My first week of 2017 was quite challenging. Giving up Instagram and Snapchat felt like the equivalent to cutting off my arm…
Okay, it wasn’t that dramatic, but it did feel like I was cutting off my only connection to the world. No one was going to see the pretty food I prepared, and I couldn’t send funny Sabrina Snapchat Show snaps to my friends (a fun past time for me when I need a study break). I mean, why bother taking selfies or snapping picture of funny moments with my friends when I couldn’t post for everyone’s viewing pleasure? Where I used to refresh the page of each platform 3 or 4 times in hopes something new would pop up, what was I going to do now on my 30 minute bus ride downtown? Watch everyone refresh their phones, that’s what. And fight the urge to give up my experiment, and just download them again. I constantly wondered what my friends were doing, especially my crush. I mean, he hadn’t posted anything in over a month, but only God knew if he did during the time I decided to delete the apps. Don’t act like you don’t do it, too. We’re all stalkers in our own special way, okay?
That’s called having FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out. And I think almost everyone of us who refresh our platforms more times than we’d like to admit have this problem. But there’s even more science behind that! Social media, if you didn’t already know, releases a stream of dopamine when we post a picture/status/video/article/etc. and gain likes and comments from it. It’s no wonder we feel a need to post statuses and pictures of what we’re doing, what pretty food we’re eating, what we’ve accomplished, and what we see at the store that’s so gosh darn weird that we just have to share it for all our friends to see.
To dig even deeper into our social-media-addicted roots, we post those things because of the people viewing them. Why do Instagram and Snapchat allow us to see what friends viewed our story? Because we’re curious to see who is watching! And if you’re like me, you get a kick out of seeing your crush’s name in that viewer list. Whether you want to admit it or not, we get giddy off of notifications because it gives us almost a confidence boost, and a sense of validation, as if we measure up to those we admire and follow. But now it’s time for some tough love…
If I’m being honest with myself, as much I love to post pictures of the food I’m eating, does anyone actually care how pretty my salad looks? No.
Does anyone care about my successful trip to the gym? Like, do I really need to post a selfie flexing? Nah.
Okay, but how about my tribute to Barcelona, and how much I absolutely miss it, with the hashtag, #TakeMeBack?
Mmm, no Sabrina…no one cares.
So then, what is it is? Are we just that vain? Does it serve as a confidence-booster? Do we want to prove that we can look just as awesome as the Instagram models we follow (or for guys, the jacked body-builder you admire)? Do we really need to know if our crush posted any interesting snaps or pictures on the gram today?
You may not agree, but if you’re being honest with yourself, these points have some validity; therefore, I think we can both agree on: yes. We do feel a need to measure up, we are a little vain, we are interested in who is viewing/liking our slaying-selfie/ flexing-selfie, and yeah…we do need to be the first to see what our crush posted. Because is it even a crush if you’re not?
If I’m speaking for myself now, I knew that my social media addiction was getting a little out of control. I didn’t like feeling so compelled to look at my phone screen so often, and cancelling plans or telling friends, “I don’t have time,” because I wasted an entire hour on Instagram when I should’ve been studying. So I gave it up for a month…and here’s what I learned:
1. Instagram is redundant and mundane.
Unless you’re following new people every day, you most likely follow what I call “themed accounts.” For me, that means most of my feed is filled with fitness people who post their modeling pictures, workouts, and what they’re eating, plus some unhealthy food accounts, and traveler/backpacker accounts. Of course, I follow friends and family, too, but for the most part, it’s all the same: New gym gear, same booty pose; new colored bowl, same food; new location, same chocolatey-goodness that only my eyes can savor.
That’s where that constant page-refresh comes in. There’s a constant craving to search for new sources of gratification and stimulation.
2. Snapchat didn’t really miss me anyway…
This is a hard one. I love Snapchat, but it wastes so much time. No one cares that a train stopped is making me late for class (for the 10th time… #WhyMe?). No one cares that my grandma’s dog is a serious fatso. And I know no one actually cares if I’m cuddled up by myself with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s watching Food Network on a Saturday night claiming to be in my happy place. And let’s be real…those pictures take time – gotta get the right angle, the right lighting, and that fatso of a dog NEVER wants to look at the camera.
Don’t get me wrong, I love posting snaps of my food (since the weekend is when I have extra time to cook / I go out), I like the funny filters and using them in my snaps, and I can’t lie, there’s certain people who watch my snaps and I get a kick out of seeing their name…but it’s just not worth it.
3. More time to focus on what’s important.
I became aware of the times I really felt a craving to get on Instagram and Snapchat, and they almost always occurred when I was in the middle of studying (getting stressed out and in need of an escape), or when I was alone and bored. Instead, I started making more use of my time by taking real study breaks. I would work on my Bulletin Board, work on a blog post, or write in my journal, read my book, and stretch / exercise.
