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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Emmanuel chapter.

The summer before my first year of college, I was stuck in the goo. I was laying in bed and it was like thick goo was reaching up from the sheets and pulling me down. It’s that feeling you’re sinking into your bed. And you know what made it worse? Instagram. Instagram was reaching out of the phone with a ball and chain. The ball fell right into my bed. To get up I would have to roll onto the floor and crawl anywhere I wanted to go. I would wake up in the morning and, like shooting up, start scrolling. It wasn’t a completely conscious act. I felt like my hands and my fingers had a mind of their own. The voice in my mind that said no was powerless. Every night before sleeping, even after texting my girlfriend goodnight, I’m going to bed, I was scrolling. Even if it was just for five or ten minutes. It was unavoidable. I would click out of the chat with her and my thumb would find its way over to the reels button. It’s right there, inches away, how could I not? 

Eventually, my eyes practically melting from the blue light, I’d toss it aside, and fall asleep. Fall asleep with a feeling of uncleanliness. Like my eyes needed to be bleached. During the day, in moments of waiting. All those in between moments; I felt the need to fill them with scrolling. In the car, in lines, in elevators. 

Like an addiction it was always there. The aforementioned girlfriend? Light of my life? When we’d be hanging out in my room after school, in the moments when she stepped out to use the restroom, guess what I was doing? Scrolling. Getting a little, peculiar but strong dopamine hit from the few moments I got to scroll when she stepped out. It is frighteningly similar to additive substances coming in between time spent with loved ones. The silent addiction. That’s really what it is. Because even when I’m busy, tired, hungry, or occupied, the itch is there. I can feel my fingers twitching for the phone. It takes effort not to pick it up.

In every single one of those moments where I gave in and took the hit, there was a consistent feeling co-existing, not peacefully, with the dopamine hit at each scroll. It was a deep shame. A deep self loathing. A voice in my head that said you’re worthless/stupid/unproductive/ wasteful. Wasteful. A voice telling myself that I was wasteful. Why would I continue to scratch an itch that created such an awful inner dialogue? 

Because that is their monetization. Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, etc, are constantly working to keep you on their site for as long as they can. They’re businesses right? That’s just how it works. The Social Dilemma is a docu-drama on Netflix that’s trying to show us exactly how these companies work. Featured in the documentary, Tristan Harris, a Silicon Valley insider who used to work at Google, works hard to shed some light on the inner workings of these tech companies. He laments early on in the documentary, “I wish more people could see how this works because it shouldn’t be something only the tech industry knows. It should be something everyone knows”. Tristan is alluding to something big enough to be called a secret. Luckily, he goes on to let the cat out of the bag. “On the other side of the screen, it’s almost as if they had this avatar voodoo doll-like model of us. All of the things we’ve ever done, all the clicks we’ve ever made, all the videos we’ve watched, all the likes, that all gets brought back into building a more and more accurate model. The model, once you have it, you can predict the kinds of things that person does”. That model becomes what these companies are trying to mold you into. They gather so much data about you that they know you better than yourself at times. These apps are designed to steal your time so that they can make money. They are created with the purpose of keeping you scrolling, keeping that thumb swiping, for as long as possible. They don’t want you to get up and take a shower, do your homework, call that friend or family member, read that book, get creative, or go to sleep. They don’t want you to tend to your mental, physical, and emotional health. They’d rather you stay and rot away in last week’s clothes because it makes them money. They’ll strategize on how best to take the time of minimum wage workers so that they can make billions. They turn you into a dollar sign by filling you with marketing and not letting you do or think anything that makes you you. They are waging war on your time and your individuality, and it isn’t your fault. When a program is made with a genius design to keep your attention for as long as it possibly can, it’s not your fault when it works. 

We all need to wake up. Wake up to how seamlessly these apps have folded themselves into our days. That waking up is different for everyone. Whether it’s watching an insider Netflix documentary or reading a college first year’s personal account of the “goo” of Instagram taking over her life and realizing you relate, that’s great. You’ve woken up. 

I woke up, realizing I was tired of the scrolling consuming my day, my free time, my life so I deleted instagram in the weeks leading up to my college move in and the first week of my time here at Emmanuel. And now, even though the app is back on my phone, it has a lot less of a hold over me, and I’ve successfully banned myself from the reels feature. And if you think you can’t do it, yes you can. If you’re worried about not being able to talk to your friends through DM’s, just text them, or find a less addicting app with a chat feature. A true friend will understand that you need a break from Instagram. If you have a big following and you’re worried about your followers, they’ll be fine. You don’t owe them anything. If social media is your business, and you can’t check out completely, delete the app from your phone. Log in and do your work from your computer, give yourself a work day and free time. Take little steps, at least one or two, to detangle your life from social media. So many of us are completely meshed with these apps. Pick up a comb, and start to detangle yourself, little by little, and take your life back. 

Amelia Knowles

Emmanuel '27

Amelia Knowles is attending Emmanuel College (Class of '27!) and pursuing a double major in Writing, Editing, Publishing and Theater Arts. She is from Houston, Tx. She has been avid writer since her 4th grade teacher kindly encouraged her. Since around the same time she has been an avid reader as well. Currently she is watching a lot of TV and overcoming her recent bout of readers/writers block. Find her in the Discovery Lab at Emmanuel College, or crocheting somewhere quiet!