days without social media changed my life.
As I clicked “post” a crashing wave of relief washed over me. I was really doing it. I was disconnecting. And I stayed disconnected for a whole month.
If you’re wondering why any sane person would choose to cut themselves off from social media for a month, join the club. Just 30 days ago, you probably couldn’t catch me without my phone. There was just always something new to look at: a new picture, a new like, a new message.
Yes, I had considered taking a break from social media before, but I’d always brushed away the thought with the excuse of my poor self-discipline skills and extreme FOMO. But this time was different. I was following through.
My motivation to disconnect stemmed from a series of events. Don’t get me wrong, I loved social media. I used it everyday for so many things — including my job. But when I started to notice myself spending more time refreshing Instagram than studying, I knew something had to change. I decided to get rid of it all, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and yes, even Tumblr, for 30 days to see if I could be more productive, active and social. And here’s what happened:
The challenge started off great. I was reading Whitman and Plath before bed instead of watching Snapchat stories, and I was using time in between classes to actually study instead of checking every trending topic on twitter. I wanted to put in an extra effort to get things done and utilize my spare time, and I was feeling noticeably different. Occasionally I would reach for my phone to send people snaps, but the urge gradually disappeared after a few days.
I noticed so much within the first week about my daily routine. Walking to class, going to lunch with friends, and all of my activities started to look a little different. It’s amazing what you see when a phone isn’t in your face. After week one, I was excited to see how the next few weeks played out.
Over the next week, I started feeling funny. I felt left out and disconnected. In conversation, my friends would bring up the latest political story or new twitter feud, and I was clueless. I was usually on top of this stuff, so feeling out of the loop was so weird for me. I was having withdrawals from the world, and I needed a quick fix. I decided to start keeping up with news and current events.
I started using the news app on my iPhone — yes, it’s a real thing — and it helped. I could now stay somewhat up-to-date on current events like upcoming debates and fashion week — you know, the important stuff. After using the news app for a few days, I realized that despite cutting off social media ties, I still managed to find something to look at on my phone to distract myself while studying. This really annoyed me.
By week three, I was more used to my disconnected life. I actually started to think I preferred it. I was still keeping up with some news, but I was focused more on me. Which was nice. I climbed the rock wall at The Rec for the first time, I was ahead (for the most part) on my work, and things were going pretty well in my classes. I wasn’t seeing a huge change, but I did see some progress. I still felt a little weird when I heard people talk about social media, but I learned how to tune it out.
From the first week to the third, a ton of people asked me about the challenge. It was interesting to see how many people wanted to hear about it. Every time, they would always respond with a mix of curiosity and astonishment. No one could believe that I voluntarily disconnected.
Week four was a breeze. Sometimes I would totally forget about the challenge, but when I was reminded that it was almost over, I was uneasy. I had become so comfortable being disconnected. I had my routine down, and I wasn’t looking forward to re-downloading all of my social media. I wasn’t mentally prepared to face the things I had been hiding from for weeks.
I finally just sucked it up, and at the end of my final day, I did it. For the first 5 minutes, I was overwhelmed. It was so much at once, like culture shock. So I deleted them all again. One by one though, I slowly added an app about every other hour. First it was Instagram, then Snapchat and then Twitter. I stopped there because that was all I even wanted to see.
I was surprised by my reaction. I really thought I would be more excited to see what I had missed, but I felt more disconnected than ever.
Currently, I am back on some social media channels for now, but I’ve been deleting the apps on-and-off to help me stay focused if I have to study or work. I try to only use them when I either absolutely have to or to post a picture. I don’t spend a lot of time just scrolling anymore.
I started the month expecting to be a different person at the end. I wanted to see a huge shift in productivity, and I expected to see a difference in my health and my social life. But the truth is, not much of that really happened.
Yes, I made some efforts to try new things and get ahead on work. But my eating habits remained the same, I didn’t go out of my way to exercise any more than I already was, I didn’t reach out to any old friends for lunch, and I definitely didn’t meet every deadline early — or even on time. So, for the most part, I was pretty much the same — except for one small detail.
My attitude completely changed. I was being present, living each day looking straight ahead and taking it all in. I was seeing things with new eyes, and to me that made it all worth it. So, giving up social media will NOT fix your problems, but it will change your life. You probably won’t be at the gym everyday or make A’s on every test, but I promise you will see an internal change.
Looking back to the beginning of the month, I do wish I could do one thing differently. I would have set actual goals. Maybe I could have made a fitness plan or gone to more events to meet new people. I could have done more, but in a world ruled by the monster that is face-swaps, filters and Facebook stalking, I had escaped. Maybe it was only for a month, but now I know that I can function without it.
Try the challenge for yourself, and maybe you will start to see some much-needed change as well. Just remember to set your goals, be open-minded, and take every day as it comes!
Be well, Auburn.
Photography: Julia B.