Five things I found when I deleted my social media

I deleted social media for a week; my life transformed in five ways.

In the millennial-dominated age of memes and never-ending media, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter seem like necessities for college students. These applications can be life-savers. As I meet countless new people and move away from family and friends, the novelty of being able to literally hold my dearest relationships in the palm of my hand is invaluable. Media has so much to offer — from communication to entertainment and literally everything in between. I do, however, spend a lot of time on my phone. Too much, probably, and I know I am not the only one. As a freshmen, my transition into college life hasn’t been the easiest. I found myself wanting to cling to my life back home, and I could do so easily through social media. The amount of time I spent staring at my screen really was not compatible with the increasing workload I was getting from my classes. On top of this, seeing picturesque feeds and the seemingly perfect lives my friends were living back home or at their respective colleges made me feel like I was alone in the stress that I’ve been feeling. My phone often-times drained my happiness. After realizing this, I felt compelled to intervene and make a change. As an experiment to see how my productivity and overall attitude would change, I deleted Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for a week. Here’s what I found:

My productivity skyrocketed

I had far fewer distractions or ways of wasting time and ended up doing my work much more efficiently. If I had no reason to grab my phone and get distracted from my work, I didn’t. It sounds simple, but it took deleting the apps for me to see just how distracting they truly were. I was getting more work done faster and having more free time to spend with my friends or read a good book. We all complain about how overloaded we are, but maybe the answer is simple. My first semester of college is moving fast. I regularly struggle with time management and often find my workload unmanageable. Though the amount of work that I had to do didn’t change during this week, the time it took me to complete the work was actually shortened quite drastically. I knew I wasted time on my phone, but I didn’t realize just how much until I had that extra time tangibly quantified for me.

My sleep scheduled loved it

Besides having extra time from getting work done more quickly, I stopped using my phone so much before falling asleep. Like most millennials, I scroll through social media for a little bit when I wake up and when I go to bed — bookending my days. It has become part of my routine, but in not doing it, I found that I fell asleep much earlier and got out of bed earlier too. Eliminating this overlooked screen time really improved my sleeping habits, carrying over into my days.

We use social media because we are bored

Almost every time I opened my phone with the intention of going on Twitter, it was because I was bored. Whether it be boredom from reading for class, waiting in line for food, or sitting in a room with friends who were not conversing, I reached for my device. I rarely found myself going on my phone because it was what I actually wanted to be doing. Social media is a powerful tool for connection. Why, then, do we use it as a means of distraction? My thought process was always: I want to see what’s happening on Twitter rather than reading for class, instead of simply I want to see happening on Twitter. The distinction is crucial: I rarely really just want to be on Twitter, I just want to be doing it more than something else, which is a horrible justification for doing something.

There is a real, social world beyond our screens

I’d also frequently reach for my phone in social situations in which the people around me were already scrolling. This was quite frustrating– I was the only one really present in any given situation. If I’d had the ability to open up Instagram and scroll too, I probably would have, but since I didn’t, I talked to the people around me more. While we now have this brilliant ability to connect with people around the globe within seconds through a slim glass screen, we must not lose the importance in engaging with people when we are physically with them. Being present with those around us is very rewarding, as we are able to learn from each other in ways we can never learn from a screen. We can talk to virtually anyone at any time, and as such, much of the virtue of real human interaction has essentially become overlooked.

My self confidence soared

I find myself comparing my life with the girls on my instagram feed more than I’d like to. I know that I’m not alone in doing this. From looks to lifestyle, I have a really hard time breaking this habit of constant comparison. While I know it isn’t healthy, it is innately human and social media feeds into this.

Teddy Roosevelt once said that“comparison is the thief of joy” and I full heartedly agree.

Letting your self-perception be clouded by how you see other people is disheartening, and by eliminating my ability to do this on social media, I couldn’t compare, and I was definitely happier.

After the week was over, I did re-downloaded the apps. I know, it seems like a waste because my life improved so much after deleting it, but I redownloaded with a new purpose. Honestly, in today’s world, I felt left out of my friends’ lives without having the ability to see what was going on through posts. Perhaps this is the reality of 2018. Maybe FOMO is unavoidable. All of my closest friends live hundreds of miles away from me and social media is the tool  that lets me stay connected. But this experiment made me shift my focus to that incredible aspect of social media–the connection. I went through and cleaned out my follow list on Instagram so I’m only seeing content I genuinely care about. I set restrictions on my phone limiting the time I can have certain apps open. When I do open the app, I make a conscious effort to think about my motivation behind doing so. I don’t think social media is bad. That is not what I got out of this experiment; I think that it can facilitate bad habits, but it also provides incredible grounds for connectivity and a creative outlet. The key for me will be in balancing appropriate use of social media without letting the negativity creep into my life.

Julia is a freshman majoring in journalism. She enjoys writing about current events and social issues. Originally from Big Sky, Montana, she loves spending free time outside with friends hiking or skiing, as well as dabbling in art and playing piano.