You know the drill. Your alarm goes off in the morning, so you groan and roll over, cursing your phone for such a rude awakening. For me, the day usually starts in a consistent and predictable fashion: I hit snooze and spend the next nine minutes feverishly scrolling through social media.
In the seven or so hours since I did my bedtime scroll, who got engaged? What was Chrissy Teigen cooking? What’s happening in the world? What is our president tweeting? Which former Bachelor stars started selling Sugar Bear Hair vitamins!? I need to know.
While there’s nothing outlandishly wrong with this routine, it got old — and with good reason. While my poor, tired eyes were attempting to wind down or wake up, the harsh artificial light messed with my sleep patterns. But not only were my social media habits physically affecting my body, they were affecting me mentally as well. Starting (or ending) the day in comparison with others can be detrimental to a positive daily outlook, and often resulted in negativity about my own current life situation.
After days and weeks of noticing these problems, I knew I wanted a change.
I decided to take a break from any and all forms of social media — and immediately deleted my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat apps and website bookmarks.
I wanted to prove to myself that happiness is not found in the number of likes I receive.
But to begin, I first needed to verbalize my goals. What was the point of purging my life of all social media, and what was I hoping to gain? Here’s what I came up with: I wanted to prove to myself that happiness is not found in the number of likes I receive; I am more than a number of followers. I wanted to develop relationships beyond a double tap, forcing me to set up coffee dates or pick up the phone to actually call a faraway friend.
All great ideas — in theory.
Within 12 hours, I felt like I was going stir-crazy. My fingers kept automatically hitting the spots on my iPhone home screen where the social media icons used to reside. I continuously had to chide myself for a job poorly done and remember that mindlessness is not the cure for boredom. As the hours ticked by, I encountered more of the same. Whenever I felt I had a free moment (or just a moment when I wished to avoid eye contact or small talk), I sorely missed my apps and their comforting presence.
Of course, my social media purge came with some excellent benefits. I was much more likely to pick up the phone to spend time having real conversations with my friends, I got more sleep, I watched “Stranger Things,” and I hit my Fitbit step goal every single day (12,000 steps a day, thank you very much).
But still — an important piece of my life was missing.
While there were undeniable benefits (physically, emotionally, mentally, you name it!) to going without social media, I strongly believe that the implementation of social media into our daily lives is a good thing when used in moderation — by no means should it be your sole method of communication, but it shouldn’t be treated like a sinful guilty pleasure. The presence of social media is a definite reality in our modern society, and it’s a great one. Social media allows for a connection with people we haven’t seen in awhile, and it offers glimpses into the everyday lives of people far away (and even people we’ve never met!).
Social media turns amateurs into paid photographers, bloggers into journalists, and class clowns into comedians.
As a creative professional, social media is a common source of inspiration for me. Facebook is a perfect way to know what the world is interested in and talking about on a daily basis. Instagram photos inspire me to search for beauty everywhere I go, and Twitter reminds me that good things come in small packages. Without social media, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge would not have raised the millions of dollars it did for ALS research and treatment, viral online fundraising efforts wouldn’t raise thousands for families in need, and my career path wouldn’t even exist. Social media is changing the worlds of mass news production, broadcast television, dating, and messaging. Social media turns amateurs into paid photographers, bloggers into journalists, and class clowns into comedians.
Unfortunately, of course, these strides come with their own sets of issues. Fake news, graphic live videos, and political segregation run rampant on social media. Many people around the world use social media for negative agendas, thus sullying the names of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like. Unfortunately, people (myself included) allow social media to have too much control over their lives. Instead of living in the moment, we are too quick to unlock our phones to scroll instead of participating in the world around us. We scroll while driving, while out to dinner, during the previews at a movie theater, and during intermission at a live show.
But here’s the way I see it: In a world filled with negativity such as that listed above, I choose to focus on the positive. I choose to focus on the celebratory statuses, the beautiful pictures of cheeseburgers, the flower-crown Snapchat selfies, and the grandparents who comment on all your profile pictures. Social media is not the problem, but the way we’ve allowed it to control us is. Moving forward, I hope to never live in a world without the joys of Snapchat stories of dogs doing tricks or the classic Foodstagrams. But I also hope to never live in a world where these are the only things we care about, and I’m going to strive to stop caring about these things when I should be focused on more important parts of my life. Let’s all choose to remember that social media should be a source of happiness, connection, and relationship-building. If, for you, it no longer functions as such, then it’s time for you to stop. As for me, though, I’m just getting started.