If I needed some more human interaction, I’d go out and get it. I’d call my friend from home, Skype my parents, or go see what friends in my building were up to. Or I’d meal prep in the community kitchen, accumulating visitors in the process.
Not only was I making the most out of my time, but I was able to actually relax. My mind went elsewhere, but not to a place where I would have something new to worry about (*cough cough* my crush posted a Snap watching TV…why couldn’t he text me?) I focused on the task at hand, instead of wondering what everyone else was doing; I took my study breaks seriously, and life felt lighter on my shoulders.
4. Productivity levels improved.
Since I was taking active-breaks, and focusing my attention on things that didn’t really constitute as another stressor, I was able to get more done. No more saying, “I didn’t have time,” (because I was scrolling through random Instagram profiles for an hour), but instead saying, “I didn’t make time” (because I had other important things prioritized at the time). There’s a level of better organization that comes when your brain isn’t wired to what you saw in your news feed.
We all have the same amount of time in a day, but how we utilize it is different. Without Snapchat and Instagram to steal my time, I was able to get more done and really focus on the task at hand, and what was to be handled next.
5. Felt better about myself.
I started my self-love practice in the beginning of 2014. I have worked extremely hard on building my confidence, staying aware of negative self-talk, giving myself credit where it was due, seeking help from trusted professionals, and journaling. But it wasn’t until I gave up social media that I was able to make a major jump in my practice.
Without Instagram or Snapchat on my phone, encouraging me to click on either of the square bubbles and fall in their trap, I wasn’t depleting my willpower stores to fight off negative self-talk and comparisons when I saw flawless fitness model photo shoot, friends having fun over the weekend at a sweet concert, or the super cute traveler couple scuba diving in Australia. There was nothing to look at and secretly envy. I had no urge to post something of my own to show that my life can be just as awesome as theirs. I wasn’t worrying about what walls I needed to build in order to fend off who could be judging me (Snapchat story).
Sometimes I forget that I don’t need to prove myself to anyone through the things I post; therefore, I simply remained true to what I believe in, focused on bettering myself, and stayed prideful in who I am, right where I am.
6. Got better sleep.
I had a goal to read more and stop using my phone before bed, so not having social media at the time made that goal easier to achieve. Through this, I’ve learned that I sleep like a baby when I read before I knock out, so it has become a new habit.
Don’t let iPhones fool you. Even though your screen switches to a sepia-light that’s supposed to be easier on the eyes, it’s still a bright screen; it’s still keeping your brain wired. Instead of scrolling through a screen of images before bed, end your day by creating images in your head through a good book, or review notes one last time before you sleep. At least there’s actual science behind doing that!
7. I had more time for ME.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: social media can be a huge time waster. Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, checking e-mails, Tinder, what have you – chances are they’re taking up over an hour of your time every day. Especially when you’re searching for new stimulation on each platform.
Prior to deleting the applications, I would come home and sit on my couch and start scrolling. I thought that was my “me” time. But every time I did that and a good friend from home would call to catch up, I would become overwhelmed. I knew I couldn’t talk to them because I had so much studying and homework to finish. But really, that time I spent on my phone was valuable time I could’ve spent connecting with them. Without social media to steal precious time away from the people and tasks that actually mattered, I got straight to work, focused on what needed to get done, called my friends and family, and relaxed for the rest of the night in whatever way I saw fit (just not with Snap or Insta).
The Take Away
My mission last month was to get away from social media; I wanted to cut it like cold turkey and learn how to live without it all together. But even after what I’ve learned, with all that being said, I’d be lying if I told you that I’m ready to completely delete it forever. I know how much better off I am without Instagram and Snapchat, but I still enjoy the social aspect of it, like sending my friends snaps of me dipping an entire stalk of broccoli into hummus and eating it like a banana. I like keeping up with the news through it (since I don’t have a TV in my room). And, let’s be real, I think I speak for everyone when I say: there is no hiding that I love when my pictures get liked and commented on (thanks dopamine!),
One month probably wasn’t enough, but it sufficed to show me how silly it is when we get caught up in these platforms. I manage my time much better now, considering how valuable it is; I know how to say NO when I’m tempted to click the bubble, but know that I have an exam to study for; And I don’t go on Instagram as much anymore unless I’m looking for something specific. Because what is scrolling and liking doing for me anyway?
Maybe if we started look at the world through more than just our phone, we’d be able to make more positive changes, and focus on the goals and relationships that really matter…
Why don’t you try it for just a week? Then let me know your thoughts!