I Did A Week Long Social Media Cleanse. Here's What I Learned.

I did a media cleanse during the spring semester. Going back to the grind of school was a rough adjustment for me. I felt like I didn’t have time for the things I used to love, such as reading and art, or even time to make trips to the gym. After looking at my phone analytics, I realized the massive amount of time I spend on social media. In an effort to refocus on my passions and my current goals, I decided it would be really healthy for me to do a social media cleanse for one week and track my progress with daily reflections. Here's the story of my journey.



I started to notice the amount of time I spend on social apps while using an app called Discord. Discord is a group chat app oriented towards people who play video games together. I realized how often I check to see if people are online, what they’re playing, and even find myself tempted to push away my homework to get online as well. I decided to delete it. This is something I’ve done before in an effort to focus on my work, but I usually end up redownloading it by the time I go home. Next, I realized I found myself moving to the next distraction, Snapchat. Whether it was testing out filters, watching stories I don’t even care about, or falling into the deepest hole of reading the pointless discover articles, I was largely wasting my time and distracting myself from work. I deleted Snapchat, then quickly followed suit with Instagram and Twitter for similar reasons. After leaving the library I immediately felt the effect on the bus ride home. I realized I never just sit on the bus and listen to music and relax. It’s like I constantly need to be doing something on my phone. However, without social media I had no clue what to do.



Today I definitely felt the difference. I realized as I worked through my math homework that every time I would get to a hard problem I would instinctively grab my phone. Once I remembered I didn’t have any social media to quickly distract myself with I was forced to return to the problem. I had never realized I formed this habit of checking my phone while I study, and I can only imagine how much time I’ve wasted when I could have gotten through my work more efficiently and left the library earlier. Later in the day, I really felt the absence of social media when I got to class early. I typically arrive 15 minutes early and get a good seat. This time, when I got there I realized I had no idea what to do with those 15 minutes. I looked around me and most people were scrolling through twitter or other apps. I opened up a drawing app on my iPad, and was surprised at how full of a sketch I could flesh out in the time before class started. I was really excited because I haven’t spent a lot of time on art recently and it’s always been one of my passions.



Today I didn’t notice as much of a difference, I don’t know if it’s because I was busier or I’m just adjusting, but it wasn’t really that difficult to stay off social media. I spent the day running from appointments to classes and finally clubs, not leaving much time for me to be sitting around missing social media, so other then when I was doing homework and wanted a distraction I didn’t really feel the difference. Something funny happened in one of my clubs though, when the show the Bachelor was brought up and I mentioned I hadn’t watched the finale yet. They asked me how I haven’t had it spoiled by social media yet, and I responded “I don’t know...actually” and then I remembered I had deleted everything. It’s funny because I hadn’t thought about all the current events that I keep up with through things like Twitter. I feel almost out of the loop of all the entertainment industry related news that my peers are talking about. In addition, I was listening to a podcast and they mentioned a person I haven’t heard of before, and my instinct was to look up their Instagram. Then I remembered I can’t do that right now, and I realized how often I use Instagram to learn about new people. Even though I waste so much times on these apps looking at pointless things, I use them as a way to stay informed about current events as well. 



Today was another super busy day for me. I’m starting to remember there’s no point in grabbing my phone as I go through homework. Other than that, the lack of social media didn’t really affect me in a way that I was bored or lost without it. I did notice a couple things that were inconvenient. There were a few interactions today where I had wished I had Snapchat to capture the memory. I’m all for living in the moment and I think that I have definitely done that more without social media, but sometimes there are things I wish I could save the memory of. I did use my camera instead of Snapchat, but I like a lot of features Snapchat offers, like the memories section. Another thing that I realized is I haven’t talked to some specific friends since this whole thing started. I realized that we often communicate through social media apps only, whether it be a quick picture over Snapchat, or sending a meme through Instagram. I sort of miss these quick and easy check-ins with my friends that I don’t see all that often. It’s almost easier and more light hearted then starting a text conversation. On the other hand, I found myself at the end of the day with the time and desire to call one of these more distant friends and catch up. I don’t think I would have had time or the idea without having had this break from social media to reflect on who exactly is important to me. 



Friday is usually the day I spend awhile at the library catching up on all the assignments I planned to get done earlier in the week so I can enjoy the weekend and go out, but I found this Friday I had had a genuinely productive week. I had time to go the gym in the middle of the day and recently I’ve read about the positive effects working out can have on your health and mind. I also felt less guilty when I went to a party that night, because this whole week I worked really hard to deserve it. I did notice when I went out that a lot of people were using Snapchat and I again missed capturing the memories, but I just used my real camera instead and kept the pictures and videos just for myself. Honestly that is how I use Snapchat a lot, saving things for myself to look back at later, so it wasn’t a big deal to me that I didn’t have the application. 



Something I realized today while I tried to get work done in my apartment is there’s always other ways to procrastinate. I found myself in an endless hole of YouTube videos and then working on art for hours. It was the weekend so that's okay, but I realized no matter how many things you delete there's always another distraction. With less things to do I sort of missed scrolling through Instagram and Twitter just to see what’s going on with people in the world around me. The problem is there is a line between casually using these apps and letting them distract you from your responsibilities. I think especially with Discord, I was having trouble with that line recently, but now that I’ve seen how productive I can be without them I will be more mindful. 



Today I spent my time, surprise, catching up on work and studying. Once again, I’ve felt way more focused and productive recently. On these long days, though, I do wish I had something to look at for a quick break from work. I don’t want to break long enough for a whole TV show, to get sucked into a book, or start any art- I just need a quick break, which I think social media was perfect for. It’s just really important to stay mindful of how long you make that break and not to get sucked in for too long. In addition, a big problem was I wasn’t only using social media for breaks, but immediately checking when ever I received a notification. 


The End

Today ends my week break from social media. Overall it really wasn’t that hard. I would say I mostly noticed an increase in focusing on myself and my productivity. I did miss having something to take a quick break from work, to catch up with what's going on in the world around me, and stay causally connected to some of my friends. I decided for now to just reinstall Twitter because I can do all of those things with Twitter without getting too distracted or carried away. I will eventually reinstall other things but I really like how this past week has felt with focusing on myself and my education.