I Took a Week Off of Social Media... Here's What Happened

I. Loved. It.

Let's back it up to the beginning though. Around three months ago, I returned to therapy to continue treatment for my anxiety. Everything was going great, but I still felt like I didn't have complete control over myself. I noticed that anytime I opened my phone, I ended up looking at it for hours. It was completely unhealthy. I approached my therapist about it, and she explained it to me plain and simple: looking at your phone increases your anxiety. That's it. Duh.

The very next day, I tried to be more cognizant of it. I didn't make any attempt to change my habits yet, but to just be aware of them. When I began paying attention to all the time I was giving to my phone, it started to scare me. Wake up, check emails and socials for half an hour. Head to breakfast, watch YouTube while I eat. Walking to class, checking socials again. Trying to do homework, watching TikToks instead. It was disgusting me!

The next week, I returned back to therapy and asked her what it is I should do. She said, "in order for you to change your habit, I think you will need an external source forcing you to quit this addiction." What she meant was, she didn't think I should use my own motivation to try and reduce my screen time - because I didn't actually want to. If I trusted the task with myself, I would end up talking myself into rationalizing the hours spent on my phone, and ultimately fail. What she said I should do instead is to set app timers on my phone, that way when my phone (the outside source) notified me my time is up, I'd be just a little more likely to listen. And she was right! It was slow at first, I would keep overriding the notification and continuing on with my bingeing - but after a while, I began listening.

It felt good too! It genuinely felt good to speak to myself, saying, "you've had enough of your phone for right now. Give your attention to something more meaningful, like your friends or your work." I could feel myself being more mindful with what I was doing with my electronics, making sure to spend each minute allowed wisely.

But I couldn't stop there.

I was still spending too much time on my social medias. And I wanted to take this screen time restriction strategy one step further. I decided I was going to delete all of my social medias off of my phone completely for one entire week. I'd signed out of one or two apps before this, but never completely deleted every app off of my device... It was so much harder than I thought it would be! It wasn't that I had the undying urge to get back on the socials (redownload... re-sign in... too much work), it was just that I would end up looking for the app without even knowing. It was like a tic. I would wake up, grab my phone, and immediately open my empty "Socials" folder, confused as to where all my apps had gone...

After a few days, that settled down as well. I began catching myself as soon as the thought entered my mind, saying, "Hmm, I wonder what Insta- NO. No socials." It was a quicker reaction every time. On top of all of this progress, I was also gaining this sense of pride. I told you, Dad. I'm not as addicted as you say I am. And by the end of the week, I wasn't even thinking about them anymore!! It was like ignorant bliss. I went my entire last two days without even wondering what my old high school pals posted on Instagram, or what new funny memes were posted to Twitter. It was then I realized, social media is toxic.

I always heard that and took it lightly, thinking they just meant following people - hotter than you, richer than you, happier than you - is toxic. I thought I'd remedied that by unfollowing all the negative, rude, and spiteful people in my life. But the doctors all meant something way worse. Social media, in any form, all on its own, is innately...Toxic. Just having that outlet to scroll through, that stimulus to numb your brain for a few hours, it's so incredibly unhealthy. We like and tweet and comment, over and over, just to distract ourselves. We forget how to be with our minds. We lose the ability to sit in a quiet room for more than a minute without reaching for our phones to fill the uncomfortable silence. We don't want to accidentally make eye contact. We don't want to look bored. We don't want to seem awkward, sitting there, just staring at our surroundings (god forbid). It was all this I was noticing once I began only using my phone as a necessity. My friends, my family - they were all using their phone and their apps as an escape.

Delete your socials. For one week, for one month. See how long you can really do it for. I've challenged a few of my heavily addicted friends to do this, and not one has made it a week yet. You'll thank me.