As millennials, we have a strong dependence on our phones and the Internet. We are always connected—maintaining contact with everyone we meet, sharing where and what we’re doing, always knowing what everyone is up to, and showing the world how amazing our lives are. Social media is an essential yet unhealthy part of every millennial’s life. Recently, I read a study that said that an alarming number of teenagers suffer from depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem all thanks to our addiction to social media. I personally know that I have a high dependence on my phone and my social media accounts (and not just because my mom reminds me that I’m always on it). There is not a morning that goes by that I don’t wake up and the first thing I do is grab my phone and check all my accounts. So, I decided to log myself out of all my social media accounts for a week (and I mean all of them): Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter. After I conducted this experiment and made some research about the subject, I reached the following conclusions:
#1: Social media addiction is as real as any other addiction.
Originally, this experiment was supposed to last one month, but abruptly quitting all my social media accounts made me extremely anxious to the point where I would bite my nails and find myself trembling from anxiety. I had to reduce the challenge to only one week. Minutes felt like hours, hours felt like days, and days felt like months. It’s almost scary to see how dependent we all are to something so meaningless.
#2: I was completely lost about what was going on around me.
We all know that social media is a good source to get our news from. During the week, I was disconnected. I had no idea what was going on around me, around the university, around Puerto Rico, and around the world. I actually felt kind of stupid when I would hear people in my classrooms and on campus talk about things that I had missed during the week, and it made me realize that so many things happen daily around the world that it’s amazing how we can keep tabs on everything.
#3: My social life was greatly affected.
Even though I did not cut off WhatsApp or text messages, I still felt lost between my friends. They would continue to talk about the funny Snapchat one of them sent on the group chat or about that meme we all got tagged on Facebook, or even the funny tweet someone posted, and I had no idea what any of it was. I would even find myself missing out on any plans to go out with them since it would be discussed on one of the group chats or it would be a random DM that said “You want to go out to eat?”
Even though I was only offline for one week, my dating life was affected greatly. We don’t meet our next lover the old fashioned way, sharing stares and shy smiles. Now, we simply slide into the person’s DM on social media and start a conversation that eventually may lead to a relationship. So, when I stopped posting for a week, I would not receive the discrete DM after posting a bomb selfie or posting a funny tweet. And how to forget how leaving social media affected my relationship with my family? Being so addicted to social media, my mother became anxious when she didn’t see me post anything, my brother got mad at me for not liking his recent selfie, and my grandmother called me several times because I didn’t see or write “Amen” at the chain message she sent me via Messenger. My social life was completely altered during that week. However, it also made me realize that nowadays most interactions are completely based on our online personas and, out of the 10 things I would talk about with just about anyone, eight of them were related to social media. The stories told among people are less about personal experiences and more about “I saw this online,” which is actually really sad to realize.
#4: I stopped multitasking.
As any student that has multiple extracurricular activities (or that simply can’t stay still for a moment), I find myself multitasking about 75% of my day. During the week that I was offline, I noticed that I wasn’t rushing to do everything at the same time, as I would normally do. I was also working much more efficiently and didn’t feel as pressured as usual. At first, I didn’t see how this was related to my usage of social media, but then I noticed it was because I had a tendency to juggle what I was supposed to be doing with snapchatting and tweeting about it. I also felt less pressure to do my tasks because I finally had time to do everything calmly; I wasn’t spending endless and empty hours online. During my week offline I was completely dedicated to my studies, my puppy, and generally just taking care of myself and those around me.
#5 My mental health was getting better.
When you live with a dependency on your social media accounts, you find yourself trying to share a better version of yourself. On Twitter, we try to sound wittier; on Instagram, we try to look prettier; on Snapchat, we try to look more interesting, and so on. During my week offline, I found myself enjoying the little things I did without worrying about having to post where I was, without trying to take nice pictures and spending hours editing them, and without looking for ways to sound more clever. I would simply enjoy what I was doing and the company of those around me. It was as if I had zero pressure to try to be perfect; I was just me. My mental health was also getting better because I didn’t feel the need to stalk those I envied or those who had hurt me, I didn’t need to compare my life to others’ and I didn’t feel the need to impress anyone. Also, my Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) had completely disappeared—if I can’t see what is going on, how can I feel like I’m missing out? And, as I said before, having so much free time made me invested into treating myself and dedicating time to my mental health and self-care.
#6: I noticed how much social media glamorizes alcohol, drug use, and careless lifestyles.
I actually noticed this before during my research phase of this experiment, before I went offline. One of the articles I was reading mentioned how social media glamorized all the wrong things and, during my week offline, I took some time to analyze this. When was the last time you went out to Las Calles and didn’t post a snap (or several) of what you were drinking, showing off your dancing, and being completely drunk? I’m guilty of doing this. I would post an endless amount of pictures of me acting completely ridiculous only to regret it next morning, yet it is still socially admired. You are considered cooler and more interesting when you post about your reckless lifestyle and unhealthy habits (in all aspects, be it toxic relationships, drug/alcohol use, slut shaming, cyber bullying, etc.) and it is really unsettling to perpetuate this kind of behavior all because we want to get more likes and followers. Sure, social media is fun and a great way to express ourselves; whether it’s sharing videos of something everyone can laugh at, being able to go back so easy and admire how much we have grown, or even something as simple as using social media to get to know people and have them get an idea of who you are and who you want to be. We all have to accept that, as millennials, social media will be around for a long time. So, why not live my life in the best and healthiest way possible without completely obsessing over social media?