Can you imagine what life would be like if we couldn’t resort to frantically checking our social media sites in uncomfortable situations or when we are not in the mood to converse with other people? How long do you, realistically, think you could abstain from checking what Kylie Jenner just posted on Snapchat, or investigating the context clues hidden in Taylor Swift’s tweets about her breakup with Tom Hiddleston?
Although I am an undergraduate student here at Vanguard, I am a little bit older than some of my fellow seniors and quite a bit older than the incoming freshman. I have noticed a trend with each incoming class that becomes more and more noticeable the older I become: we are all addicted to our phones, but even more than our phones, we are addicted to social media.
No matter how many times I have tried to convince myself that I don’t need to check my Instagram (or Twitter or Snapchat or Facebook) while I’m studying, I can’t help it. Half of the time I find myself contemplating whether it’s a serious issue or if I have control of the frequency that I check my accounts, which gave me an uncomfortable idea.
I decided to make a bold move to essentially put myself in check and deleted all of my social media accounts from my phone. (Gasp!) It was weird. At first I felt a little panicked, because I realized that if I couldn’t see what people were posting on social media, I could potentially be missing out on something. Social media is this weird vortex where once you’re in, you are locked in. What I didn’t realize until after I deleted the apps is it is incredibly freeing to actually let that all go.
It might be a little too strong to say that it changed my life, but it definitely caused me to look at everyday situations very differently. For example, when I order my coffee at Samson’s, I’ll usually pull my phone out immediately after I order, scroll through Instagram or Twitter, maybe watch a couple Snapchats, and it seems like within seconds my name is called and my caramel macchiato is ready. Without the apps to distract me from the ticking of the clock, the waiting time for my much needed espresso seems to double, even triple. I found myself much more irritable because I didn’t have anything to distract me for 2-3 minutes. Could I really not wait for my coffee for 2-3 uninterrupted minutes without distractions? What does that say about the culture we’ve created and grown into if we need distractions to get us through our day?
By day 3 or 4, I was used to waiting for a few minutes while the barista made my espresso. Now I was no longer looking down at my phone or feeling agitated because I had to wait a whole 3 minutes for my latte, so I could see how everyone else was acting. Every other person in the coffee shop was looking at their phone. I mean every single person. I was shocked. In a social media dominated society, we are clearly becoming extremely anti-social in real-life situations. Someone would occasionally look up from their phone and direct their attention towards the counter where the finished drinks were waiting, but overall their eyes would remain fixed on their phone, their lifeline.
To be honest, my biggest motivation for deleting my social media apps off of my phone was because I was not able to concentrate on studying or reading for my classes. But as I began to notice the side effects of a seemingly controllable addiction, I started to realize how dependent our society has become upon social media. This need we have to feel included via social media is frightening. We have become so dependent on social media to make us feel involved that we don’t know what it feels like to be “disconnected.”
All this to say, I challenge you to go one day without social media and reflect on the impact it has. You could see the world around you from a different perspective, you how discover how social media has become your crutch, or you might realize that it is a distraction you have come to require in everyday life. Whether we realize it or not, social media is a tangible distraction that can take time away from moments and people that deserve our attention the most. Take a minute and look up from your phone or laptop or tablet, the world won’t stop moving.