McGraw: We Should Take More Social Media Breaks

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In today’s social media world, it almost feels like taking care of yourself goes against “community guidelines.” 

Or so I thought when I was blocked from my Instagram account after unfollowing 300 people whom I’ve never socialized with online or in real life.

Regardless, this sparked an idea for me to see what it would be like to go a week without social media. Having recently watched The Social Dilemma in my media ethics class, I figured it would be the perfect opportunity to see how different my life would be without being connected to the Internet. 

For those who have not seen The Social Dilemma, it basically talks about how social media companies make money by how much time you spend on your phone. They dive into the research that goes into how to keep you attached to these apps. One of the major ways that they do so is through notifications– something so small, yet so important.

Because I already couldn’t use Instagram, I figured it wouldn’t be too hard to give up Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and TikTok as well. 

I had to set limitations for myself, so I decided to give up all the social media apps I use for a week, minus the Twitter account I use for my blog, the account I use for my sports journalism class and any social media I use during my internship. These limitations only allow me to use social media as a tool, if I had to, which I don’t use as often as I do for endless scrolling.

I officially began my experiment on March 21 and went to March 28, conveniently when my Instagram ban would end.

On my first full day, I didn’t really feel like there was a change in my schedule other than for the better. That morning, I got out of bed without checking my phone. I had a busy day with back-to-back classes and a major workload.

I found that because I kept my Twitter for business purposes, I would subconsciously click on the app just to check it. Every time I found myself doing this I’d close out the app because I wanted to keep from mindless scrolling.

I will say a cool thing that I noticed is that the hours I spend on my phone have significantly dropped in just one day. The day before the experiment, I spent a total of seven hours on my phone, with four hours spent on social media. After the first full day of the experiment, I spent four hours total on my phone, with the most used app being HBO Max. Though four hours is no better, it’s a significant improvement in such little time.

Over the next few days, it almost felt like a relief to not be on social media. Social media presence is more important today than it was five years ago. To be able to enjoy a week off where it didn’t feel like an obligation was great. 

I’m not going to lie and say the week was just perfect. I was bored a lot. As productive as I was, there were other times when I could have scrolled on social media, but obviously couldn’t.  I also missed out on a lot. I don’t have a “fear of missing out,” but I do have an interest in staying “in the know.” 

By the final day of the experiment, I was happy that I took this social media break. I realized a few days into the experiment that I don’t really need to keep Snapchat on my phone. I’d only really use Twitter and TikTok, primarily, with Instagram being something I use sparingly.

At the start of the experiment, I averaged about seven hours a day on my phone and four of those hours were spent on social media. At the end of the week, I averaged about three hours on my phone, with an hour and a half being spent on social media (because of work or school).

I’m not gonna lie, I really enjoy using social media. I think a valid concern in today’s world, as a journalist, is that social media presence can both, help and hurt your career. That doesn’t mean that you can’t take a few days off when necessary. Making small changes to your social media habits can have positive impacts on your wellbeing, as I’ve seen firsthand.

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