I took a break from social media, here’s what I learned


Leta Lohrmeyer

After taking a week-long break from social media, opinion editor Leta Lohrmeyer shares five lessons she learned. Graphic by Philly Nevada/the Gateway

Social media is an integral part of our lives. Browsing Twitter, checking Instagram and having your mom post about you on Facebook has just become a part of life now.

Worldwide there is a reported 2.82 billion social media users, according to Statista. But while there is an enormous amount of people online, there has been a trend of people taking breaks or social media ‘cleanses.’ Even if you scroll through Google, there are several articles of people swearing that a break from social media has changed their lives.

Personally, I got kind of curious about all these people praising the digital detox. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of cutting ties from all those apps. Mostly I wondered, could I do it?

I had never actually acted on this question, that is until one day when I was going through my Twitter feed and could physically feel myself getting exhausted. Following several news organizations, I was bombarded with articles about mass shootings, the Amazon rainforest burning and ongoing scandals. I decided that I wanted to take a step back from all of it.
To be clear, I do not hate technology or think that this generation is doomed because of our connection to our devices. I conducted this experiment simply out of curiosity, to see if I could follow through with it.

On a Monday morning, I grabbed my phone and deleted each of my apps. Here are five things that I learned from my break.

Life Goes On
One of the main reasons I put off taking a break from social media was that I was worried that I would miss out on my friends’ lives. People communicate and promote things all the time through social media. I did not want to be the only person left behind or in the dark.
In a Psychology Today article by Graham C.L Davey, it’s stated that social media can link to people’s mental health. “In the modern day, social media such as Facebook and Twitter are a significant contributor to the friendship networks of young people, [….] it can have an impact on feelings of loneliness, anxiety, paranoia, and mental health generally.”

During my break, I did not often think about all the posts or stories I didn’t have a chance to see. Instead, I found other ways to fill that void. I learned that even while I was disconnected, life went on, and I was still fine.

Small Attention Span
During the first days of my detox there were a few slip-ups, like when I would instinctively turn to Twitter after I woke up or during my break at work. I found out that I use social media as a distraction for when I get bored, and, because of this, I have a really short attention span. For instance, when I watched a movie I got a little jittery when I didn’t have my phone to scroll through Instagram. There is even some research connecting the usage of social media to shortened attention span. With no social media, I was forced to concentrate on one thing at a time.

Other Things to Do
One of the biggest problems that I face is the amount of time spent on my phone. I can get swept into a horrible blackhole where I spend hours in the social media cycle, constantly switching to different apps. According to Statista, in 2017 people spent nearly two and a half hours per day on social media. That amount of time has increased with each passing year. I learned that when I take away the time I usually spend on social media I can do more productive things. I ended up cleaning my apartment, starting a new TV show (which is not something I usually do), practicing Spanish and reading an entire book. I also went to bed much earlier without going through my social media “cycle.”

One of the wonderful things about social media is that it preserves memories. It is something that is often overlooked but sharing life’s memories and big moments is what social media is all about. I spent time with some new friends, and when I wanted to show them photos of my family or me back in high school, I instantly tried to pull up Facebook. Growing up, we were cautioned that “the internet is forever,” which is both a blessing and a curse. All those shared moments are eternal and in this time period we have digital photo albums, instead of physical.

Detox More Often
One big thing I took away from this experiment was that I was a lot happier when I took a small break. I felt less anxiety, which is commonly connected with using social media, according to Anxiety.org. Honestly, if you ever feel overwhelmed, frustrated or are simply curious about if you could go without social media, give it a try. I don’t think I will ever swear off social media forever, but taking a quick step back allowed me to appreciate what I have. After I re-uploaded all my deleted apps, I was grateful to catch-up on everything I missed. (At the same time, I decided that I should plan to take another break soon.) Even though this detox did not drastically change my life, I do believe that this social media break has benefited me.