I Deleted Social Media for a Week

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Life was simpler when I was younger. No job, no bills, no responsibilities except the minute amount of homework that, let’s be honest, I was excited about. I could play all day, pretending to be any number of characters from movies and books, and that’s all I really had to worry about. Even in high school and college, where the homework amounts were staggering and jobs and bills and responsibilities started to become a never-ending nuisance, things were simpler.

So what happened? I graduated college in 2008, right around the time facebook opened its doors to the masses (rather than just the college kids like it was when I signed up) and twitter became a thing. And phones got smarter.

Sure, there was myspace and livejournal and all that when I was in high school, and facebook in college, and we all carefully curated our Top 8 friends and our AIM away messages, but there was still a level of disconnect we don’t have today.

Now, there are 15 different social media apps for each part of your life you want to share, and they’ve taken over our free (and not so free) time.

As a high school teacher, I see the dangers and perils of social media on a daily basis, and realized that while I’m older and no longer subject to much of the same levels of cyberbullying these kids go through, I’m on social media entirely too much.

So I’m going to conduct an experiment: for one entire week, I’m going to stay off social media.

I want to see what happens when I don’t have mindless scrolling at my fingertips when I’m bored. Currently, my phone is a constant distraction whenever I’m trying to be productive in my creative endeavors. At work it’s not really a problem since I’m a teacher and free time is a luxury, but on the evenings and weekends, my phone battery dies faster than you can say YouTube.

For the record, these are the social media networks I regularly use (so will not be using during my experiment): YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and Facebook. 

This will be going from Sunday, May 7 – Saturday, May 13 (at midnight, a full 7 days). I will be deleting these apps from my phone for the duration of the experiment.

Let’s see how this goes!

Saturday, May 6 11:37pm

I tweeted a “see you later” and deleted twitter, facebook, instagram, and snapchat apps from my phone so I’m not tempted by the little red numbers (or habit). I wonder if anyone will like/favorite/DM/comment while I’m gone. Will I be sad if they don’t?

Sunday, May 7 9:39am – Day 1

I woke up this morning, grabbed my phone, checked my email, and then felt lost. Normally this is when I catch up on all I missed overnight… but now? So I got out of bed, made breakfast, and checked goodreads ratings on all the books I bought at the library sale yesterday (Goodreads doesn’t count as social media!). Semi-productive already. Now… to read?

4:15pm

I finished one book (The Master and Margarita – FINALLY) and started another (The Upside of Unrequited) and am starting to do that thing at chapter breaks where I pull my phone out looking for a distraction. Which makes no sense because I’m thoroughly enjoying this book. But no distractions await me, and I open the book for a new chapter.

11:22pm

Day one: done. Also, I finished The Upside of Unrequited, but that may have also been because it was a fast read and I had a decent chunk of time to devote to it. Also, no social media distractions… I wonder what else I can accomplish this week. I do sort of feel disconnected, though. Like, I want to share my thoughts about this book and see all the Disney posts on Instagram and check twitter and get rid of the Google Plus (YouTube) notification on my email. But I can’t.

Monday, May 8 9:30am – Day 2

It’s only been a day and already I feel so much freer without being tied down to the various social media feeds. What am I really missing? Drivel. I did feel a bit weird this morning as I drank my coffee – usually the time I scroll through all my feeds – but I just opened my phone and didn’t know what to do with it. So I listened to my audiobook instead. So far, no social media equals more productivity. I want to keep this in mind when I’m back in a week.

9:45pm

I told my students about my experiment and convinced another to try it. Another told me she tagged me in something but I told her I can’t check it until Sunday. That might be the hardest part – the communication barrier. Social media is how we connect now, it’s how businesses and artists get followers, create connections. So much of the world is online. But what if I don’t want to be? (To an extent, at least – I feel like it’s impossible now to avoid the internet totally, especially for creative types because it is such an easy/cheap way to distribute your work.) But do I really need a twitter/insta/facebook/snap? No. Do I enjoy them? Sometimes. Do I feel the effects of not having them? Yes.

Tuesday, May 9 2:48pm – Day 3

It’s starting to get annoying now, mostly because

  1. I’m bored, and
  2. I created a poll for online lit mag titles and I can’t crowdsource, so I have to do it the old-fashioned way, which gets fewer responses.

I’ve restarted my feedly as well, in an effort to curb the planning block boredom. Does that count as social media? It’s articles – mostly from online lit mags – so it’s educational, right?

9:25pm

After work I went to Happy Hour with teacher friends for teacher appreciation week (appreciating ourselves) and at one point, the other three were all on their phones, scrolling through social media (for memes based on AP Exams, because teachers), and so as the only person not on social media (or an AP teacher, for that matter), I definitely experienced the non-social side of social media. I was left out because I wasn’t on my phone, yet we’re all leaving ourselves out by being on our phones rather than interacting with the world around us. Ironic.

