Is a social media break possible in a socially-distanced world?

Sophie Smallhorn

As a teenage girl, I am one of the main culprits of a social media obsession. With fewer chances to see peers during the pandemic, many teenagers have relied exclusively on social media platforms to maintain relationships and stay current with the world around them. Arguably, teenagers would feel much lonelier without these platforms; however, checking social media can become a negative addiction if used in a self-deprecating manner.

Compared to the week prior, my average daily screen time fell by 42 minutes during the experiment.

After feeling unproductive and overly fixated on others’ perceptions of me, I decided to take a break from social media. For one week, I stopped using all social media platforms: Snapchat, Instagram, VSCO, Pinterest and Twitter, exempting YouTube, which was essential for school.

As I expected, deleting those applications lifted an unnecessary weight from my shoulders. Though I have never been majorly addicted to or stressed out by social media, I realized it constantly occupied my mind. Whether I was overthinking a rant I posted on my private Snapchat story, contemplating a TikTok idea or scrutinizing an Instagram photo, I was only putting more pressure on myself to impress others. These vain habits, along with the urge to continuously check my phone for notifications, disappeared during my week without social media. Additionally, my detox prevented me from falling into time-consuming social media trances, like web-surfing for too long, which are the primary dampers to my self-esteem. All that time subconsciously comparing myself to others only created feelings of discouragement.

With more free time, I indulged in self-care. Little habits, such as stretching before and after workouts, cleaning my room every day and listening to podcasts finally fit more easily into my daily routine. My acts of self-care didn’t produce a culminating result, but they motivated me to tackle less desirable tasks like homework.

Along with increased enthusiasm, getting rid of social media improved my mood. Maybe it was because I felt more in control of my time, or because I felt free from the incessant duties of scrolling and replying. Without a doubt, it gave me unwavering confidence, because I was oblivious to the curated lives of my peers. Either way, allowing myself to devalue the apps that dominate my worldview was truly empowering. Too often, I forget that social media is just a networking tool, not a form of societal acceptance.

Spending time with friends alleviates any FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), making the social media detox much easier.

Although time was freed up, it wasn’t all funneled directly toward self-care or homework. Tasks I deemed “productive” didn’t appeal to me any more than they had before the experiment, so I accomplished a typical amount of work as I would have any other week. Guiltily, I learned a lesson: remove one distraction, and procrastination always finds a replacement. Hence, the murder mystery game “Among Us” consumed staggering hours in my weekly total screen time. Because I was craving conversation, “Among Us” proved to be a good alternative to social media because it involves collaboration. I wasn’t able to view my reported usage for “Among Us”, but I could for the Messages app. Overall, my week’s total on Messages was four hours and 50 minutes; even so, it was the only way I could socialize with my friends. This data proves that deleting social media doesn’t cure human addiction to instant gratification.

“Among Us” is the perfect vent for feelings of boredom and loneliness.

Social media also helps maintain a sense of normalcy. The biggest drawback to this experience was the lack of communication, which was often less discursive and humorous over text. Sadly, there were likely inside-jokes, conversations and trends that missed out on. Remote learning alone already restricts social life and deleting social apps made for even lonelier school days. Still, texting helped to combat this.

Considering the noticeable improvement to my mental and emotional health, the benefits outweigh the disadvantages of deleting social media. Even though this lifestyle isn’t permanently sustainable for me, it is truly eye-opening. Now, more than ever, I recommend that others try a social media detox, whether it be for two hours or two months.