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Insta-Ruption: My Social Media Hiatus (Part 1)

It’s no secret that social media is prevalent and popular everywhere nowadays, especially among college students. While these apps can be an awesome way to keep in touch with friends, view advertisements, learn from quick news stories, and find humor through things like meme pages and TikTok trends, these apps can also be a massive timesuck. Further, and more concerningly, they can be really detrimental to mental health. When surrounded by a constant media flow of models photoshopped to unachievable beauty standards, TikTok stars flaunting their wealth and popularity – and not to mention your favorite influencers on vacation while you drown in midterms – it’s easy to get caught up in an overwhelming flurry of emotions. Jealousy, disappointment, dissatisfaction, and even anger can arise from prioritizing social media; and the scariest part is, these apps are so ingrained in our day-to-day life and culture that it’s almost easy to miss when the feelings they start to invoke become negative.

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself feeling really burnt out and unsatisfied. I tried to fill the void with social media, a quick and seemingly free form of simple distraction and entertainment. Endless hours of doom-scrolling left me worn out and miserable, however, and I realized: maybe my social media habits are to blame for the burnout! To test my theory, I set a resolution to stay off of social media for the month of November. I deactivated my Instagram account and deleted the Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok apps from my phone. I’m five days in, and here’s what I’ve noticed and done so far:

  1. There’s so much more free time in my day

When you don’t have access to mindless scrolling, you realize just how much time there is in a day to get things done. My study habits have improved so much in just five days: I’m reading more of my assignments ahead of time, filling the bored moments by engaging more fully with my coursework or sending emails to my professors, and taking in lectures in their entirety rather than getting distracted by what my third-cousin’s-aunt’s-high-school-english-teacher has to say about politics on Facebook today. The way I use my time now is so much more productive, rewarding, and stimulating.

  1. Conversations are more fulfilling

Rather than discussing the latest meme trends or ad campaigns, I talk to my friends about things that are truly engaging. It’s nice to have honest, uninterrupted conversations about classes, family, mental health, and upcoming events face to face without notifications or the temptation to check my latest like count incessantly. I’ve even started sticking around after classes to chat with my professors, and sometimes going to office hours in the free moments I have just to say hi. Professors are really incredible people, and taking the time to get in contact with them has been really great. I also feel incredibly more present within my friendships, which is a win-win for both myself and my friends.

  1. There’s #NoFilter necessary when it comes to campus

Ah, the quintessential New England fall weather. It’s finally here, and I’m loving it! A week ago I kept finding myself frustrated when I tried to take pictures of the beautiful crimson, orange, and gold leaves and they didn’t ‘turn out’ satisfactorily to show to my Instagram followers, or my family back home. I was hoarding moments, trying to freeze the beauty in time, while ultimately missing out on the present. Now I’m taking it all in more fully, breathing the fall air in deeply without my nose in my phone or my eyes glued to its screen. 

  1. Reading is cool!

For an English major and someone who enjoys writing, I rush a surprisingly large amount of my assigned readings and essays. I often find it hard to finish books and even assigned articles sometimes due to the sheer amount of social media distractions that I’ve let pervade my life. I realized recently that the TikTok habits that I spend hours on might be funny and fulfilling for a week or so, but ultimately, it’s not teaching me anything. It’s not productive, it’s not fulfilling, and it’s not at all necessary to my life. Since starting my social media cleanse, I’ve gotten more serious about readings, developed more detailed study plans, and even subscribed to some online magazines! Instead of checking Instagram, now I check the New Yorker. Spending 15 minutes reading a story that stimulates my brain and inspires me in my own writing is far more fulfilling than spending 30 on an app that teaches me nothing and that I ultimately retain very little from. 

  1. These apps are honestly not crucial

Hot take, I know I know. But if you think about it, it’s true! People survived (and thrived) for decades without the whole world having visual access to how they did so. Ditching socials has put so much into perspective and has brought me back to the core of what I really want to get out of my day to day life. If you feel like you’re stuck in a pattern of wishing and waiting and distraction, maybe your social media consumption could be to blame. There is still room for connection, and for beauty, and for fun, when it’s not accomplished through a screen–I promise! In fact, it may be even better… 

Ultimately, if you have found yourself feeling unsatisfied and distracted lately, maybe a social media break could be your ticket to restoration! In all honesty, this hasn’t been easy–but if you fear that you’re prioritizing the wrong things and you want a shift in perspective, this may be the perfect place to start. You might be shocked at just how present these apps are within our lives, and what kind of mental and emotional responses they get from us. After the initial ‘withdrawal’ period, it gets much easier, and much more fulfilling. I’m excited to see where this month takes me! Check back the week of December 1st for a follow-up article to see my reflections after this month.

Grace is a junior concentrating in English. In addition to writing and editing for Her Campus, she enjoys reading, exploring New England, and competing as a member of the Brown Equestrian team!
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