Chronicles of a Social Media Cleanse

On a particularly off day last week, I was mindlessly scrolling through my Instagram feed when it hit me. The wasted minutes of my life that I had given the app were spent looking at and doing absolutely nothing meaningful. Hence, the dullness and off feeling in my mindset. Usually, the realization that I spend entirely way too much time on my phone would be pummeled by a notification, which would then distract me long enough to forget that I cared in the first place. I’m a 19-year-old girl, so cut me some slack.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m obsessed with my phone and more specifically, social media. I’m sure some of you read that and are thinking, “Join the club.” I know — It’s 2019 and we all care very much about our online presence. But it became a real issue for me when I was checking my phone in situations that I should have been engaging with the people right in front of me. You know that face-to-face communication that our parents are always reminiscing about, “before the birth of the smartphone”? I needed more of that. So, in an attempt to regain presence in my own life and relationships, I deleted the Twitter, Instagram and Facebook apps off my phone for a week (okay, it was 6 days) cleanse.

What did I learn? I care way too much about what’s happening when I’m not constantly checking my feed. I’m talking serious FOMO over here. Perhaps the largest takeaway I gathered from the cleanse is that the Tweets and posts aren’t going to grow legs and walk away. The real-life moments with friends and family, however, do grow legs and walk away, which is why I cleansed in the first place. And honestly, the desire to check my socials fleeted. There would be plenty of time to catch up once I wasn’t in the presence of another human being. Mathematically speaking, I can think of about a million times that I was on my phone (mind you, doing nothing important on it) while sitting with a group of friends. At that point, we may as well all go home and FaceTime in our respective loneliness. I just wanted to get better at giving my relationships the attention they deserved and deleting those apps was a large step in the right direction.

Deleting three apps from my phone wasn’t equivalent to powering my phone off entirely or throwing my phone on the ground declaring I was going into tech-hiding. Again, 19-year-old over here. But I can confidently say that it was refreshing to go about my days without the pressure to update my followers who, logistically speaking, would survive without a photo of my breakfast on their timelines. Sharing my day-to-day experiences turned into one-on-one conversations, and I liked that change.The most shocking factor of the cleanse was how little I missed being on social media, considering my prior level of interest. When I did reinstall the apps, it felt a little bit like betrayal. To who, I’m not sure. But I think that feeling is just a sign that the cleanse did its job in slapping me in the face with the reality that social media is way less important than I was making it seem. All clichés aside, living in the moment is pretty cool.

Overall, there was just a distraction subtracted from my life in that week that allowed me to breathe a bit. Every time I felt the urge to click on one of the absent apps out of boredom, I thought of a better way to spend my time and mind space, like returning to my homework or replying to a text from a friend. Because as easy as it is to get sucked into a Facebook viral video hole, I do enjoy being productive and present sometimes. I’m still going to post when I experience something cool and wanna share, but I might stop and tell someone about it in person before shoving my nose in my phone. Baby steps, people.