Taking a short break from my social media dependence was an experience that I won’t forget any time soon.
No one wants to admit how much time they waste on social media or how much it means to them to share the little achievements of their daily lives. And who can blame them? We all want to be liked and crave the attention that we feel we deserve.
Everything about social media, from its endless scrolling format to the pesky Snapchat streaks, is all cleverly made to be so rewarding that we never realise that it has been designed to keep us hooked.
My whole life revolves around social media. I’m on every popular site, from Facebook and Twitter to YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram. It’s all in the noble cause of sharing my life, building a social footprint and keeping in touch with the world. There isn’t a holiday I’ve been on that I didn’t relay on social media, or a meal that I’ve had without sharing it on Snapchat.
So that provides a little backstory to the depth of my social media usage and dependence, and the extent of the time that I spend on it.
I have considered reducing the time I spent on social media in the past but I could never bring myself to quit completely. I didn’t want to miss out on which ice cream my friends were eating or that viral YouTube video of a dog yawning.
What I needed was a group of people, a community, to help me get off social media. Together everyone achieves more, right?
#THEUniAdvice: advice for starting university
Universities must adopt a proactive approach to mental health
How international students use social media to choose a UK university
#UniAdviceWeek: a first year student from University of Oxford takes over our Twitter account
To my delight, this year I found the opportunity I was waiting for. De Montfort University announced that it was taking a break from social media from 16-21 January to raise awareness of the importance of positive mental health, and they were encouraging students to join them.
So after more than seven years of hefty social media use, I decided that it was time for a long-overdue break. For six days, I completely quit all social media. To begin with, I felt like I had been unplugged from the matrix, and during the first hour it felt like there was a huge hole in my life. I was reaching for my phone and wanting to tweet, send a snap and upload throwback selfies on Instagram.
I knew that it wasn't going to be easy but I didn’t anticipate just how difficult it would be. After a few hours things started getting easier, not because I wasn’t missing it, but because I was occupying myself with other things. I found myself with more time to read Harry Potter, call my friends and get on with my coursework.
It got easier and easier and the next few days were a blast. I stopped checking my social feeds before bed and as a result I was going to sleep earlier and waking up earlier. I felt much more refreshed and motivated.
I did miss social media as an outlet for sharing my opinion about things I’m passionate about, such as politics. I was missing speaking to people about the things that matter the most to me.
Over the six days that I spent away from social media, I realised what a huge impact it can have. It gives us a voice in a world full of opinions and it can make us feel like we have a bigger part of the world we live in. This was a revelation for me.
Monday 21 January is known internationally as Blue Monday, said to be the most depressing day of the year. But that wasn’t the case for me because I didn’t have the toxicity of social media to disturb my inner peace or invade my mind. It felt resoundingly good.
And then, just as quickly as it had started, my digital detox came to an end. But what had I learnt?
Before I started the detox I had a phobia about coming off social media, thinking that I would be plunged into social oblivion and that no one would care about me now that I wouldn’t be tweeting or plastering my life across Snapchat.
Weirdly enough though, apart from being upset that my Snapchat streaks with my friends had died and the fact that I was no longer in touch with my tweeps (Twitter followers), I was surprised that I didn’t feel like I was massively missing out.
The digital detox made me feel much more motivated. I can’t understate how it worked wonders for my concentration levels. Believe it or not, I was able to write more than 2,300 quality words towards an assignment.
I have discovered that social media does have a useful place in our lives, but I will not let it define who I am as I did in the past. I have decided to stop checking my social media accounts before bed and first thing in the morning. I hope the habit sticks!