24 Snapchats. Six Instagram notifications. I opened these apps for the first time since Monday, Sept. 5 when I agreed not to use social media — Instagram and Snapchat — for a week.
I thought it would be a good personal challenge. Plus, I’ve always heard about studies supporting the notion that social media use is not the best for us, something that psychologist Christina Sagioglou affirms in a “Fast Company” article.
“Basically, it [social media] is passive consumption of other people’s information that is considered a waste of time and thereby lowers our mood,” Sagioglou says. “Less of that thus seems advisable.”
However, after refraining from Snapchat and Instagram for a week, I learned how absolutely vital using social media has become to my daily routine and even health.
Five minutes after my commitment to this withdrawal, I found myself subconsciously opening the Instagram app and refreshing my feed. I realized how habitual this act is. It was like my fingers were working separately from my brain — a sort of muscle memory encoded. I deleted the app in order to prevent this from happening again, and so it would not tempt me.
Being with friends was even worse. Every time I was with other people, I looked around and everyone was on their phones. Open Instagram. Scroll through feed. Open Snapchat. Scroll through stories. Send pictures. Reopen Instagram. Refresh feed. Scroll. Open. Scroll. Send. It was a never-ending cycle. Seeing everyone participating in this had me dying to do the same, and it had only been the first 20 minutes.
I was becoming more aware of my surroundings, but more specifically, painfully aware of the people around me addicted to social media. It was as though everyone was brainwashed by these apps on our tiny devices. Yet all I wanted to do was to relieve myself and do the same.
That first day was the hardest. The other six were not easy, but as a result, I found myself overcompensating by texting, FaceTiming and calling my friends much more frequently than I ever have. I even started sending pictures via iMessage.
On Tuesday, I lost my streak with my sister on Snapchat. I also wasn’t able to post about my friend’s birthday on Instagram. By the end of the week, not being on social media made me feel like I was a bad sister and friend — just to prove how unhealthy its role is in our relationships.
By the end of the week, I learned we are all pretty brainwashed with the increasing amount of social media that appears in our lives. But even though it might not be the best use of time, I realized that I am okay being part of the distracting, buzzing cell phones that rule our lives. Ultimately, it keeps us all connected.
Email Caroline Zemsky at [email protected]