What I Learned from Giving Up Social Media for 46 Days

Allow me to give some explanation as to why I gave up social media for 46 days. I am a practicing Catholic, and I’m sure you know that Easter has recently passed. In preparation for Easter, we have 40 days of Lent and this time is often spent partaking in a self-chosen sacrifice. Where did the 6 days come from, you ask? There’s no need to get into the logistics of Lent but the fact of the matter is that I chose to give up social media for the 46 days. I came up with this idea back in January and if I’m completely honest, the day before I had to begin, I was having serious second thoughts about what I was doing. Still, I had to stick with what I felt I was meant to do and tough it out. Honestly, it didn’t come out so bad…

 

So here were the rules I made for myself:

  1. From March 6-April 20 I will give up social media
  2. “Social Media” as in no Twitter, no Instagram, no Snapchat, no Facebook.
  3. Pinterest and VSCO are the only social media-like apps that are permitted
  4. I am allowed to look at something if a friend wants to show me, but I cannot use the phone itself and interact with the platform
  5. Any emails from these platforms must immediately be deleted and cannot be opened/read

 

The fact that I had to come up with rules made this whole sacrifice even more daunting. This was something so far out of my comfort zone because I rely on social media a lot and my sacrifices of years past had never been this extreme. This came at a time in my life where I really needed a break from it, too. It’s so important to get our eyes and hands off of our phones all the time and see the amazing things that this world has to offer. After doing this, I think it’s something everyone should try for at least a short period of time. I learned a lot from this experience (and it shows by the length of the article, but I hope you don’t give up on me just yet). Without further ado, here are a few things I learned from my 46 days and some things that might inspire you to do the same…

 

1. You might actually get some work done

We use social media to fill the little voids of our days, but when you don’t have that to fall back on, you find that all those little voids build up, and now you have a lot of time to spare. When you can’t waste that time on social media, you have the opportunity to get work done. Even do work in advance (crazy concept, right?). I found myself valuing my time a lot more and using it to be more productive. In turn, I was less stressed about major assignments coming up because I had already started to chip away at a lot of them.

2. You will find other ways to procrastinate

You can use your time to get work done, but other times you still crave having a mindless activity to do. Scrolling through social media is typically our remedy for that. I found myself using Pinterest and VSCO a lot more because they were the only things that I let myself have. If I were to do this again, I’d probably not let myself use those. On the other hand, you can procrastinate by doing things that you genuinely enjoy. Things that are genuinely fulfilling for you. This leads me to my next point that…

3. You can get into good books, tv shows, and music

I never have time to watch tv or read books for pleasure, or so I thought. Remember those voids I mentioned earlier that build up and you suddenly have a lot of time? I decided to fill that time with reading. Yes, I read for my own enjoyment for the first time in maybe 4 years. (Side note: I read Fr. Matt’s book When God Wrecks your Romance and I highly recommend it, it’s super cute and wholesome). I did ask for tv show and movie recommendations prior to giving up social media, and though I did not get to all of it, I did find some awesome stuff. (Side note: I highly recommend Queer Eye on Netflix). I also had time to discover new music and make new Spotify playlists which are always a fun way to kill some time. (Final side note, I promise: listen to Ben Platt’s album Sing to me Instead for a phenomenal experience).

4. Very rarely did I miss it

I will be honest; it was incredibly hard at the beginning. I had so much time and I didn’t know what to do with it yet. It takes a lot of self-discipline to not give in and go check out what’s going on, but it gets easier as time goes on. I probably adjusted to life without it within a week. As time went on, I didn’t have a desire to go on social media anymore because I found better ways to spend my time. Yes, there were random nights where I had absolutely nothing to do and the thought of “if I had social media right now, I wouldn’t be this bored” would pop in my head, but you simply power through until you realize that there is probably something you could be doing. Towards the end of my 46 days, I honestly had no desire to go back on. Yeah, I was curious what it would look like and how many notifications I would have, but there was no part of me that truly wanted to go back on it. “I could easily live without it for the rest of my life,” I found myself saying often. Though I was intrigued about going back, I had a feeling I wouldn’t be spending as much time on it anymore.

