Should You Give Up Social Media? What I Learned from a Social Media-Free Week

There are many arguments in favor of giving up social media, particularly for reasons related to mental health. According to an article from SCL Health, getting offline can improve your happiness, self-esteem, and sleep cycle. You can read about dozens of people who’ve tried giving it up from one day to several years—all with overall positive effects.

As a child of the 21st century, my cell phone is practically an extension of my hand, and social media promises guaranteed distraction and freedom from boredom just a click away. I am addicted to social media.

Yet I, like many, suffer from the self-esteem hits that come with comparing myself to others on social media: the lack of productivity that ensues from hours of scrolling and burnout.

So, I decided to give up social media for one week to see if it was worth all the hype. For the purposes of this exercise, I limited social media to the “Big Four” apps I use regularly: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. I was still able to text people, watch YouTube videos and surf the web. Here’s what I learned from it.

1. It can promote productivity.

I was off social media for a grand total of five days or 120 hours. I had the advantage of being with the same friends I’ve lived with since the start of the pandemic. I have a job. And there were still times when the immediate boredom—five minutes of just nothing going on—made me desperate to just open a Snapchat or swipe through Instagram stories. It wasn’t easy, but it was productive.

2. You become more intentional.

Even for the short time I gave it up, I noticed positive (albeit minor) changes in my well-being and daily habits. I had longer conversations, I read more, and I went to sleep and woke up earlier. These are typical of the changes many people describe after having given up social media. But on a more personal note, I felt like I took better notice of my surroundings. As corny as it sounds, for that one week I was able to “live in the moment” just a little more.

3. You might feel left out or experience FOMO.

Of course, the experience wasn’t all sunshine and roses. Like many people my age, social media is where I take in a lot of my news. Yes, I could read it all online, but I also trust the people I follow, to filter what’s important to them and share things that I might find interesting. I missed out on all of this. And with quarantine still in effect in my home state of Virginia, losing that link to the outside world at times felt uncomfortably isolating.

4. It’s hard and it will take time to see change.

Even on the last day of the week, I found myself instinctively opening Facebook or Instagram on my phone. The movements were ingrained in my muscle memory, and my brain was eager to receive that quick burst of dopamine.

I closed the apps just as quickly (occasionally glancing at the first post in my feed), but it was clear that I had not totally kicked my social media habit. Quitting any addiction, even one as seemingly frivolous as social media, is a long and at-times incredibly difficult process.

But there are several long-term advantages to quitting social media that I could never have experienced in just a week giving it up.

5. It won’t solve all your problems and results may vary.

To conclude, I can’t recommend giving up social media as a panacea for all problems related to wellness. Some people likely depend on it far more than others, or depend on it for different reasons. Social media isn’t all bad.

If nothing else, this exercise showed me not only how much I depend on social media, but the specific reasons for this dependence. So, before you decide to quit cold turkey, try to figure out why you use social media in the first place.

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