Often I fall into the same mundane, obnoxious routine; do a little work, check Facebook, complete some more work, check Instagram, text a friend, check twitter, and repeat. I end up spending more time on twitter, Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat and Pinterest than I do completing anything in front of me. I set guidelines by when I can check. “Fifteen minutes of work, then I can have a social media break,” or “okay I am going to finish this project and then I’ll check my social media.” I would even brush of conversations with friends, take multiple minutes to respond, or ignore them out completely all for the sake of checking updates on my phone.
All of these social media outlets don’t allow for me to accomplish anything. Often, not even five minutes go by before I am reaching for my phone to refresh my Instagram or search desperately for new SnapChats. My work goes unfinished and I am left unsatisfied, wanting more, and discouraged. I feel like since I am not partaking in things everyone else is doing then I am left out. Some call it FOMO (fear of missing out), and this “FOMO” has led me to not only feel slightly annoyed with people, but annoyed with myself, with my life, and with my future. After a glimpse at the lives of my peers, I’ll sit around and worry about what I cannot control. Ill think to myself, “I should look like that, I should have that job, I should be doing that to better myself instead of doing this.” Needless to say, it has become an endless cycle of feeling depressed and inadequate.
I am not saying all social media is bad; I find it very beneficial for keeping up with friends and family, keeping up with current events, finding jobs, and as a marketing platform. However, this past week I became fed up with my own unhappiness. I became fed up with being unsatisfied, fed up with my constant desire to check my phone every five seconds and fed up with feeling like my life fails in comparison of those around me. Likewise, I couldn’t understand why I was so unhappy all the time. My life is not bad by any means; in fact, I like to think my life is pretty great!
In the novel Gilead, Marilynne Robinson writes, “This is an interesting planet. It deserves all the attention you can give it.” I realize now how incredibly accurate that statement is. Therefore, I decided to give more attention to things surrounding me an less attention to my phone. This led to my decision to give up all social media for 48 hours. It was more of an experiment than anything else, but I wanted to see if I felt better, if I was happier, and if I missed it. Funny enough, I learned a great deal about myself, and others, in those 48 hours.
When I wasn’t checking my phone every five seconds, I noticed how obsessed we are.
The first few hours were difficult, really difficult. I would instinctively reach for my phone and direct my thumb to my Instagram only to realize what I was doing and set my phone back down. Surrounding myself with others who were constantly on the phone didn’t really help. It was graduation weekend and Friday night we were all celebrating. Normally, I would be posting pictures on every social media platform, taking SnapChats every other minute and having half-hearted conversations. Instead, I found myself frustrated with every single one of my friends because they would not put away their phones. Well, at first I was mad, then I became amused. I am no better than them, and I can guarantee anyone reading this isn’t really either. Everyone does it. There was not one person in the room who set their phone down for the entire night. Unfortunately, I realized this is what our culture has succumbed to. We cannot go an evening without showing it off to the invisible world of social media and shoving aside those who are physically in front of us. Saddened by this, I made a silent vow with myself to focus more on my relationships. (If you are reading this and have felt snubbed by me because I was on my phone, know I am sorry).
Without the need to check my phone, I realized how much time I had on my hands.
I dedicated my summer to reading as many books as possible. While I always thought I read fast, I didn’t realize how much time I wasted checking my updates on my phone. During the weekend I finished two books, which mesmerized me. I guess my new-found focus has benefits. I hope this focus translates into the school year, and later, my first job.
Oddly, I was happier.
I am not sure how this correlates scientifically, but I realized how much happier I was immediately. I didn’t feel the need to “keep up” with anyone else, I didn’t get “FOMO,” and I didn’t feel inadequate. I was perfectly content being myself no matter how boring, lame, or exciting I was. I also felt like I was more energetic, outgoing, and fun to be around when I didn’t glue my nose to my phone and silently pine for a life that wasn’t mine.
I missed out on a lot.
This is more comical to me than anything else. I didn’t know one of my best friends was in town because she put in on her SnapStory and I didn’t see it. I texted her Sunday and asked when she would be here and she replied, “I got here yesterday!” Later when we talked about it she said she assumed I knew because it was on SnapChat. It’s funny to me how little things like giving up SnapChat can put you out of the loop and leave you uninformed. Yet, at the same time, I don’t really mind it. I also almost forgot it was my older brother’s birthday; thankfully, my mom texted me a reminder. I wonder how many birthdays I would remember if I didn’t have Facebook to remind me…
At the end of the day, I didn’t miss it.
Not. One. Bit. In fact, I decided to delete Facebook and Twitter permanently from my phone, I don’t check Instagram, and I only look at individual snaps to me on SnapChat. I don’t feel like I am missing out anymore and I feel more connected to my true friendships. Furthermore, I am focused and less stressed.
I have read studies where people say social media is bad and soon we will all lose our communication skills. While this may be true, I think there are deeper implications of an addiction to social media. I believe that social media makes us feel like we are connected to everyone else; yet, at the end of the day the only thing we are connected to is the screen in front of us. At the same time, we spend so much energy on social media we don’t leave much of ourselves left to friends in the same room as us. I realized I wasn’t enjoying my life to the fullness of its potential. By spending multiple hours on my phone scrolling through updates, I neglected my personal relationships and I missed out on things happening right in front of my face. I am sure everyone reacts differently to social media and technology, I am sure everyone has a different level of addiction and I am sure everyone views “addiction” differently. However, for me, things got out of hand, and I am glad I took a leap and refreshed my life.