Social media is such an integral part of our lives, but I often wonder if it plays too much of a role. Snapchat is used on the regular to show off our Saturday night plans, while Instagram allows you to see into the lives of others with only a few taps of your finger.
I, especially, can appreciate the power of social media. Living almost 400 miles away from home, my only means of keeping in touch with highschool friends is through Facetime and Snapchat. Without social media, I’d hardly know what they were up to.
But, that being said, I can easily say that I spend too much time on my phone. Oftentimes, it seems that instead of being productive, I’m simply scrolling through the same Instagram feed over and over again. Recently, I’ve even discovered an iPhone setting called “Screen Time,” which records the amount of time you spend on your phone every week. I began to realize just how much time I was spending on my phone: almost 24 hours in a week alone. That statistic shocked me. Yes, I’d always known that I probably spent more time on my phone that I should, but a whole day’s worth seemed excessive.
My new year’s resolution became to stop spending so much time on social media. Yet, even with the intention to limit my screen time, it was impossibly hard to resist. Which lead me to wonder why social media is so attractive to us. Is it really because it’s “addictive,” something we can’t seem to live without? Or is social media simply a means for us to procrastinate–something we would do even without our phones?
I decided to put it to the test. With some apprehensions, but a firm resolution, I deleted my Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook apps.
The first few days without my go-to social media apps were easier than I thought they’d be. While I did get momentary urges to check my Instagram, it was easier to stick to my social media ban after deleting the apps, meaning they weren’t sitting on my phone taunting me. In fact, it seemed as if I was being more productive, choosing to do my readings for class when I couldn’t waste hours away on Instagram.
In fact, it seemed as if I cared less about what others were up to. FOMO (otherwise known as the “fear of missing out”) is certainly something I, as I’m sure most others, have experienced. But without being able to see hundreds of stories picturing what cool party seemingly everyone but I was at, I wasn’t thinking about what other people were up to, or comparing my weekend plans to theirs.
My mornings, too, seemed more productive. I’m notorious for waking up an hour before I need to leave for class, yet laying in bed scrolling through my various feeds until I have 10 minutes to get dressed and eat–and must mad dash to school. While I can’t say I didn’t lie in bed contemplating whether or not I should skip my 8:30 that morning, I was certainly getting out of bed earlier than usual.
As the week progressed, I hardly thought about Instagram or Snapchat, although I would occasionally go out somewhere and think, “Oh, I should post about this on my Snapchat!” before remembering my self-inflicted ban. It made me realize how ingrained social media is with our lives. Somewhere along the way, we’ve developed a desire to literally show off our lives. When we go out to a party, we want people to see that, and therefore post a video on our Snapchat stories. We want people to see what we’re doing–and for what? To seem “cool” in the eyes of others?
What surprised me the most was how impossible it was to live without Facebook of all things. I’m really not a Facebook person, finding it cluttered with too many shared videos that I could often care less about. Yet, I will admit that I broke my ban a couple of times, simply because I had to check when my club meeting was or what time a club social was later that week. It made me realize just how involved we are with Facebook in a “professional” sense.
I don’t mean professional in the way of our future careers, but in the way we are involved in the Queen’s community. Facebook is the epitome of club information, the home of Overheard at Queen’s, and overall the main way to be kept in the loop about events on campus. I wouldn’t say this is a bad thing, perse, but I think it just goes to show how ingrained social media is in our lives, to the point that it can be fairly difficult to extract ourselves completely.
Overall, my week isolated from the social media world really wasn’t so bad. Let’s put it this way–it certainly wasn’t the end of the world.
So, why then, is there this social media “addiction”?
I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I don’t think our phones make us procrastinate so much as they act as enablers for our bad habits. Cutting out social media won’t make us stop procrastination–but from my experience, it certainly helps.
This isn’t a call to action, where I insist we all toss our phones into Lake Ontario, but I do think we need to limit our use of social media. One Bustle article describes a study at the University of Pennsylvania, where “students who restricted their social media use [to 30 minutes a day] demonstrated significantly lower levels of loneliness.” This just goes to show the invisible effects of social media we often don’t consider.
Social media isn’t inherently harmful, but in this day and age, it seems to rule our lives. While I certainly won’t be quitting Instagram or Snapchat again in the foreseeable future, I do want to cut down my screen time, and I encourage others to do the same. In doing so, we can begin to focus more on the real world, instead of the digital one.