I took a month off social media: Here’s what I learnt
There’s a life beyond Instagram and Twitter?
Early in February, I came across a YouTube video titled "I quit social media for 30 days". In it, a guy called Matt talks about how millennials are on their phones for an average of three or more hours per day, most of which is spent on social media apps like Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat.
This was nothing compared to the whopping eight hours of screen time I was averaging. According to the stats in my iPhone settings, I received an average of 2,243 notifications on my phone each week, and picked up my phone almost 200 times a day.
What. The. F.
How could a small chunk of metal have so much control over my life? Flabbergasted (and somewhat embarrassed), I decided to take Matt's approach and quit social media for the whole of March.
My reasons for going cold turkey
Although embarrassment of my ridiculous screen time definitely played a part in my social media purge, I also wanted to see if spending less time on my phone would have a positive impact on my uni life. The month of March was a busy one for me in terms of deadlines, so I thought what better time to get off my phone and crack on with work?
Equally, I often struggle with body image. Although I try my best not to follow social media influencers like Kylie Jenner or Bella Hadid, apps like Instagram can be a pretty toxic place if you're in a negative headspace (especially that damn explore page).
I also wanted to be cut off from the endless online feed of information for a little while. As social media users, we are constantly engaging with posts and tweets from people all over the world – some who we know, some who we don't.
For me, this can get a little overwhelming at times. So with my phone in hand, I deleted Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook, and said bye-bye to connectivity.
Waking up the first morning after the cleanse was suuuuper weird. I'm sure everyone reading this can relate to the feeling of turning off your alarm and then spending about 15 minutes scrolling aimlessly through Insta, all while still half asleep.
Without social media, this was not an option.
I also found myself reaching for my phone throughout the day, unlocking it to have a quick check through Twitter, but then putting it right back in my pocket after realising there was literally nothing to see.
It was definitely hard for the first few days. Particularly during those moments when you're waiting in the queue at Lidl and all you want to do is send a Snapchat complaining about how long the line is and how you've been standing with your box of Weetabix for 20 minutes. But nope – you're forced to contemplate the shelves or people-watch instead.
However, after a week or so, I felt myself getting used to not having my phone in my hand constantly, and actually started to feel quite positive about the whole experience.
What did I take away from my time offline?
1) Social media can be a great way to keep up with current affairs, but not the only way and almost always not the best way
Twitter used to be my go-to for keeping up with the news, so without it I had to resort to other outlets. And by this I mean the BBC news app. Which actually turned out to be way more informative and accurate than any social media platform.
2) FOMO is real, but only if you make it real
If you wanted to care about what every single one of your friends was up to, you totally could. But without social media, it's a lot harder to do so. And this gives your brain a nice break, in my opinion.
3) Taking a cleanse can be a form of self-love
When I re-downloaded social media, I went through each one and unfollowed all the people I didn't actually know/recognise/care that much about. This includes "influencers" and people who I used to constantly compare myself with.
This might seem kind of mean, but I realised that I wanted my feed to be a place where I could keep up to date with only the people who I truly cared about.
Instead of being this random chaotic space, my feed is now much more relatable and filled with genuinely useful and nice things.
4) No social media = more time for real life things
This might seem straightforward enough, but without being constantly glued to Instagram or Twitter I managed to get a little bit more sleep each night, work harder on my uni work and actually engage with my friends IRL.
Overall, going social media-free was pretty great and I would deffo encourage everyone to take a break every once in a while.