Hi friends! Well, I’m on the way to Turkey! I have six flights over 51 hours to get there, and I’m currently sitting at the Stewart Airport in Newburgh, New York. I have three flights after this, and a 20-hour layover in Copenhagen, which will be cool!
Just over 10 weeks ago, I was sitting at a coffee shop in Northeast Minneapolis, scrolling through Instagram on a study break, when I just became suddenly very overwhelmed with the constant-ness of the app. In a flurry, I deleted the app, along with Twitter and Snapchat. I wasn’t a frequent user of the second two anyway, so that wasn’t very difficult. I kept Facebook out of connection with friends and family, and I don’t believe its presence in my life is negative. I didn’t want to set a specific goal of how long I’d be without the apps, because I wanted to give myself space to feel it out. So began my unprecedented ten(ish) weeks without (most) social media.
Here’s what I learned:
- I missed it. There are incredibly good things about social media. I follow a lot of birth workers, activists, sex positive advocates, educators, and artists. I missed seeing their content every day. I learn a lot from them, and I noticed the difference when I wasn’t actively learning new things from them every day.
- But I also didn’t. Social media is incredibly addictive. My iPhone usage cut in HALF by deleting Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat–mostly from Instagram. I was shocked, but then I thought about it: for how many hours a day am I in transit, on the way to or from class? Am I waiting for class to begin? Waiting for my food? Think of all those tiny moments throughout the day where you just whip out your phone and scroll for two minutes. Imagine if you didn’t do that. What would you replace it with? Which leads me to…..
- I read a lot of books instead. I read more for class. For my classes this semester, we were assigned a lot of books about resistance, both YA and academic. A lot of them were available for free on an app my library uses for ebooks, or for a small price on Kindle. I just read ebooks every time I pulled out my phone on the bus or waiting for class to begin. I read in the morning to wake up and at night before falling asleep.
- I use my phone less overall. I already didn’t have my notifications turned on for any of my social media apps, so I had no reason to be checking my phone constantly throughout the day to open the app and see what was up.
- I realized how often I was thinking in captions or tweets. I hate that I was doing that, and I think I was doing it for a long time. Something would happen, and I’d begin to formulate a tweet or an Instagram caption in my head about it. Now, I just recognize that it happened. I might text a friend about it. Or I might journal about it. Maybe I’ll do nothing. After all, that’s what people did forever, until, like, five years ago.
- I take far fewer photos. When I do take photos, I take different types of photos. I have maybe 15 photos from a trip I took to New York two weeks ago. They’re almost exclusively photos of other people or of landscapes. I think I had a friend take a photo of me on two separate occasions. There’s nothing wrong with taking photos of yourself, but I think I was so focused on getting the exact right shot for the ‘gram that I just truly had to take a step back.
- I take videos more often than photos now. One of the biggest reasons I held off on deleting social media apps for so long was the “stories” function, in which you take a photo or video, post it for 24 hours, and then it’s automatically taken down. It’s all saved in an archive that you can always look back at, however, and I was worried I wouldn’t be capturing those small moments. So I started taking tiny videos–mostly under 10 seconds! I can remember how an experience felt without telling everyone else how it also feels. The best part? I’m the only one who has seen them.
- I nurtured other hobbies. I wrote a lot of music. I played guitar a lot, and I wrote some more. As I mentioned above, I read a lot.
- I learned that not everything needs to be shared. This seems like an obvious one, but I think we forget about that. Most of us have finstas, a private Instagram account for friends where we put a lot of our personal information; we have our main Instagram accounts for the highlights of our lives; we have Twitters for the lighthearted stuff; we have Snapchat for the funny moments; and we have Facebook for the news and events. Some things that I thought were OBVIOUSLY shareable have now become treasured memories that only I remember through my eyes only: me and Maraya’s spring break trip to Sanibel, Florida, for example. A photo here and there is one thing, but it’s not necessary to show everyone how cool of a spring break I’m hAVING!!!!!
- Social media is one big sensory overload experience. The constant advertising, the colors, the photos, the videos, the sound, the pressure to share share share. Our brains were not designed to process all that information at once. Taking that extra time every day allowed my brain to have a much-needed brain break.
I redownloaded the Instagram for my Middle East trip to share photos, but I find that I use the app far less than when I had it before. Also, I proved to myself that I’m not addicted to social media! I can find other ways to entertain myself, and my attention span has only gotten better.
Have you gone a long stretch of time without social media? What did you notice? I’d love to know your thoughts.
until next time. xoxo