The Clichés Are True

I had been drowning in social media all the time. We’ve heard people from all walks of life complain how social media has “brought us chaos” and “we should start a social media detox right away.” But to me, those remarks just sounded like every other inspiring sermon made by anti-social-media enthusiasts. I thought these suggested reforms only applied in extreme cases, but I never thought it would apply to me. After last spring quarter, I was upset that I didn’t obtain a satisfying GPA from my classes and it didn’t seem like I succeeded in my social life either. I scrutinized what I thought was my newly-ruined life. “So, what was I doing the whole time if I didn’t achieve anything?” I thought to myself. I tried to have this question answered by outside factors to lessen any personal guilt about what I did or did not do that quarter. 

Then I realized the true answer was so simple that it freaked me out. I just couldn’t remember. I forgot where I devoted my time and strength to. The cause might be the insipid routine I kept repeating for months: I went to class, had lunch, chatted with friends, went home, and this started all over again the next day. Or did I actually experience something enjoyable, but there was a mysterious force holding me back from fully living my life? If so, it was truly hurting me both in academics and personal relationships.

To resuscitate my poor grades, I enrolled in a summer session for school to win back my dignity and confidence (yes, I used to be pretty proud!). Instagram, Facebook, and Wechat (Chinese social media) played a robust role in my everyday life as usual. But things already fell apart in the first half. When midterms came around, I failed an exam in the class I initially assumed I would do well in. I cried over two hours that night while venting to a friend and came to the realization that my focus on social media might be the reason for my previous problems. When I wasn’t studying, I was on my phone scrolling through posts. When I took the initiative to study, my mind was too distracted by what I read earlier from others’ comments. I unconsciously spent more time on social media than more important activities because I have surrounded myself within myself.

I then deleted all the apps as a test. I still lived through mindless routine, minusthe unnecessary picture taking to show my friends how colorful the sky is or going to an event only to update my “fancy” social life online. I was my own real-life case study.

Eventually, it worked! My grades at the end of the summer session were such an improvement from before. However, that small achievement wasn’t convincing enough for me to say “adieu” to Instagram for good. But ironically enough, I flew back to China where Instagram and Facebook were banned, and I couldn’t even find them on App Store. I was then forced to live a Spartan life without social media for two months…and the result was thrilling. 

I was able to listen and comprehend my mom’s frequent wise words despite her discourse and grammar being a little broken. I acknowledged that I hadn’t really developed the ability to understand them until my distraction was removed. Ridiculously, I also never considered my mom to be a modest philosopher as she taught me important life lessons. Was there an increase in my IQ? Maybe not this time. It was simply because my heart was emptied by eliminating useless stuff. During this time, I accepted more advice and processed a moral synthesis within myself.

When I indulged myself in a self-abusive form of socializing, it was costly. I sacrificed my study and in-depth communication with others by playing a perfect social figure even when I knew I was far from being perfect. Today, I have Instagram on my phone again, but my consciousness now alerts me to construct a healthy relationship with it.