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Recently, I watched the documentary “The Social Dilemma” on Netflix, and it was sickening. The major theme behind it was the creators of major social media platforms didn’t realize what their creations could lead to. They openly wished their platforms were not being used for the wrong reasons and that they were not changing the psychological processes of our brain. 


We put way too much information about ourselves online, and every time we use any social media platform, we are being watched. Our data is being recorded based on everything we look at, how much time we spend on a certain post, and what ads actually catch our attention. 


Thinking about how the Tik Tok algorithm is gathering the most data about us all is so creepy. It got extremely specific for me, which I found entertaining until I watched that documentary.


After watching it, I decided to make four serious life changes. 


First, I deleted Tik Tok. This is unheard of today since Tik Tok is one of the biggest social media platforms right now. Hundreds of millions of people are on it and spend at least an hour on it every day. It constantly surrounds me because my roommates are obsessed with it. So, this was a difficult app to delete, but I knew it was the right thing to do.


I was honestly late to the Tik Tok craze to begin with, not downloading it until March of 2020. Since I only had it for a short amount of time anyway, I didn’t feel I had much to lose. Yes, it made me laugh and taught me some life hacks, but I knew I was wasting my time — time I could spend focusing on my school work, checking in on my family and friends, or reading a book. 


A second change I made was turning off my Snapchat notifications. We are all so drawn to our phone, shooting our eyes right over to it the second it lights up, and I don’t want to be that way. Snapchat notifications are useless and too frequent, anyway.


Another conscious decision I made because of this documentary was setting limits on Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. Those were my three most used social media platforms after deleting Tik Tok. This limit is set for one hour a day for each app. Once I reach that limit, my phone will automatically lock those apps so I don’t spend any more time on them.

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The last decision I made was to stop using my phone right before bed and right when I wake up. It is so bad for my eyes and my brain to be stimulated that late at night or that early in the morning. Instead of being on my phone, I read a book before going to bed now. I have always loved reading, but I strayed from it once social media, work and college homework got in the way.


Since making all of these changes in October, I have felt myself grow as a person. I no longer feel an overwhelming attachment to my phone, and I have had so much more time to focus on myself. I have been listening to mindful podcasts, reading a ton and focusing even more on my school work. 


I have seen only positive changes come out of these adjustments. My screen time, which used to be four to five hours a day, is now only two to three hours. I know this is still a decent amount of time, but compared to my old times, I am proud of this change. 


I used to specifically make time in my day to check social media, and it added so much pressure that I did not need. Without that pressure, I am so much less stressed. I now get all my planned school work done each day, and then I even have free time to do activities I want to do. Sometimes this includes spending time on my phone, but now with the amazing books I have been reading, I would choose a book over my phone. 


I also have more time to work out and actually prepare my own meals. When I was on my phone all the time, I found myself always trying to squeeze in a workout and then eating something quick that wasn’t healthy for me. Now, I have been taking care of my body even more by making more of my own nutritious, protein-filled meals.


I am less harsh on my body, too. No longer seeing those insanely skinny girls on Tik Tok has been very good for my own body image. Yes, there are still flawless bodies that I see on Instagram, but most of the accounts I follow are real people with real bodies who aren’t afraid to show their beautiful imperfections.

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 I am learning to love my stretch marks, my healthy extra weight, and my natural cellulite. I wouldn’t be anywhere close to this improvement if I had kept Tik Tok and still spent so much time on social media. 


I can be more present and listen better when my friends or family members need me. I don’t get distracted on my phone or by notifications as much anymore. So, I can look them in the eyes, make them feel seen, and give them the full attention they need. This is so important, and sometimes I wish my friends would do this more often for me. 


Being more present is especially helpful when I am with my family because I get to spend quality time with them. They used to always make jokes about me being glued to my phone and never being able to put it down. This was so true back then, and now looking back on it, I’m upset I took those times with them for granted. I didn’t take advantage of having my family altogether because I selfishly thought my phone was more important. 


Although making these life changes hasn’t been the easiest thing — and I do miss knowing all the Tik Tok trends — I am so glad I did it. I feel so much better off. My outlook on life, my body, my relationships and my education has greatly changed for the better. 


Now, I’m not saying this is something everyone has to do, but it is definitely something to consider. After hearing the positive effects these changes had on me and watching “The Social Dilemma” documentary, I am sure you’ll at least want to try it. With the right amount of willpower and self-control, you will benefit from these changes and be grateful you made them in the long run.

Marlena is a fourth-year in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications at Penn State where she is majoring in Public Relations and minoring in Psychology and Digital Media Trends & Analytics. She is so grateful to be at Penn State and loves learning more about communications, her peers, and herself every day. She hopes to use this knowledge and her own positive outlook to help others in any way she can.
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