I logged off of all my social media accounts for a month

And it was the best decision I ever made

The Before

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One of my first profile pictures

I remember when I was thirteen years old, begging my parents to let me join Facebook like all of the other seventh-graders were doing. I had a cell phone, so I wasn’t a total weirdo, but Facebook was the real status symbol. I remember the joy I felt when they finally caved, and the thrill running up and down my spine as I took my first profile picture, carefully staged and timed to create a humorous image because being funny is cool.

Fast forward eight years, to summer term, 2017. I’m constantly scrolling, sharing, double-tapping, ‘liking’ and commenting, even though I’ve already seen these posts five times today. I have apps for every social media platform on my phone, pre-logged in and at the ready. I cycle through them all, over and over again. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Youtube are in my ‘Favorites’ on Safari. I check to see how many ‘likes’ my Instagram post is getting, or if I have any comments on my Facebook share. Social media has taken over my life. Any awkward or empty moment can be filled with photos or articles or Tweets. Any issue can be avoided with hours of Youtube videos.

I remember what my life was like before social media. I spent time outside. I actually saw my friends in person, for hours or whole weekends. I passed silly notes in class. I got distracted from homework and dinner by the newest novel in my shelf. I had very little shame about who I was or what I looked like. I dealt with my problems. I wasn’t ever memorably depressed or anxious.

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I remember begging my parents to let me to join Facebook in middle school

Logging Off

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I slept much better after turning off my electronic devices

It took me a long time to commit to the idea, but once my partner at the time and I had a few conversations about escapism, I realized that social media had become my escape, my drug, my high. So, I quit — cold turkey. After checking that the passwords were written down, I logged out of all of my accounts, deleted the apps and had my partner set up site blockers on both of my web browsers. I was officially offline.

I noticed a change that very same night. I slept like a rock. My phone and laptop were completely off and in another room. No buzzing or dinging woke me up. The next day, I felt…well, I felt better than I had in a while. I had more energy in general, but specifically good energy, not jittery or nervous. I got things done faster and better. My focus was sharp and deep. If I was bored or needed something to calm my anxiety, I read a novel or played a podcast. I specifically sought activities that would enrich my life, not waste it. These were consistent benefits I noticed throughout the entire month.

That’s not to say it was always awesome or easy. Sometimes I felt like I was missing out on something. My friends talked about photos or videos they saw on Snapchat that I would never see. I got nervous thinking about the backlog of Youtube videos to catch up on. The hardest habit to break was mentally assessing how I might create a post about a certain event or thought, like how I would best Snapchat my morning chai latte and what sappy or witty text I could lay over it.

But being offline for so long helped me get out of my own head. Social media thrives on us being so deeply self-absorbed that we can’t see much beyond our own sphere of existence and drive to fit into the community. Psychology, man…

After

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After my month was up, I felt like I was giving up a new form of freedom

When it came time to get back online, I was surprisingly reluctant. I felt like I was giving up this new freedom I’d found with being offline. I ended up limiting what I added back onto my phone to Instagram and Snapchat, the two apps that only function on a phone. I felt no reason to add Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn back to my phone because they’re usable from a laptop or a web browsing app.

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I'd go off social media for a month again in a heartbeat

Nowadays, I still use social media as a very fundamental part of my work and social life. But I’m far more mindful of the time I spend using it and pickier about the content I consume. Would I ditch social media for a whole month again? In a heartbeat. Do I recommend trying it? Absolutely. Do I still occasionally binge makeup tutorials and funny pet videos? Hell yes. The difference now is I know when to log out.

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University of Oregon