I felt consumed by my online life, profile appearances, and the carefully-picked, highly-thought-out, edited pictures that showered my days. Considering unfollowing someone is the equivalent of saying, “I really don’t care about you.” I found myself seeing posts from acquaintances I could have sworn I never agreed to. Inevitably, I lost the daily interest to keep up with so many people’s manicured lives. I wanted to take some time for myself.
The bathroom, Chapel, formal dinners, the laundry room, a five-minute walk around campus, lunch with friends. These are just some of the many unnecessary appointments I made certain my phone joined me for. A well-worn love quote, “You’re the first thing I think of each morning when I rise; you’re the last thing I think of when I close my eyes,” essentially illustrates my former affinity towards Instagram. After turning off my morning alarm, Instagram was the first app I opened. At night, after setting my alarm, it was the last app I closed. One Sunday evening, I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to delete every last social media app my phone held. My fingers worked hastily.
Once the deed was done, I put my phone down, and something in me, even if it was minor, shifted.
Though my act was a seemingly insignificant and rash adjustment, my life felt very different. Logistically, I hardly ever had to charge my phone. Until now, I was convinced my iPhone 6 battery was faulty; I’ve since figured out it’s me, not you, Apple. This realization is still slightly difficult to accept. My mornings became more peaceful, I paid attention at the lunch table, and I couldn’t be disappointed by a lack of notifications–there were no tagged memes to be notified of. I poured my time into my friends, myself, and my schoolwork (not that there was much). The items scattering my various to-do lists were checked off immediately, and I finally started going to bed at a reasonable hour.
Other than WSJ articles, there was simply no reason to sit on my phone anymore. Each day I got hours of my life back.
Since even in the most boring of moments resorting to the ‘explore’ page on Instagram was not an option, I instantly became productive in my free time.
Whenever I had the urge to type “Faceb-” into my search bar, I clicked on this blog instead. Any time I had nothing to do in Environmental Science, I clicked on this blog. I replaced scrolling with writing. As I think anyone will agree, there’s something so satisfying in the production of tangible work.
I missed two things while on my short-lived diet. Naturally, I missed the hilarious life moments I’d normally capture through Snapchat. I was forced to take camera roll pictures and send them in group chats. Perhaps I lived slightly more in the moment, but my humor proved less effective. Secondly, I genuinely missed the search bar of my Facebook. Random questions like, “Where does she go to school again?” or “What’s her boyfriend’s name?” went totally unanswered.
I was reminded daily that our generation’s main form of communication is through social media. Of course, I talked to dozens of people via text and FaceTime over the two weeks. Not that I questioned my friendships, but it was reassuring to see these relationships prove stronger than a mere like or comment.
Best of all, I felt autonomous. I didn’t feel excluded.
Instead, I felt a kind of purposeful and peaceful detachment. By the third day I had no urge to get back online.
I’ve always gawked at the few people my age whose lives exist purely offline. Only after my digital “cleanse” did I face the simplicity and beauty my everyday life presented me with, but that I typically ignored.
I’ll leave you with advice you’ve heard before and will hear again. This is because it is pure:
Our accounts are highlight reels of the most photogenic, manicured, and bright times in our lives.
With that, we still reconstruct, censor, and doctor our most “postable” of moments. Almost nothing on a screen can paint a full picture. As much as I try, neither my pictures nor my writing will tell all. This is the way social media goes, and we’ll accept it. However, we must not lose ourselves in a series of small squares.