By Alex Hentschel
That’s it,” I said resolutely, holding down my apps until they trembled with the fear of being deleted. “I’m done.”
My dad only looked at me in a “sure, if you say so” way, but I did it — on the car ride back from my freshman year, I got rid of all of my social media and time-wasting apps. Facebook. Instagram. Snapchat. GroupMe. Podcasts. My three — three! — brickbreaking games. I told my friends that all my social media was gone and they could — and should — reach me via text.
Why did I make such a ridiculous, counter-intuitive decision? After all, I was heading home for the summer, and I would miss out on everything my friends from college were doing. Also, I have time in the summer unlike my time during the school year — if there was ever a time for media time-wasting, it was now, right?
Here’s why. Check the settings on your phone to see the amount of screen-time you spend on each app. About a week before my complete detox, I added up all the numbers from social media alone from one week and got a total over 20 hours.
Twenty. Hours. Not including Candy Crush, which had an hourly total I won’t even type for the sake of dignity. I could run 10 marathons in that time (on Netflix). I could get through several books of the Bible in intensive study. I could head to the gym instead of mindlessly scrolling, building up only my index-finger muscle (it can lift about 10 pounds by now). I could get ahead on schoolwork. The list goes on, and on, and on.
Of course, the time-wasting aspects of social media have been reiterated repeatedly. I won’t be a broken record. I will, however, mention one thing that really motivated me to push the delete button — I realized how empty my relationships were becoming.
It’s something I like to call the “like” phenomenon. My friends and family post all the time on social media — and I double-tap or click the thumbs-up. That acknowledgment becomes, at least for me, a substitute for really knowing what’s going on in their lives. I know that my sister got a frappuccino this morning, but I don’t know that new friend she tagged. Instead of clicking on her friend’s profile and stalking her a bit (hey, we all do it), I should have called Makayla and asked, “Hey, how was your morning? Who’s this new friend you met? Tell me about her!”
I’ve found that there’s no substitute for really talking to people. Really reaching out to them, instead of passively acknowledging their comings and goings.
I’m not going to lie — the battle was uphill in the snow both ways. I caught myself logging into Facebook on my web browser because I’d deleted the app, and was scrolling before I even realized what I was doing. Horrified, I cleared out my browser history of all saved passwords. I got a lot of questions and complaints from people who couldn’t understand why I would do something so drastic. I answered their questions but stayed the course.
Over time, my phone became absolutely non-essential. It used to be something I never left the house without — something that gave me major anxiety if it wasn’t in my pocket — but now, I frequently leave it home. Instead, I focus on the little things. Things like helping Grammy clean out the attic instead of scrolling on her couch; finding a new taco recipe (it was great!); building blanket forts with my sisters and their friends.
I also started to become intentional about my interactions with friends and family. Instead of liking their posts, I sent them a text. I even — brace yourselves — started calling them, to hear their voices and to listen to them laugh. I had to ask them what they were doing, since I couldn’t passively find out about it. I’ve so enjoyed hearing my friends excitedly explain their new jobs rather than reading posts about them.
My relationships have never been healthier, and I wake up each day without the compulsive need to check my phone. I’m free.
Quitting social media isn’t for everyone. I knew that the only way that I would become more conscious of my time was to leave no openings for myself to return to it. For others, maybe it’s better to just monitor the time spent. There are a lot of browser apps that cut off the time you spend on each webpage.
For now, I’m staying offline.
Alexandria Hentschel is a sophomore International Studies and Spanish double major and the off-campus news editor for Cedars. She enjoys old books, strong coffee, and honest debate.