40 days without social media - what I learnt

April 16, 2017

I am addicted to social media.

Like many, I can spend countless hours scrolling aimlessly through Facebook, liking countless images on Instagram and watching ridiculously long snap-stories all in the aid of procrastination or boredom. And half the problem is that I didn't mean for this to happen. A quick check of a notification about a uni society would turn into a 2 hour scrolling marathon, a catchup of the latests Bubzvlogz video would turn into 20 then 30 videos and before long my afternoon's gone, and no I haven't started that essay yet... Something needed to change, and that change came along in the form of Lent. I like to challenge myself each Lent, so have moved away from giving up certain foods and gone for things that I know will be hard. Two years ago I gave up makeup, which was only hard on special occasions as I don't mind not wearing makeup in everyday situations so learnt nothing from it, and giving up YouTube last year didn't solve the problem because I just relied more heavily on other forms of social media to while away the hours.

This year it all went.

Facebook, Youtube, Snapchat, Instagram, the lot. And boy did I need it! Not only did I actually stick to my plan of getting 4 essays done in 4 weeks, but it was so freeing to be away from that superficial world of online. In fact, to prove how isolated I had been from that world, I just 're-entered' Instagram and when someone mentioned seeing Kylie at Coachella, my first thought was Kylie Minogue, not Kylie Jenner 😂 The rules were that the only thing I was allowed on was Facebook, but only to use messenger and to check updates about society things - as class timetables etc for dance rehearsals were posted on there. Everything else was out.

Anywho, these are the three things I learnt from not using social media for over 40 days:

1) Just because you have lost social media, doesn't mean you won't fill the gap.

As I knew that social media was a major way of me relaxing and taking breaks (I really need a craft to do in revision breaks - anyone got a good knitting pattern?), I knew I would need something to take it's place. Having become so aware of my isolation from the real world, the news specifically, while at University, I opted to download the BBC News app on my phone as something to read when bored or eating breakfast, or when ever I would normally use social media. What was interesting is that I ended up using it as if it was social media. I would spend ages scrolling through the feed like it was Facebook, and could easily spend an hour browsing through articles and videos. While having access to the news in this way was useful  - for instance I don't know how I would have found out about the London Bridge terror attack otherwise - the way I was treating it was fascinating. Have I become so addicted to using social media that when it is taken away from me I will make anything fill the gap? Am I so bored that I will read anything and everything? Without that app I don't know what I would have done to take a break from Uni work - even reading isn't a short task: when I get into a book I have to at least finish a chapter - just reading a couple of pages as a revision break doesn't work.

2) Not having social media will not only disrupt your life, but your friend's.

This was a massive sign about how connected us youths are. For instance, I couldn't get rid of Facebook messenger because it was such a major form of communication for me. Same thing with WhatsApp. But despite these leniencies, there were other ways that no social media for me was a nuisance for others. SnapChat was the major problem. When I got notifications telling me my friend had sent me a snap, I had to message them to tell them to WhatsApp me the picture if it was important, cause otherwise I'd never see it. Furthermore, any picture they put up on Snapchat of an event we were both at, I would have to ask them to send me separately so I had record of the picture, because I could no longer screenshot it. Furthermore, being part of dance shows this term meant meeting loads of new people. Only problem was, that when it came to adding me on social media to keep in touch, I had to explain to everyone that, no you can't snap my snap code because I don't have access to it right now, give me a minute to try and remember my username and I'll get back to you. But don't be alarmed when I don't accept it for a month. I won't see it for ages. Not only was it tiring for me to keep telling people that I had given up social media for Lent, but it was inconvenient for others too.  It almost seems that life relies on Facebook so heavily that to not have it is majorly disruptive.

3) I am addicted to social media

This was the hardest Lent ever. And it sounds pretty sad to say that to be honest. But those first fews weeks of going on Facebook to check a society's post and feeling the pull to start scrolling down the home screen was intense. Instagram is a new thing to me, so despite notifications I never felt the need to go on it. And without SnapChat I did ok. Youtube I'd done before so that was fine, apart from when I wanted to watch something for 5 minutes, but couldn't cause TV episodes are a minimum of 30 minutes long. But Facebook. Oh dear me. The pull to scroll, to see the rest of a post that would peep up when I went to check a room change for dance rehearsals was strong at the beginning. The temptation to go into it's depths was mad. Ridiculous even. You think I'm being hyperbolic. I'm really not. And I'm ashamed to say that. In fact, when I was bored and had run out of news articles to read, I would go on my society's pages and scroll down them with the guise of 'I'm looking for a particular post' *shakes head in shame*. Ultimately, social media is the ultimate boredom buster that I need to replace. I need a hobby away from screens (my poor eyes) that I can dip in and out of (you think I was joking about knitting?!) instead of reading pointless clickbait posts.

I think one of the reasons we spend hours on social media is because - and why I struggle to replace it - it is such a short, simple task. Reading one post takes max 5 seconds. Then you're onto the next one. A photo on Instagram, 2 seconds. A 4 minute YouTube video? That's nothing out of your day until you watch 10. Who cares if it isn't interesting? 20 seconds later and you've found one that does interest you, and before you know it you are googling something random and trying to workout how the heck you got there in the first place. Other pastimes don't work like that. They aren't 10 second snippets you can dip in and out of, but meaningful tasks you have to dedicate time and effort to. Therefore, until I find something decent to replace it with, I think I might be destined for the same path of pointless scrolling that I was struggling with before Lent. In fact, with the my BBC news feed not going anywhere I might spend even longer scrolling with more outlets to while away my boredom. That or I find a way to keep so busy that I never have any bored moments to fill in the first place...

This was meant to be a meaningful challenge with me proclaiming at the end that I no longer rely on social media and can do without it. Unfortunately this is real life. This is not a failure, but a learning curve.


June xx

Would you ever do anything like this. I would 110% recommend you try it, even for a weekend or a week. It is such a good thing to get away from these things for a while and identify how and why you need them and if you overly rely on it. And if you have done this. What was your experience like? Let's have a natter in the comments.

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