Last week, I did a crazy thing. OK, so not swim-with-the-sharks crazy, but a pretty big deal for a social-media addict. And as it turns out, I did a wonderful thing for myself.
I didn’t even plan to do it. I scrolled through my Instagram feed in bed one night -- a place I’ve promised myself time and time again would be a technology-free zone. I know the facts. Looking at a screen before bed prevents your brain from releasing melatonin, the hormone that tells your body it’s nighttime. But still I check my Instagram in bed at night -- it’s been my bedtime story for ages. Somewhat sleep deprived lately, I was in major need of a bedtime-routine makeover, so I made myself a promise that night. No checking Instagram for one week, especially in bed -- an Instagram fast of sorts. I deleted the app and tucked my phone away. Gasp.
I purposefully didn’t tell anyone about my endeavor just to see if I could adhere to the experiment on my own. At first the temptation was great. Like a true addict I would sometimes go through the motions on my phone to open the app, only to find it wasn’t there. But I never caved. In fact, as this week wore on I found I had actually almost forgotten about it. Imagine if a smoker could kick his/her habit as quickly!
I was unplugged from a significant social media source, yet life still happened. I spent time with friends, went to school, went to the gym, ate my meals and went to sleep at night. Business as usual but with a lot less distraction. I was more efficient, effective and engaged in everything I did.
Young people are constantly juggling a multitude of social media outlets. Many make their participation a priority or even a matter of urgency. “I really need to post a picture on Insta. I haven’t in, like, two weeks!” This fear of “falling off the social grid” is fueled by our ability to let everyone know what we’re doing while finding out what they’re doing with a few clicks. Where is everyone this weekend? Who is dating her? Who is friends with him? Who is no longer friends? The list goes on.
I watch my parents and their friends with envy as they sit around my kitchen table drinking wine, having dinner and holding a conversation -- not a single person is buried in a phone. I don’t even think they have their cell phones in the same room. None of their conversation revolves around “that picture so and so just posted!” Their conversations are genuine and certainly not fueled by any Instagram post. The idea of fully engaged, focused conversation is something foreign to many young people and that is embarrassing. We are “that generation."
We sometimes forget it’s possible to live without these precious sources of social media. We can and probably should check out for a week or two or three or forever. Whether it’s Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat or Twitter, I encourage everyone to try going without for a bit. You may learn it’s a habit that’s not hard to break.
Try to enjoy life with your head up. Relate to your friends without a screen illuminating your face. The less time you spend scrolling, editing, and “liking," the more time you have to appreciate moments as they happen rather than framing them for a photo and planning their caption.