If you’re a Millennial, you’ve probably been told that you’re obsessed with social media. And even if you deny it, there’s some part of you that knows this is true. But really, how can we not become obsessed with social media in this day and age? We live in a time where it’s considered strange not to have a Facebook page, where instead of telling friends and family about our engagement, we simply get a manicure and post a picture of our new ring on Instagram.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not siding with your grumpy relative who says Millennials are spoiled and care more about taking pictures of food instead of eating it. Yes, social media is thoroughly etched into our lives, but who says that’s a bad thing? What about all the benefits of staying connected?
Of course, not everyone sees it that way. In fact, my very own grumpy relative pushed my buttons recently when he spent an entire hour at dinner criticizing our generation. (Keep in mind, this is the same guy who stubbornly refuses to switch to DVDs. He’s still bitter that VHS tapes are no longer being made.)
By the end of the meal, I was sure my eyeballs were going to pop out from all the eye rolling I was doing. He ended his speech by saying it would be impossible for me to give up social media for even a week.
But I decided I’d do one better. Determined to prove my point, I chose to give up social media for an entire month. After all, absence makes the heart grow fonder, right?
Week One: As they say, old habits die hard. Countless times, I subconsciously opened Instagram only to remember with a sudden jolt that I had given up social media. I chose not to completely disable my social media platforms because I wanted to see how I would deal with the temptation just a click away, but by the end of the week, I deeply questioned this decision. And as much as I hate to say it, I definitely found myself feeling lonely. I know, I know. I shouldn’t have felt lonely since social media doesn’t actually involve physical human interaction anyway. But no matter how much I told myself that, I couldn’t shake the feeling. Maybe social media’s hold on me was worse than I thought.
Week Two: It’s quite amazing what a difference a day makes. By the end of the second week, I had a complete shift in mentality, and I was fully embracing my social media detox. My loneliness turned into that same blissful feeling of solitude you get when on vacation. Truthfully, I had forgotten what it was like not knowing what my friends were up to every single day, and I came to the conclusion that this was definitely a break I needed. Productivity was at an all-time high (you end up getting through a lot more chapters when you don’t put your book down every hour to check your phone), and it felt like I magically had more time during the day. Instead of sitting in front of a screen, I used that extra time to go out with family, wipe the dust off some old board games and for the first time in a long time, I actually took a nap.
Week Three: By the end of the third week, I was still very happy about my break up with social media, but I should’ve known it was too good to last. I met with some old college friends to celebrate a birthday, and it became clear that after just three weeks without social media, I had missed a lot. The conversation turned to a friend who recently became engaged, and I was instantly overwhelmed with guilt for not congratulating her the minute it happened. Even more shocking, I was asked by three different people whether my boyfriend and I had broken up. I thought hard about when was the last time I posted a picture with him in it. A month ago? And yet a mere month without a couple picture on Instagram was enough for everyone to question whether or not we were still together. By the end of the night, I was left feeling guilty, shocked and slightly annoyed.
Week Four: My final week without social media was definitely the most confusing one. When I was finally reunited with social media, I didn’t really know how to feel. On one hand, I no longer felt the need to spend an excessively long time in front of my computer screen, and I was glad to have broken the habit. I felt more positive about myself (which tends to happen to you when you stop comparing yourself to everyone’s Photoshop’d pictures), and I felt my in-person interactions with people were much more special. On the other hand, I had missed a lot. I didn’t get to congratulate two friends who had gotten engaged, I missed a friend’s going away party because I didn’t see the Facebook invite, and most devastating of all, I had completely forgotten that some of my family members in the Philippines only used Facebook chat to keep in touch with me. My heart sank after seeing that my grandma had tried to communicate with me multiple times during my absence and sadly gave up.
Conclusion: Admittedly, the break from social media definitely changed my habits. I’ve given up Twitter completely, I only use Facebook to stay in touch with family, and Instagram is the only social media platform I actively stay on. These changes may seem minor, but I feel less dependent on social media, and I have more time to myself.
So ultimately, is social media good or bad? Honestly, I can’t tell you. What I will say is that breaks every now and then are great to rediscover yourself.
Will I ever give up social media for a month again? Probably not. I’ve learned that it’s much better to embrace technological advancements than to stubbornly deny them.
Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll give into the things I’m stubborn about. I may eventually prefer a Kindle or Nook over the feel of actual books. Probably not, though.
This story was originally published in our Fall 2015 issue. Get your copy here.