Social media is one of the biggest parts of our lives as teenagers. We tend to use it as a way to connect to our peers and others, as well as express ourselves and show the world who we are. We end up liking, pinning, or posting things we never will see or remember again, just because we like it at the moment. Often we hear how social media affects our mental health, and I decided to see how I was personally being affected by my phone habits.
About two and a half weeks before Thanksgiving break, I was talking to my friend about how overwhelmed I was feeling. I am a terrible procrastinator, and was recently diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder. I end up getting into a nasty cycle of being too stressed to do my work, but stressing over not doing my work at the same time. My sleep habits are also affected by my anxiety issues. It sometimes feels like I’ve been tossed into a lion’s den while simultaneously being set on fire.
In the Times magazine article, “Why Instagram Is the Worst Social Media for Mental Health”, a study was conducted by the United Kingdom’s Royal Society for Public Health. This study took data from 1,479 youth (14-24), and helped scientists conclude that social media is bad for your mental health. The author, Amanda MacMillian, states, “Previous studies have suggested that young people who spend more than two hours a day on social networking sites are more likely to report psychological distress…Social media posts can also set unrealistic expectations and create feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem…”.
My friend is wise beyond her years, and suggested that we take a social media break together. No Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter until Thanksgiving day. No exceptions.
At first I was completely and utterly disgusted with the idea, but I quickly agreed anyways. I was willing to try anything at this point after realizing that I had exactly two and a half weeks to get caught up on all of the AP notes I hadn’t been taking.
So on November 8th, 2017, I, Kaitlyn Massey, deleted all of the social media apps off of my phone. I felt exuberant and powerful, like I could do anything now that my free time wasn’t taken up. This feeling of happiness dissipated after about five minutes, when I realized I had no idea what to do with my life. I looked at my social media folder in pure horror, finally realizing fully what I had agreed to do.
The next three days were pure torture. I guess I didn’t realize how much time I actually spend on social media. My mother, on the other hand, was positively gleeful. My parents hate how much time I spend on my phone, and often remind me to interact with the family. I would love to say that I am a perfect child who always treats her parents with love and respect, but for the most part I tend to roll my eyes when the phone lecture ensues.
I slowly began to adapt to my new free time. I re-downloaded Duolingo, a language app, onto my phone and began to relearn the basics of French. I also began to be more creative. I’m a bit of a music nerd, and play the ukulele and the guitar. I ended up writing several songs and many, many failed poetry attempts. I painted, drew, organized my room, watched way too many Hallmark rom-coms, and basically did everything possible to ignore my AP notes.
I originally thought that giving up social media would help me procrastinate less. Turns out that I can procrastinate just as well with a good book rather than my phone.
I can honestly say that I have never been so excited for Thanksgiving as I was this year. I was able to attend a family reunion in Saint George, Utah during the break, which thankfully made it less difficult to maintain my fast. As I played on the playground with my two year old cousin, social media was the last thing on my mind.
The last three days were similar to the first: pure and utter torment. My resolve to finish the week was slowly crumbling, and it seemed futile to resist the temptation to re-download my apps. But resist I did, and I refused to disappoint my friend, who was equally struggling with the challenge.
Although I talk about how difficult it was to maintain my social media break, my experience was mainly positive. I was able to communicate with people face to face more often, enjoy some of my favorite hobbies, and not worry so much about how I was fitting in digitally.
I don’t think everyone needs to go on a social media break for two and a half weeks, but I do think it is important to remember and prioritize what matters. Sometimes it is beneficial to step back and take a break from the busy world of the internet. After my break I was able to find other ways to entertain myself, and I continued to explore and expand my hobbies. Although I will (most likely) never willingly do this again, I am grateful for the experience.