5. You miss updating your finsta friends on the inconsequential aspects of your life

Leaving my finsta behind was something I was not looking forward to during this endeavor. My finsta was how I could update basically all of my friends on what’s going on in my life all at once. Needless to say, a lot of what I posted was incredibly inconsequential and mainly to make my friends laugh. When something funny would happen throughout the day, I couldn’t turn to my finsta to post about it. Without it, I could only share it with the people around me at that very moment. I started realizing how much I would have to tell the same story over and over again to different people, and I, of course, could never remember who I had told that story to before. Yes, my finsta gave me the easy way to get my stories out to all of my friends all at once, but there is something so special about being vulnerable in front of a real, living person. That person can connect with you on a deeper level and you can witness for yourself how much people truly care about you.

6. You realize who matters most in your life at this very moment in time

Being able to interact with the people that are in my life at this present moment was one of the most fulfilling parts of this entire experience. Social media has us wrapped up in the lives of our friends, our old friends, our distant relatives, and our neighbor’s cousin’s dog. Getting to see who texts you first or holds a conversation with you on a daily basis shows you who is in the forefront of your life. It’s so important to spend time with those people in the real world and get to know them on a deeper level. Being off of social media can make you realize who you truly miss having around. Social media can make us feel like we are still connected with them because, every once in a while, we throw a like on their latest post and move on. Being off of social media, I began realizing whose lives I genuinely cared about and wanted to find out how they were doing. Needless to say, there was a lot of people that I wanted to check up on, but I focused my energy on the people who were with me at that present moment, and getting to know them beyond the surface was such a blessing.

7. “I did not know it was your birthday, I’m so sorry”

I’m going to keep this one short. To be honest, my only use of Facebook is for birthday reminders. And um…I missed a few…

8. You can live without it. If something happens, you will find out about it.

This was one of my second thoughts the night before giving it up. I’ll be honest, Twitter was my main news source and from there, I’d do more research on the things that I was interested in. In my defense, I feel as though Twitter makes news funny because sitting down and watching the nightly news can be depressing and after a long day. Plus, news gets out into the world through social media instantly after happening or as it’s happening. I was worried I wasn’t going to know what’s going on fast enough. But the thing is, if something happens, you will find out about it. Being on a college campus, news spreads quickly through students and from there I could look into it for myself. Or let’s say it’s news from home-I’m absolutely sure your mom isn’t going to DM you if something bad happened. In short, if something happens, you will find out about it.

9. Social media is incredibly shallow

This is something we all know, but I’m going to argue that we don’t truly know it until and living for some time without our heads in our screens. This is something I didn’t realize until logging back in. This world is so much deeper and beautiful than we make it out to be, and I was blessed to spend 46 days witnessing it. We only ever post the good things in our lives. We even make fake Instagram accounts for a select group of people so we are able to acknowledge the bad stuff. Now, I’m not saying we should start a revolution and change the state of social media, because that will never happen, and it does have its good parts. We live in a society of comparisons and competition; therefore, we’re only ever going to show the best parts of ourselves. What I’m saying is that we should change our outlook on the world, ourselves, and the people around us. So much good can be found in surrounding yourself with people who love you for who you are. I’m blessed to have such amazing, wonderful friends who helped me to change my outlook. When we stop paying attention to the people online who have nothing to do with us, we can pay attention to the people and things that do matter to us. I got to know the people in my life on a deeper level-beyond the surface and past the superficial layer many of us put on. It proved to me that we all face and struggle with a lot of the same things and we are never alone. When we see this shallow view of the world through social media, where everything depends on followers and likes, we can feel so empty and alone. Being able to open my eyes to the world as it is, I got to see how intricate life is. There is so much beauty in the people placed in this world with us and in the world itself. Being able to take in nature for what it is and not post about it was so amazing. We all know the nights of beautiful sunsets that without a doubt will be posted on at least 30 Snapchat stories. But when is the last time you just took it in without reaching for your phone? When we’re not dependent on social media, we can see the people in our lives for who they truly are, and you can value them so much more. Social media isn’t inherently bad, and I’m not saying we should delete it all forever, but what I am saying is that we need to pay more attention to the real world and appreciate it while we’re still here.

 

To end this, I want to say congratulations for making it through this entire article and I hope you got something out of it. Go out into the world, tell your friends how much you love and appreciate them, make plans with people, love the world we live in, be your genuine self, and simply, live.