Last month, I found myself growing increasingly anxious, unproductive and unmotivated. Maybe it was the midsemester burnout. Maybe it was from living in a different time zone than most of my peers. Maybe it was from spending too much time on social media. I didn’t want to admit it, but it was likely the latter. So, in an attempt to see how badly the infinite scroll was affecting my day-to-day life, I deleted all of my social media for a whole week.
I knew this was for the better, but I hesitated. What if I miss anything important that my friends share? What if I miss out on something exciting or newsworthy? How am I going to see all the funny memes my friends tag me in? The list of incredibly serious concerns could go on forever, but ultimately I said goodbye to Instagram, Snapchat and even Facebook. I deleted the apps from my phone and blocked their websites on my laptop. Gone was any ability to observe the daily happenings of my peers online, both friends and acquaintances alike. No big deal though, since all my messaging means were still intact. And it was only for a week, right?
The first few days were harder than I expected. I caught myself wanting to check social media terrifyingly often. My mind wandered during lectures, while doing homework and just about any time I wanted to procrastinate. I had fallen into a bad habit of “just checking” before working on assignments or “taking a quick break” between tasks. And this habit, I realized, continuously set me up for a very inefficient and distracting day.
Without social media to numb my mind, I was mortified by how much my behavior revolved around these avoidant tendencies. I didn’t want to think about my upcoming midterm, so I scrolled through Facebook. I didn’t want to watch the lectures I’d fallen behind on, so I clicked through Instagram stories. I didn’t want to face the fact that Zoom University amid a pandemic was still my reality, so I dissociated and distracted myself with social media. But when I finally stopped scrolling, I found myself as anxious, restless and unproductive as before — if not more.
As the week went on, I began to redirect the energies I’d unknowingly dedicated to resisting my pandemic life. Little by little, my productivity improved and I grew more patient. I became more present and focused. I noticed how disconnected I had been from my day-to-day life, despite being so virtually “connected.” Forced to reflect on my social media consumption, I realized how much time it drained from my day.
Funnily enough, I was completely used to the absence of social media by the end of the week. I did not miss scrolling through endless posts and stories, most of which I didn’t pay more than half a second of attention to. And I did not miss the exhausted feeling these scrolling sessions left me with. Plus, the world didn’t stop spinning because I didn’t see that someone went to San Francisco or that someone else made TikTok pasta for dinner. More importantly, I realized that the people I care about will always find a way to share any important or exciting happenings with me, even if I’m not present on social media.
Although I’ve since re-downloaded all those apps, this little endeavor reminded me that one can be perfectly fine — if not better — without them. Deleting social media didn’t instantly turn my life into all sunshine and rainbows. It did, however, improve how I went about my days and help me reground myself. I am much more calm, productive and wary of the dangers of getting hooked onto the infinite scroll.
This pandemic has made a lot of us feel like social media is the only way to connect with the outside world — I’ve definitely been there. But constant social media consumption can be draining and exhausting, both physically and emotionally. So for those of you looking to do a social media detox, go for it. Whether it be for a day, a week or even a month, pick a goal that seems reasonable to you. The most important part is to commit to it! And as you go about your days away from social media, you may just discover how worthwhile such a break is.