A couple of weeks ago, my AP Language teacher decided to put our class to the ultimate 21st century challenge that would prove to be difficult for any of us Gen Z'ers. No use of social media whatsoever. Of course, my teacher told us that cheating wouldn't affect her in anyway. It's all about the experience and to see how far we could rein ourselves in. If we cheated, we would only be depriving ourselves of the chance to see just how dependent we are on the little blocks of plastic we place in our pockets everyday.
Obviously, it wasn't easy. Older people will probably laugh at that statement and mutter a soft "of course not" to themselves. Let's be honest, in today's day and age, it wouldn't be easy for anyone regardless of age. Something you're clearly dependent on, something you use on a daily basis, something that is almost seems to be a necessity is taken away from you.
There were a few cheats here and there. I wasn't able to let go of social media completely. For example, I had another person take care of my Snapchat account for my daily streaks. I had to keep using GroupMe to keep in touch with my fellow co-editors and writers of my Odyssey team. I did, though, delete the Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest apps. It emptied up so much space on my phone, especially since I'm not an zealous gamer. My phone basically was there to send texts, receive texts and listen to music.
I had to download several other news apps so I could avoid Twitter. I already had CNN, but in addition, I added Fox, The Onion and Buzzfeed. I would always find articles on Facebook and Twitter, but now I didn't have those apps at my fingertips, I had to download specific news apps instead.
During this span of five days, I kept a journal. At the end of each day, I typed up a small paragraph's worth of report as to what happened, what changed and what I noticed. When my teacher first mentioned the fact that we would have to journal everyday, I groaned. Nothing special would happen. Or so I thought. I thought everyday would be the same grumbling and groaning about not being able to keep up with the latest gossip or news.
But it was so much more than that. And so I thought I would like to share with all of you, my journey of five days without any social media.
January 22 — Monday
I texted a friend two hours ago to take care of my Snapchat streaks. Most of them aren’t really big streaks, but I don’t want to break my streak with Christine since it’s 530 days long. I deleted Facebook and Instagram, so I won’t have to tempt myself. I don’t think I can delete GroupMe because I have to keep in touch with my Odyssey team — I don't think my team would be too happy if I suddenly disappeared for five days.
Coming home on the bus wasn’t too big of an issue for me, because I usually just sleep and listen to music. I can’t really look at screen or a book for too long while on a moving vehicle otherwise I’ll feel sick so I just listen to music to ease my mind.
I told my mom about the challenge, and she said that I would feel extremely relieved of my stress and mentally freed by the end of the week since I wouldn’t be wasting time on keeping an eye on what everyone else was doing. I have a lot of assessments tomorrow so I highly doubt I’ll have time to look at much social media tonight.
January 23 — Tuesday
When I woke up today, my fingers almost immediately went for the Snapchat app before I could stop myself. Good thing school has no service otherwise this would an even bigger challenge. Whenever I saw a notification for Snapchat come up, I would become nervous, hoping my friend (who was taking care of my account) would open it before the clock ran out. I was a little bored during lunch because there are moments of silence during lunchtime with my lunch group since everyone’s on their phone scrolling through their Instagram feed.
It’s actually around 10 p.m. right now and I was about to head to sleep, but I realize I have to write this down before I forget. The next three days are going to be even harder because my entire lunch group will be at Beta Convention. I won’t be able to see their Snapchat stories or Instagram pictures. I’ll be completely clueless as to how their trip will go plus there won't be much to do during lunch. Hoping these next couple days fly by.
January 24 — Wednesday
I felt refreshed today's morning. I think it’s because I slept an hour earlier last night. Usually that hour is spent opening up last minute streaks, scrolling through IG and FB and pinning a few crafts and DIY’s on Pinterest before I head off to bed. It felt great. Instead of the usual scrolling, I just set my alarms, listened to a little music and fell asleep. Actually one interesting thing I noticed that I fell asleep faster than usual. I searched it up on the internet and found an article that shows that apparently looking at any screen an hour before will cause your brain to be more awake, hence making it harder to sleep.
My friends left for Beta Con today so I had a lot of free time during lunch and ended up getting all my APUSH notes done rather than randomly scrolling around Pinterest or IG. I’m home right now, and I can’t do much but homework and Odyssey related work. I did about an hour of piano practice rather than the 30 minutes I usually do.
January 25 — Thursday
Not using social media has actually been getting easier by the day. I’ve started using my time on things that actually matter. I spent an hour longer reading “The Great Gastby,” because I didn’t have any other homework. Everything else I finished at school during lunch.
I do kind of want to see how my friends are doing at Beta Con, but honestly, I can always find out later. I think one of the things I want to stick to doing is not using any social media at least half an hour prior to going to sleep. I feel so much more awake in the mornings. Not having to stress about doing streaks first thing in the morning is another plus. I’ve found time that shockingly, I didn’t have before to go downstairs after my mom comes home from work and talk to her for a while. All of this is because I don’t use social media.
Even after my friends come back, I think I’ll continue doing homework during lunch as they scroll away on their screens. It’s giving me time I never knew even existed. Tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. I can use social media again.
January 27 — Saturday
I didn’t have to journal today because the challenge ended yesterday at 3:30 p.m., but I wanted to mention something that happened to a classmate of mine. I got a snap from one of the girls I have streaks with, and she’s in AP Lang too. She decided to quit Snapchat, because she realized that social media gave her depression and took away the time to do things she loved and spend time with loved ones. But what stood out to me the most was when she wrote: "Those 15 minutes every couple of hours really add up. What a world we live in." She’s right those 15 minutes we spend looking through social media every couple of hours end up adding up and taking away a lot of time.
Even though social media is supposed to keep us connected, it has disconnected us from reality and the things and people around us. I don’t know if I’m completely ready to stop using social media altogether, especially in the day and age we live in. But I am ready to start cutting it down bit by bit. I’m planning on writing an article on my experiences this week so maybe it’ll encourage someone else to try this challenge as well.
To anyone that reads this, I promise that this challenge is worth it. Especially if your life is as consumed by social media as anyone else's in the 21st century. It won't be easy, but that's why it's a challenge. Hopefully your experience will be as freeing as mine was.