Why Everybody Should Have a ‘Social Media ‘Cleanse’’
This year, I decided to challenge myself and give up social media for Lent, instead of the traditional abstention from chocolate. This was partially spurred on by the ‘screen time’ function on the iPhone, which enables you to see how much time you spend on your phone. My screen time before my ‘social media ‘cleanse’’ was around 8 hours per day. This may seem shocking but when you calculate all the ten-minute intervals you spend scrolling through twitter, it really does add up! So, I decided this would be a challenge worth enduring, so I wouldn’t live the best years of my life through my phone.
I started my ‘cleanse’ by deleting all of the social media apps from my phone on the evening of Shrove Tuesday. When I woke up on Ash Wednesday, ‘my social media cleanse’ began. My first instinct when I awoke that morning was to check my phone and scroll through my apps, as I usually would. I realised then that this would not be an easy challenge. However, as days passed, I adapted to my new way of life, getting out of bed more quickly in the morning, with more time to prepare myself for the day, was just one of the positive aspects I enjoyed during my social media ‘cleanse’.
During Lent, I was also studying for my final exams. Giving up social media meant that I could spend my time in the library more effectively, rather than endlessly scrolling through social media as a substitute for studying. This really made me realise how much I personally use social media as a medium through which to procrastinate. Whether it’s a reason not to get out of bed in the morning or scrolling through Instagram instead of revising for an exam, it is something that I think we all waste a lot of time on. During Lent, my screen time fell to about 2 hours on average per day, 6 hours less than before. This time was added up through text messaging, Facetime, Apple News and Spotify.
When Easter morning broke, I suddenly became aware of the end of Lent, and so, the end of my challenge. At first, I felt very anxious about re-downloading, and decided to only re-download Instagram, so as not to become overwhelmed. However, I quickly uninstalled when I realised how much time I had spent scrolling through my friends’ feeds, liking their posts that I had missed during Lent. My whole 2 hours of screen time had been used up solely on one social media platform! At this point, it was only a few weeks until I was to sit my final exams, so I made the conscious decision to stay away from social media until my exams were done. The narcissist inside me got the better of me, and I did re-download for my birthday, to see all the birthday posts from friends and family. However, I deleted after this day and managed to stay away until the 1st of May when I finished my exams. Since then, I have been determined to have some social media free days, to ensure I don’t become too gripped by everything going on at the moment.
In total, I had 9 social media free weeks (minus Easter Sunday and my birthday!). In this time, I realised several things:
Firstly, that you can enjoy moments without documenting them on social media. Everybody loves having photos and videos as memories of moments, but not all of your Facebook friends need to know about all of your experiences. It’s nice to share but it’s important not to overshare. And equally, it’s important not to become too absorbed in other peoples’ posts. I think it’s really difficult, especially for young people, not to scroll through social media and compare their lives to others. It’s important to remember that nobody shares posts about the bad days.
Secondly, it made me re-evaluate why we post in the first place. To show people that you might not necessarily socialise with, that you also have friends and family and have a good time? I enjoy seeing my own friends and family’s posts, but what about all those old classmates from high school that you still have on Facebook? Probably they care as much about your posts as you do about theirs!
Thirdly, I realised that you can keep in contact with people without being their ‘friend’ on Facebook or following them on Twitter. My ‘social media cleanse’ showed me who I should prioritise in my life which I think is important. After my ‘cleanse’, I’ve deleted so many people from my social media. I think it’s important to recognise you do not need to be friends with someone on Facebook, as well as following them on Instagram and Twitter. It seems pretty excessive to have people you might not even say hi to if you bumped into them in the supermarket on three different social media platforms. If I don’t socialise with you in real life, then why am I keeping up to date with you on social media? And why do I have you on my friends/follower list on all three platforms? It’s nice to keep in touch with friends and family, and even old classmates from school, but it seems unnecessary to have people you might not be in touch with now on all of your social media platforms.
Fourthly, I slept better. Before my ‘social media cleanse’, I would scroll through social media before I went to sleep and first thing in the morning. If you are struggling to sleep, I highly recommend deleting social media, from your phone at least! It will encourage you (or force you!) to do something healthier before bed, like reading a book.
Finally, in these strange times, deleting social media might be a good way to ensure you are not consumed by everything going on at the moment. Obviously, we shouldn’t be ignorant to what is happening, but sometimes ignorance is bliss, especially if you are feeling down or scared about the future. I’d definitely suggest taking some time away, even for a few days, to ground yourself and remind yourself it’s not all bad!