Digital detox: a week without social media


Photo by Photo used with permission of[email protected]/40105811555

According to research published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, keeping your social media use down to only 30 minutes a day can lead to better mental health outcome. So I tried to go a week without using any social media.

Parul Pari, Magazine Editor-in-Chief

The alarm clock goes off and the first thing I grab for is my phone. I waste another 10 minutes, catching up on everything I missed while I was asleep. I do my daily rounds of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat and eventually, muster up enough courage to get out of bed. 

 Ever since I got Snapchat in 7th grade, social media has become an essential part of my life. I checked all my apps every day and never really thought much about it. The idea to take a week off of social media was not rooted in any huge event that changed my perspective on all of life, in fact, it was made on a whim one night because I just wanted to test my mental strength to determine whether I was actually addicted to social media or not. I decided to delete Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and Tik Tok: the apps that were previously taking up more than 4 hours total every single day. 

According to an article by the Washington Post, as of 2015 “Teens are spending more than one-third of their days using media such as online video or music — nearly nine hours on average, according to a new study from the family technology education non-profit group.” I had attempted to do this last year, amid the stress of junior year, however, it was unsuccessful and I lasted hardly 3 days without using Snapchat. I was so afraid to be disconnected from my friends that I even had one of my best friends keep my streaks. This year, I decided it was time to actually commit to the challenge and I was so determined that I ended the longest streak on Snapchat I had, 1050 days. This means that for approximately 2.8 years I had gone on Snapchat every single day.

Monday: The first day was extremely hard for me to stick with the challenge because I had a subconscious desire to redownload my social media apps. I would actively think about how I could not use the apps I deleted, which made me want to use them even more. I even gave in to the urge to go on Instagram through Safari because I felt the need to check it. As for my mood, I was not as energetic as I usually am and I felt disconnected from communication with my friends. I also found it hard to stay busy and keep myself constantly mentally stimulated.

Tuesday: The second day of this challenge was equally as hard as the first, if not harder. Each day seemed to drag on and I had a lot more time on my hands to give to other aspects of my life. At this point, the curiosity started to kick in and I began to wonder if people were contacting me. I could not stop thinking about everything I was missing. My mood mimicked what I had experienced on the first day, however, I attempted to remedy my bad mood by using my extra time to go to the gym.

Wednesday: On the third day I began to really notice how much I check social media in the downtimes of my day. For example, I went to the gas station to fill up the tank in my car and even for the 5 minutes that it took my tank to fill up, I had no idea what to do. I would usually swipe my way through some posts on Instagram, but now I didn’t have the crutch of keeping myself entertained through social media. By this point in my challenge, I began to really appreciate all the extra time I had and I started to talk more to the friends who I actually wanted to spend time talking to. I found myself a lot more focused in class and I was able to get more done each period.

Thursday: On the fourth day my journey took an unexpected turn. By this point in the challenge, I thought I would have been more upbeat and energetic as I followed the trend of the previous day. However, I found myself feeling isolated. I felt as though I had no contact with the rest of the world, which is weird because I could still text people. I kept on talking myself into redownloading the apps by finding excuses for how I absolutely had to get Snapchat out of pure necessity. Luckily I stayed strong and did not break all the progress I had made thus far.

Friday: By the fifth day I was feeling a lot more upbeat and I was very focused on every task I had to complete. I took a deep dive into my college applications and completed a lot more supplemental essays in a shorter amount of time because I did not have as many distractions. I definitely felt as though I was out of the loop, but at this point, I did not mind.

Saturday: On the sixth day, I went to a local coffee shop to sit down and get some more of my college applications finished and without social media, I was forced to interact with so many more people than I previously would have. I had a great conversation with the person at the table next to me and I was in an all-around great mood. I did not even have the desire to redownload any apps and I was not even thinking about this challenge at all.

Sunday: On the last day of my digital detox I was feeling incredible. This journey forced me to spend more time with my thoughts and focus on every aspect of my life individually. I went to bed a lot earlier than I usually do because I did not have to stay up and finish assignments.

My Final Verdict:

I went into this week hoping to create more mental clarity in my life because I had recently felt myself slipping into a state of constantly judging myself against other people. I felt myself relying more on my phone to have interactions, but at the same time using my phone as a crutch to avoid real-life interactions. The cycle happens subconsciously: you continuously see people posting about their lives on these apps and you end up comparing yourself with them and hope to emulate them in some form in your own life. 

From my perspective, I think that my deep desire to constantly check social media was rooted in a FOMO, which is the fear of missing out, and in turn, I was actually missing out on so much of real-life interactions. I no longer view social media as a necessity, however, I don’t see social media as a completely toxic environment. It can be an avenue of expression for many people and allow people to connect on things they are passionate about. Once social media starts becoming a toxic environment for you or you start to rely too heavily on social media, however, I think it is extremely beneficial to take a detox week without it. A byproduct of this experiment has been I have been spending a significantly less amount of time on my phone. I actually enjoyed this experiment so much that I think I am going to try to make it a whole month without using these apps.