Life Without Social Media: An Experiment

By: Abby Scott

Picture this: It is nearing the end of the semester, almost November break. Your September rush of motivation is running on empty. You are coming home from afternoon activities, exhausted and maybe a bit sweaty. You open your Canvas calendar. You have Math, Science, Modern Language, English, History. Maybe even a few honors projects to do on top of that. You know that you have a long night ahead of you. What is your gut reaction to this homework? Jump right into it, or go on Netflix, Instagram, Tiktok, or Youtube… The list is endless. I apologize fellow overachievers, but realistically I would choose the latter, and I believe that I am not alone. The voices fill my head: “You can just get that essay done later,” “You work better in crunch time,” or the best one, “If you need motivation later, just have a coffee, coke, or energy drink” (at 11 at night).

Social media helps us immensely. If I meet someone one time, I can then have a 24/7 connection with them. Gone are the days of calling someone’s house and having to talk to their parents (who might not want to talk to you). Cringe. Now you can connect with a swipe. While this connection can feel real, the truth is, it is not. 

I have 1,358 followers on Instagram (as I last checked.) I probably have consistent relationships with about 200 of them. The others are mutual friends, people that I met once on a trip, at a concert, at a tennis tournament. Kids that go to other private schools, live in neighboring towns, but that I have never talked to personally, or not in a long time. 

I have always wondered what it would be like to delete social media… Would it improve my motivation? How many people would I actually talk to? Would I miss the kids that I had a 200+ day snap-streak with but never said a word to? Or would it feel freeing to rid myself of this daily task of sending meaningless pictures of my forehead or my shoe?

On November 1, I deleted all of the social media apps from my phone except for messaging. 

Now, it is November 30. I have just completed an entire month without social media.

November was a very busy month. As we all did, I had many projects due before break. The first week without social media was my most productive one. I felt like I had so much free time, and I did my work right when I got home. After the work was completed, that was when the confusion set in. I remember sitting on my bed on November 2, having completed all of my homework. I then realized that when I first downloaded instagram 5 years ago, I used it as a reward. I allowed myself to mindlessly scroll after completing something productive. Now, it was a necessity. Before I put my phone down to do my work, I had to check my snaps and make sure that I didn’t have any notifications. As I stared out the window at the tree that was dropping its last leaves, I realized just how much I relied on these apps for so much of my childhood.

The rush of motivation that I experienced during the first week didn’t last the whole month. I found new ways to procrastinate, like all students do, but I don’t believe that reading for procrastination was as harmful for me as scrolling on Instagram. 

However, it was not easy to delete everything. I recall many times when I thought about how much I wanted to scroll or just check up on some of my friends. Now, I had to actually call my friends if I wanted to hear about their lives. Something that surprised me was how different it felt to get off the phone with my friends instead of snapchatting them. It felt much more personal. 

This month without social media was very refreshing. I went on more walks outside and spent more time with my family. I realized that people who still wanted to talk to me made an effort, even though I changed platforms of communication. I found that after a while I shouldn’t care so much about what other people might be doing or posting or what I might be missing. I went on vacation and focused on the beautiful scenery that I was seeing and how grateful I was to be there and be with my family. I would recommend a social media detox to someone that wants a change of perspective. I would also recommend it to someone who wants some motivation, because I do believe that doing this helped my ability to focus on school and my homework. 

During this month-long social media detox, I learned how to forget about my phone and be fully present with my surroundings and who I am talking to. I will most likely find myself back on social media at some point. When I do, I plan to use it with intention and view it as a benefit rather than a necessity. 

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