What Happened When I Gave Up Social Media

At the end of Winter term, I found myself really struggling to get anything done. I sat at my desk with Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth sitting in front of me, the novel in which I had five chapters to read before my next morning's class. I had enough time to read it before going to bed, but first I checked Twitter. Then I checked Facebook, followed by Snapchat, then Instagram, then my email, then Twitter again, then Snapchat one more time.

We all know this routine. I had zero notifications, but I wanted to occupy myself with any level of entertainment as a distraction for as long as possible. Eventually, I started to feel shameful, and I told myself that was it. I deleted every social media app from my phone and promised myself I wouldn't check them until spring break. Here's what happened:

I Found More Useful Content

I still think it’s healthy to take breaks every now and then while I’m studying or writing an essay to refresh my brain, but instead of diving into hundreds of people’s personal lives and laughing at memes, now I’m reading articles on Medium, Vice, HerCampus, or elsewhere to satisfy my curiosity and help inspire my work as a writer. Instant gratification is only gratifying for an instant, and it usually takes a little digging to find things that are meaningful and motivational.

I'm Happier

I didn’t necessarily feel unhappy before, but becoming pickier about what I choose to mentally digest has helped me feel more hopeful, creative, and optimistic. It’s impossible to get away from politics and horrible news when you’re constantly updating social media feeds. When you take a step back, you become in charge of when to check in with the world and how much news you’re comfortable taking in during the day.

I Get Work Done Faster

I still, quite often, need to pause my assigned reading, typing, or studying because I lose focus easily, and my brain isn’t very effective if I don’t give myself time to think, reflect, and breathe. But the majority of those pauses only need to be around ten seconds long, and now there’s nothing begging me to waste my time during those mini breaks.

What Do I Do Now?

I don’t hate social media, and I can admit that it’s not feasible to tell myself to never use it again. I like staying in touch with teachers and extended family members on Facebook. I want outlets to promote my articles and artwork. I like the idea of a digital scrapbook to look back on in the future. However, I have proven to myself that there are benefits to limiting my over-usage that prevents me from being mindful and productive.

Our brains need to be exercised in order to perform well. From my experience, the best way to avoid spending too much time on social media is to only use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram on my laptop rather than on my smartphone. I haven’t deleted any of my accounts but avoiding using them has been so easy just by eliminating the shortcuts. To practice focusing more deeply, I have been setting timers while I read or write and try not to give myself any mental breaks for 15-minute intervals. Soon, I’ll bump those intervals up to 30 minutes, and eventually an hour.

In the age of technology, setting limits and learning how to focus is hard, and even feels a little silly. However, anything I can do that will make me a better and more mindful person is absolutely worth practicing.