‘I realized how much time I spent consumed online’

Logan Hanekamp

As I walked down the social studies hallway on my way to economics yesterday, the halls were crowded as usual. I was alone and found myself reaching into my bag to grab my phone. This was instinct. Being alone and having to say hello or smile at a semi-familiar face has become uncomfortable in our society today. When my phone lit up in my face I had forgotten, I was unplugged. Not unplugged entirely because, well, I was holding my phone. I was unplugged from all social media platforms. When I looked at my phone, I didn’t know what to do. So I opened the weather app. This was day one.

After a full week of being unplugged from social media, I learned many things about the millennial generation, myself, and society today. A whole week after the awkwardness of pulling up the weather app on my way to economics, I walked down the hallway and noticed the percentage of students on their phones. Now I didn’t exactly do a statistical report or anything of that sort, but I’d say it was about 85%. For my generation, our worlds are in our phones — more specifically our social media. I never realized how much I used it until it was gone. I’m not alone when I say I honestly wish I had grown up in a time without social media. My childhood was filled with adventures. I would set off on journeys with my friends, lose track of time, and explore the world–well, my neighborhood. As I became a tween, and Steve Jobs invented the iPhone, my free time became more restrictive. When my friends and I would spend time together, there would be many occasions when we were all glued to our phones.

After going through this social media cleanse, I realized how much time I spent consumed online. Most people mindlessly scroll through their social media feeds when they have a few spare minutes. These minutes add up, and there are many other useful ways to spend time. Now, instead of scrolling through my social media feeds, I would strike up a conversation with people or merely notice things going on around me I otherwise would have been oblivious to. Following social media was a bad habit I didn’t even know I had.

During my time away from social media, other than the first day, I was surprisingly never tempted to break the pact of staying off all platforms for a week. I had deleted all of my social media apps (Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, VSCO, etc.) to avoid any temptations. The school days were easy because I rarely use social media during my classes anyways. During study hall, I was able to get ample amounts of work done. One day, I went off campus with one of my closest friends for lunch, and as we sat down to eat, she proceeded to use her phone for the majority of the time we sat there. I attempted to make conversation, but the responses weren’t super meaningful or even related to what I was saying. It was clear to me that the presence of a phone affected the quality of the conversation. I’m sure if I had social media that day I would have also been all over my phone, but not having social media has made me realize how much it has invaded our lives. It has become a part of our everyday routines. The first night when I got into bed, I kind of just sat there staring at the home page of my phone. I couldn’t respond to Snapchats or scroll through Instagram, so I just hit the sack.

Before the invention of phones and computers, humans used to spend their evenings in darkness, but now our evenings are illuminated by artificial lighting casting from a tiny rectangle. The amount of time our society wastes on social media terrifies me. Without social media, I slept and focused better. I was able to finish all of my homework in record time, turn in three college applications, and spend quality time with my family.

The hardest part of being off social media was not being able to communicate with my friends and people whom I don’t see every day. While social media receives a negative connotation, it is a great platform to keep in touch with people whom you don’t always see. The app I missed the most was Snapchat. I would say Snapchat is less of a social media platform and more of a communication method — at least among my friends and me. Arguably all millennials are on social media, and it is hard to live in this generation without it. I was continually missing opportunities to hang out with friends, missing what my friends in college were up to, and missing simple questions people asked me over Snapchat rather than text messages.

It would be wrong to say social media is a universally bad thing because it has demonstrated its unique ability to connect with people from around the world. Taking a week break from social media taught me to focus on the things in life that actually matter. Instead of being plastered to my phone, I watched the Starbucks barista make my coffee, I had real conversations with my parents during breakfast, and I gained some much needed hours of sleep. These were small, yet notable aspects of my life that I didn’t know I was missing.

When I first decided to quit social media for a week, I thought I would miss out on a ton of things. Going unplugged was one of the best choices I’ve ever made. This experience opened my eyes to things I didn’t know I was missing. I encourage you to do the same, even if it is just one social-media app for one day. Delete it from your phone. See if you miss it. See if you notice how much time you had been spending on that app.