Cutting off social media in the digital age: Here’s what happened

Like most 20-year-olds, giving up my social media isn’t my idea of a good time, but in the spirit of challenging myself and being introspective I decided to give it a go. I may as well have thrown out my phone for the week, but I needed three things to get by: calling, in case of emergency and instant contact with people, texting, so people who have my phone number can still get ahold of me without calling, and e-mail, for work and school purposes. With all that in mind, I embarked on a journey: cutting off social media in the digital age. 

Day 1: Giving Up My (Social Media) Soul

I found that getting ready in the morning was faster than usual, but I felt as though I was unable to know what was going on in the outside world – being a journalism student always has me curious about what’s up, in every sense. And so, without posting my usual OOTD picture to my story, I headed to class.

In a class where I’d made a habit of mindlessly scrolling through twitter, I found myself more engaged with the content. Not having anywhere to click around my MacBook meant my eyes and ears were more attentive to the lecturing professor.

Once home, I noticed I was very productive, again, having few places to click between on my phone or laptop. I even found myself picking up my iPhone, unlocking it, swiping through my pages of apps, and immediately putting it back down. To avoid temptation I had to move my social media apps to the last page to avoid subconsciously opening them (I did this a few times throughout the experiment). 

One challenge I faced, as a buzzing journalism student, was contacting sources for stories. Usually, I take to Twitter or Facebook in search of “people who aren’t allowed to wear sneakers to work” or “anyone who has something to say about Chick-fil-A” and try to get in contact with them via direct message on a social networking platform. Instead, I was left to rely solely on text contacts and relentless google searches. 

In general, the day wasn’t too difficult. My biggest challenge was not being able to write quirky comments about my life and post them into the abyss; it was saddening for me. I’m a big Instagram user, some may even say “Insta baddie,” so it was difficult for me to do without the world-changing app… and we’re only on day one.

Day 2: Figuring Out the Logistics 

I found myself refreshing my email regularly (like an 85-year-old would) in replace of a news feed. 

I didn’t find myself missing the going on’s of the internet as much as I felt like I was inconveniencing others. I wanted to be able to respond to them with my regular immediacy, it was a bit torturous to know I was ghosting them. Plenty of people were likely messaging me and wouldn’t get a response from me for another five days… I even had people I saw in person relaying news to others for me in group chats and such. 

By at least seeing notifications on my lock screen, knowing that if a certain group chat lit up I could text someone to ask if anything important was said, in the latest case, there was a last-minute meeting scheduled tonight.

Somehow, I couldn’t fathom how, but my phone battery was dying at the same speed it did when I was using social media. This led me to believe that: A) my phone battery sucked as all iPhone batteries do, or B) that I have replaced social media checking with avid texting. It’s likely a combination of both.

Day 3: Robotic Tendencies 

I kept subconsciously hitting the Twitter and Facebook icon on my computer, and when the page would load I would close the tab once I’d realized the crime I’d committed. In moments of subconscious boredom my fingers robotically moved towards them, almost by muscle memory. 

Day 4: Sleeping Easy(er) 

Maybe this wasn’t a good thing, but my downtime had now been filled with starting a new Netflix series; I noticed I was going to bed much earlier, always before midnight, which for me was an accomplishment. Social media apps usually tucked me in at night. After prayers and prepping for the next day I usually allow the quiet lull of TikToks and after-hours-style tweets to tire my eyes. For once, I was going to bed right after my good night texts. 

Day 5: I AM A WORKING WOMAN

I was getting a bit irritated – I realized I did a lot of reaching out to people over social media, so I didn’t normally have a lot of people’s phone numbers saved on my phone. Even more annoying were the dozens of notifications I knew were waiting to be attended to. I felt as though I had an unwritten responsibility to get back to people in decent time. Since I’d hopped off social media mostly unannounced, I imagined people were perplexed by my long absence, which in turn was stressing me out. I’d hoped I hadn’t missed anything too important, pertaining to work and school specifically (paparazzi pictures of Drake can wait… a bit.)

Embarrassingly, I also missed the mindlessness of scrolling with eyes that have long glazed over. Nothing I did could quite quench the feeling of consuming unfiltered media at such a rate (am I okay?)

Day 6: Thanksgiving 🦃

Today was a holiday, which meant lots of time spent with relatives, and weirdly, it was nice to take in things around me without any distractions. Nicest of all was more actual face-time with my boyfriend. I’m usually pretty inclined to post a cute picture of us on my story, just so people know he’s home for the weekend, but it made it kind of special that we got to spend some time together without social media knowing about it.

I like my life fairly open for the world to see. That’s why I have a Youtube Channel, a public Instagram and Twitter, and most other forms of social media under the sun – but my boyfriend is on the more private side and it was nice to cater to his social media style for once: inconspicuous.  

Day 7: The Home Stretch 

Somehow even during my homemade pizza making moments, I didn’t have the urge to whip my phone camera out… perhaps this challenge has changed me more than I thought. 

With only a few hours left to go, I’ve learned quite a bit this week…

Firstly, I’m not the only social media obsessed person out there. Between friends, work, and school, dozens of people have wondered about my social whereabouts. Whether someone is connecting me with a source for an article, a friend is sending me a genius TikTok, or my mom snap-chatting me, people in my life have been finding it weird and inconvenient that I haven’t been online much. 

Secondly, I learned that social media will waste your time, but you will waste your own time more. Even if you get rid of it, you’ll find other ways to waste away your day (T.V., movies, books, chatting with friends, etc.) I realized that productivity starts with a shift in mindset, not cutting distractions off because you’ll find new ones. 

And lastly, I enjoyed being a bit more in the moment. Because I didn’t have social media, the urge to reach for my phone was much weaker, seeing as much fewer notifications were popping up. Going out with friends, having meals, and even doing work was a bit easier without the little icons appearing on my lock screen. They serve as notifications, sure, but they’re distractions to a focused worked or student, primarily.

Would I do this again? Probably not, just because it cuts me off from parts of my work responsibilities.

But I do recommend you give it a try yourself. Connecting with people and groups becomes very challenging without these apps and websites in a way I didn’t quite know before this.  Even if just for a day or two, I think you’ll see that life is different without social media, not necessarily for the better. 

Photo by Ashley Alagurajah.