On another note, my sister-in-law asked me for a picture of us from Prom, and even though I was pretty sure one existed on facebook, I couldn’t get to it, so I had to physically find all my old photos and dig through them to find one.

On a side note: How weird is it that when we share pictures now we just shove our phones in people’s faces? And then there’s no control – what’s stopping them from scrolling through your other pictures? With physical photos, they only get the stack you give them. Invasion of privacy is the new normal. Oh, and I downloaded two new games to my phone just to have something to do to kill small amounts of time. Distractions, distractions. Hard to get rid of them all.

Wed, May 10 9:32pm – Day 4

I almost went on facebook today by accident. I was on my computer, procrastinating writing (as one does) and opened a new tab. I was just about to type the ‘f’ when I realized autopilot had taken over, and I closed the tab.

I’ve been good, but now it’s starting to get annoying. It’s not that I miss it, per say, I just liked having the option to scroll. Though I guess that’s the problem – the option becomes the norm becomes the auto-action and we get sucked in.

I guess I Just wonder if I’ve missed anything. I know – rationally – that I haven’t. That nothing on social media is important. But it’s also how people communicate, and what if someone tried to message me? (Well, I guess if they really needed me, if it were really important, they’d find a way.) And how often do I get messages anyway? Not very. I fear that part of me expects other to have missed my presence, that I’ll come back to all sorts of messages and notifications… when, in reality, I probably won’t have any. And I’m kind of worried how I’ll feel when that happens. It would seem I’m much more in the clutches of social media than I thought.

Thurs, May 11 9:36pm – Day 5

The only time no social media really affected me today was when I wanted to check facebook to see if was my friend’s birthday (it was). I didn’t want to tell her happy birthday if it wasn’t and don’t have that info anywhere else (because that’s what facebook is for), so I had a student look for me. Yep, I sunk that low. I guess that in itself is a lesson: don’t depend on social media for courtesy and manners. That kind of thing should be kept in a safer location – what happens if the account had been deleted, or facebook was hacked and everything gone? No more birthday reminders. Old school might be the best way to go.

Fri, May 12 11:28pm – Day 6

Only one more day. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Part of me says “thank goodness,” while the other part knows how quickly I’ll probably sink back in. But I’ve been so productive this week without it, and the whole thing has been positive and freeing, so I hope I remember that.

Sat, May 13 11:03pm – Day 7

Last day! Last hour! I think today was the day I checked my phone the most, since Sunday, before realizing I had nothing to do on it. Probably because it’s the weekend and my days aren’t filled with school distractions. But, I’m going to preemptively say (because I’m going to watch a movie and go to bed), I MADE IT!

Sun, May 14 – What I missed

Facebook: 20 notifications, 0 directly for me
Instagram: 1 comment, 5 followers, 14? Likes
Twitter: 4 messages (some with missed threads), 27? Notifications (some of these from a group tag)
Youtube: 6 comments (no new video posted)
I didn’t reinstall Snapchat.

So did I miss anything super exciting or pressing? No.

I responded to maybe three of the tweets I was went, and that’s it. And honestly, I scrolled through them all for about 15 seconds before I realized I just didn’t care, and closed my phone.

Social media is great for communicating – it’s an easy way to get in contact with people on an informal level (or like, with students – two of my notifications came from them), but mindlessly, endlessly scrolling is a waste of time. There’s nothing important there, and it’s all FOMO, basically. If I quit scrolling, I may miss something important/genius/hilarious/etc, but nine times out of ten, there’s nothing there, or it wasn’t all that profound/important/funny anyway.

I also noticed that as soon as I turned it all back on and started the scroll, I started judging and comparing myself to others. Well, they got a nice note from a student I didn’t get (except I did, last week, and Instagrammed it too); they commented on that post; they’re celebrating 5 years, etc. It’s all there to put our best lives forward, but at what cost to ourselves and others? Numbers don’t matter and yet we all live so anxiously by them. By tiny digital hearts and thumbs up that mean ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

Social media drives the world rather than talent, ambition, intelligence, creativity. It’s all about your following – it’s how Trump got elected.

And it’s terrifying.

So I’m back, but not like before. And I know how easy it is to slide back in, but I’m going to try my hardest not to. I hope this sticks, because this past week felt good, and I don’t want to get lost again.

7:55pm

Honestly, it’s been 12 hours and I’ve barely scrolled. I just don’t care anymore. The conversations are nice – the FOMO I’d felt wasn’t really about the tweets and instas, it was about the missed opportunities for conversation, through notifications and DMs. Five pictures down my Insta and I was done. I deleted most of my twitter notifications because again, I just don’t care.

And I don’t want them clogging my time, my energy, my optimism, my life.

 

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