I have contemplated this blog post for a quite some time now. The reason being because I didn't want this entry (or myself) to come across as hating the Internet. But just like everything else in life, there is more than one way to look at it.
Over the Christmas holiday, from roughly the second week of December to the first week of January, I went home to stay with my parents. Leading up to that much-needed break, I was the most mentally exhausted I have ever been in my life thus far. To spare drawn-out details, by first quarter of my senior year of college was not the easiest and I was tired from it; honestly, I still kind of am. So to do a social media challenge was absolutely necessary for my mental health and mental sanity.
Time For a Break
A bit of context on the why going with out social media and what lead me to go without it:
I am a journalism major, primarily. That means, like my fellow journalist, we are very involved with social media. I use it for school, work, research, and very little for my own personal growth. In the fall of 2016, I was an editor and writer for my college magazine, a TV news broadcast journalist, podcast producer/writer, and student on top of that. I spent roughly 50+ hours a week on a computer, researching for stories, editing stories, creating podcasts, interview people, editing videos, uploading podcasts and videos, reading homework, writing homework, answering emails, etc. If someone needed my attention, you could bet big bucks that my eyeballs were glued to my phone or a computer, engrossed in my next big project for whatever it was I was doing at that time. Consequently, my eyes hurt so much from looking at screens all the time and I had the most horrible attitude toward life.
Now that I've painted that picture... I do not regret any of the work I have completed throughout my college career so far. I am very proud of all the work I have accomplished and will accomplish in the future, but spending that many hours on a computer with minimal sleep and absolutely no social life or skills can really take a toll on a body, and it 100% did for mine.
Breaking an Addiction
No matter how you look at it, media consumption is an addition. Our day revolves around it, from the next time I can check my email, to should I post a #TBT picture on Instagram? What was that ridiculous cat video I saw the other day on Facebook?.... you get the picture. Clicking on a social media app is an itch that always needs to be scratched and that itch will only be satisfied if we continually give in.
There is no cure for this addiction except self-discipline.
I love challenging myself, so this challenge wasn't going to be too far out of my reach. In high school, I took a class (and one of my absolute favorites to-date) where we had an assignment to do a 10-day challenge of some kind of social media platform, whether that was no social media at all, or just Facebook, YouTube, whichever we could confidently go without for 10 days. It was so rewarding and beneficial that I went without Facebook for 14 days, just to add a bit more of a challenge.
Mental challenges are one of the hardest things you can ever put your body through. Professional Crossfitters go to national competitions not because they want to show off how many reps of Deadlifts they can do in one minute. They go to compete with some of the best athletes in the world because it is one of, if not, the hardest mental challenge they know they can put their bodies through.
You don't get stronger if you don't get out of bed and go do your workout. That takes mental strength.
Getting Started: Goodbye People I've Never Met.
For this challenge, I did a complete cleanse from all the social media I typically consume. I didn't consume any Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, WordPress, Soundcloud.... none of that for 14 days. Now, to some non-Millennials, that's not even a challenge, but for myself it was challenging enough because so much of my school and work revolves around using social media and having access to it all the time. The only exception I allowed myself to use was my two primary emails (for work purposes) and the Google Chrome app for internet use only for a purpose; if I had to look up what time a certain store was closing, I had to use the internet.
Other than that, that's it. I didn't open up any one of the previously mentioned apps once. I wanted this to be an experience where I didn't feel the need to open up an app just because I am bored or because my phone was right there and I had the freedom to look at Pinterest recipes for hours... Saying no is hard, but worth it in this case.
Pros and Cons
Here is a list that I accumulated over my 14 days of the cons and pros of social media (s.m.):
The Cons (the 'negatives'):
Ongoing need to engage with an audience on s.m. platforms
Consciously scheduling my agenda around my posts
Distracting myself from getting physical things done
Multi-dimensional personality: this can be a 'good' or 'bad' thing, depending how you look at it. For this purpose, multi-dimensionality can lead to being misunderstood in different s.m. platforms.
Similarly: false perceptions
Restlessness on the body and mind!
Eye irritation and problems
Unreasonable mood changes
The Pros: (the 'good') of going without s.m.:
Less mental energy exhausted
More productive, especially physically
Focused on the present
Similarly, paying more attention to in-person conversations (very valuable), i.e. family time, meet-ups with friends, having genuine conversations, etc.
Less of comparing myself to other people, ESPECIALLY those I have never met on s.m., but admire.
Acting on my true instincts
Less moodiness or mood shifts throughout the day
Less prone to accidents of any kind
One-dimensional personality; easier to 'read', "what you see is what you get...right here" concept.
Jumping on opportunities the minute they are presented in front of myself
More genuine, whole-hearted compassion toward people.
That all being said, this was just my experience. If you do a 10, 14, 36 day or however long social media challenge, this experience could be totally different for you, and that's totally O.K.! For me, I found a lot of personal positives toward no social media consumption and very little internet use. I payed way more attention to my surrounding and my present feelings and emotions. What I immediately noticed was that social media was/is an addiction and it was a crutch for so many of my feelings and worries. I found that I was just more relaxed and at peace with myself and the present. As someone who has severe anxiety 90% of her life, staying true to the present moment is really hard, but I learned to love it.
After the challenge, I now consume social media much less than I did before. I don't let others' experiences affect my personal life. I accept what people put on social media, but I keep true to what I believe and what I am experiencing and as a result, I have less tendencies to explainable mood shifts.
If you're someone who has always wanted to try this crazy challenge, I encourage you to do it. It sounds impossible, but it can be done. Start off with no Instagram or Twitter, something for 24 hours, then next time, 2 days, 2 weeks, 10 weeks. What ever you can do, and then a little beyond that.
Social media is a great tool for many different things and that's one thing I love about it. But the thing to remember is that it's a platform, not a solution to anything. A lot of greatness has come out of it, but we are all still human and must respect what we genuinely feel and should act on and be aware of our mental health.