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Discovering the benefits of a social media cleanse

My week-long experience without social media

Students today are spending more of their social life on their digital devices. | Photo Credit: Eli Smith

Eight hours. That number rang in my head. It continued to ring until it turned into a statement: “eight hours wasted.”

A few months ago, Apple introduced a new feature to the iPhone - something called Screen Time. I realized that I could see where I spent my time in certain apps. Interested, I clicked on it, and that is where I saw the number. Over the last nine days, I had averaged around eight hours of screen time on social media per day.

Eight hours wasted. It kept ringing, almost like an alarm—like a wake up call. Something needed to change. I realized how spending so much of my time on social media was affecting my social and mental health. I was so engulfed in my phone and what other people had to say that I was losing focus on school and personal fitness. My girlfriend felt similar about the time being wasted behind a screen, so we brainstormed the idea to take a week off from social media. At first, the idea made me skeptical because social media was such a big part of my life, and I had never gone without it for that long of a time. I slept on the idea, and with some mental support, I finally gave in and was ready to try it out.

We decided to start that Sunday and go to the following Sunday. I immediately felt the effects of a mental addiction as soon as I deleted the apps, for I caught myself not five minutes later pulling my phone out of my pocket to check for notifications. It was at that moment I knew it would be a long week.

The first couple of days were the hardest, as you would expect. I found myself wondering if it was really worth it. I mean, how bad would it be if I just got on for a couple of minutes? But I knew deep down that's not what I should do.

To keep those cravings in check, I was reading more—whether it be books I had to read for classes or just reading for fun. The effects of setting down the phone and picking up a book to read right before going to bed really makes a huge difference in falling asleep. When I wasn't looking into a bright LCD screen before trying to fall asleep, I fell asleep much faster and slept better throughout the night. Reading was such an awesome substitute to put in place of my phone that I could almost feel myself becoming more intelligent by just reading for multiple hours every day.

As the week progressed, I felt myself slowly breaking free of my social media addiction. I was thinking about it less and doing healthier substitute activities in place, such as working out twice a day and going for runs. I would even leave my phone at home while going out, which is something I would normally never do. The physical control you get back after becoming social media free is not the only rewarding thing. The mental satisfaction I got, and the thought of how my self-control has improved, was a very powerful thing.

Even school got easier for me because I was on my phone less in class and it wasn't distracting me at night from doing homework. I felt in control of my school life during my week cleanse.

When the following Sunday had come around and it was time to re-download my social media apps, I was surprised to not be in any hurry to re-download and I almost didn’t do it. The days following my re-download of social media apps were extraordinary. Even though I had the power back in my hands to go on social media, I found I wasn’t using it as much. I didn’t feel the need to, and that was a really good feeling. I felt in control, and everyone likes control whether they will admit it or not. I learned during my week off of social media that sometimes it is good to set down the phone and look up to observe the world around you because it can teach you many valuable things.


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