OPINION: Disconnecting myself and reclaiming my time by deleting social media | Opinion

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I deleted all social media from my phone for the month of January — I quit cold turkey, and I learned a lot about myself, the people around me and the culture surrounding social media. I was tired of finding myself in the endless doom scroll and wanted to put an end to it.

For over a year, I’ve kept strict time limits for myself on social media apps: one hour for Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat, and a mere 30 minutes for TikTok. The notifications for these apps were all off as well. This helped some, but I still felt myself drawn to these apps more than I wanted.

Before deciding to delete the apps, I thought I would miss out on important things, which in retrospect really weren’t that important. These things included seeing my friends’ Instagram stories and posts, scrolling through funny posts on my explore pages and enjoying a casual scroll on Instagram reels or TikTok before bed. I thought these little joys genuinely added to my life as a young adult and that they were a reward.

Even now, after this self-made challenge, I do think it can be a relief to spend some time sans-brain, but I feel that moderation is very important.

Lilly Kirn, a second-year studying psychology, is a wellness coach at NC State Wellness and Recreation. In this position, she meets with students who want to focus more on their holistic health and want guidance from a peer. She helps students evaluate certain aspects of their lives and coaches them on how to improve their health how they want.

“Evaluating how you feel after scrolling on social media and looking at the goals that you want to have and finding a balance are important,” Kirn said. “Saying, ‘I want to be able to go to the gym for an hour every week,’ or ‘I want to do art for an hour every week,’ anything that makes you feel good, and sort of slowly replacing those things instead of spending time on social media.”

In the beginning of the month, it felt as if I had enough free time to do anything, but in a weird and off-putting way. I would pick up my phone and have no pacifier to click on if I was bored, looking for anything to relieve myself from thinking my own thoughts. It felt like I was at a loss, that something was missing and I didnt know what it was. As I continued my month unplugged from these apps, I realized how much of a clearer head I had.

I wasn’t comparing my life and physical body to those on social media, and my goals felt more attainable for some reason. I became more present in my daily life, and I felt more focused on what was in front of me.

“People might say, ‘Well, if I’m not scrolling on my phone, I don’t know what else I could be doing,’” Kirn said. “That’s something someone can run into. … I think a lot of that has to do with people who might not know about the positive alternatives, and scrolling on social media feels really safe because they’ve done it for a really long time. It’s always scary, trying new things.”

There were certainly things that I missed. I missed seeing little second-hand updates from friends and mutuals who I don’t see in person enough. I took a month to respond to messages from people who don’t have my phone number. I didn’t understand trends that my friends would reference. But overall, I found the positives largely outweigh the negatives.

While I spent time with my friends I realized how often people pick up their phone to check if they had any notifications or to simply scroll through their feed during a lull in conversation. During face-to-face conversations, people would pick up their phone and look at it, distracting them from who was in front of them. It was frustrating.

“It is so saturated in today’s society and in the college atmosphere,” Kirn said. “It can be a very positive thing, and it really differs for everybody whether they’re able to just put their phone down and say, ‘I don’t want to look at it,’ or some people, it’s a little bit harder.”

In college, most students find that their free time is very limited, and that during certain times of the academic year it can feel like a waste of time to even breathe when there is work to do. Addiction to social media taints your time management and attention span to a level that you can’t understand unless you take some time off. Phones and social media are digital distractions that take away from your ability to focus.

Alexis Steptoe, assistant director of wellness at NC State Wellness and Recreation, played a large role in creating the Wellness Coaching Program at the University.

“Managing your time online and offline is a healthy habit that most people will say ‘Where will I find the time?’” Steptoe said. “Once we have that ‘aha’ moment, you’re like, ‘Oh, wait, there are probably some other ways I could spend my time.’… All of these things are not only operating independently; they’re also interacting. Being able to be separate and look at them, but then also see how they domino into each other.”

Social media apps are designed to draw us in. On TikTok, the short-form media is addictive and compelling. A video that might make you cry follows a video of a beautiful person who made you feel self-conscious, and the former is followed with a clip of a feel good moment between people you’ll never see again. It’s a rough cycle. Instagram is just the same.

“Reevaluating how you use it and what you expose yourself to, … especially with a lot of settings on social media and other things, you can kind of control what you’re exposed to, to a certain extent,” Kirn said. “You can filter out some of this stuff that you might not want to see.”

I still haven’t downloaded Instagram or TikTok again, and I found that the absence of TikTok has no effect on my life. However, I log onto Instagram using my Google browser. This disconnects me from it, in a way, and I find it decreases my being drawn to the app on a daily basis. Now that I have a better grasp on what I find important in the time I have, I know exactly what I’m missing out on without social media. In short, there was practically nothing worth sweating about.

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