“I felt like, so zen and in touch with my emotions. Everyone should give up social media.” - Jenna
“This definitely like made me a better person. Like, better than you.” - Julia
“It was so hard but like, so rewarding.” - Madeline
Let us address one thing up-front: we realize that being able to give up social media is a privilege in itself and so many of us take it for granted. It is also difficult to avoid clichés when writing about an experiment like this, but we have tried to do so to the best of our ability.
So, what exactly did we do? The experiment took place a few weeks ago. It started Monday morning and ended Sunday afternoon. For seven days we could not use:
Before the experiment began, we looked into a feature on the iPhone called “Screen Time” to see how much time we spent on our phones and which apps we used the most. Below are pictures of the data for each of us:
We encourage everyone to take a look at this page in your phone settings! For more information on how to use this feature, click here! What is your average amount of screen time each day, and what apps do you use the most? When all three of us looked at the data, we were surprised by how much more we use our phones compared to how long we thought we used them.
During the week of experimentation, we also all found that we would instinctively go to open one of our social media apps without even thinking about it. However, to avoid this temptation, Julia decided to delete Instagram and Snapchat ( : 0 ). It was especially hard to not visit instagram and scroll through the endless explore page when we were on a bus, in a car, or just when we wanted to take a break from schoolwork. And, no surprise, we got a lot more done without taking so many breaks.
Madeline: First let me say that it was definitely not a smart idea to start a new Netflix show right before the experiment began... I don’t recommend doing that. So, usually I get home around 4:15, but I don’t get started with homework until 4:45 or 5. Without having social media to scroll through or Youtube/Netflix to watch, I had a snack and then started my homework at around 4:30. Let’s be honest, the Explore page on Instagram is a black hole that we can get stuck in for hours. When I wanted to take study breaks, I would go play with my dog or spend time with my family instead of watching Netflix. While I stopped thinking about social media or streaming sites from Tuesday to Thursday, Friday was really difficult because all I wanted to do was relax and watch some of my favorite shows. Saturday and Sunday were also difficult because I was eager for the experiment to be over.
Jenna: Over the past several years, I have developed the chronically bad habit of using my computer to satisfy my social media cravings. On weekends, I can spend hours on end descending down a black hole of old Shane Dawson videos and strange accounts discovered on the Instagram explore page. Since I use my computer for most of my social media, it was torturously tempting to open a new tab after an extended period of studying and type in “insta.” On more than one occasion, I had to slap myself on the wrist to resist the temptation. While it was not exceedingly difficult to refrain from the use of social media on school days (as we were in the midst of “Heck” Week and there wasn’t much time for Jake Paul conspiracy theories anyway), it became much more challenging once the weekend arrived. While I seriously considered abandoning the challenge altogether multiple times on Saturday, I was able to survive by playing one-too-many rounds of Episode and sudoku on my phone.
Julia: I have a talent for finding random activities in order to put off my work, often leading to my own dissatisfaction with the activity itself. My phone can create a disconnection into some other reality, where soullessly scrolling through the infinite abyss of the Explore page on Instagram is my most important task at that moment. To avoid that this week, I deleted the social media apps off of it. I felt myself wanting to check them quite a few times, but I ended up filling that with other activities I might actually enjoy more, and got more work done in the long run. In particular, I Facetimed my friends a lot more that week. I procrastinated far less, and when I did, it was with things I really enjoyed and made me happy.
The results. Below are images of data after one week of no social media.
Madeline: My average phone usage only dropped 16 minutes which surprised me a lot. I thought that not being able to use social media would make me use my phone a lot less but that was definitely not the case. Because I couldn’t use social media or Netflix/Youtube, I filled that “void” with listening to music, surfing the web (5 hours is A LOT) and playing Episode. I found that Quora is much like the black hole that is the Instagram explore page. Also, yes, you heard me right, Episode. It can be surprisingly entertaining when you have nothing else to do on your phone. So, while my average did decrease a little during the week, I quickly found other things to do on my phone to give me a distraction for my schoolwork when I needed it.
Jenna: Over the course of this challenge, my average phone usage dropped by 29 minutes per day. When I observed the results, I was fairly surprised. Since I don’t often use my phone for social media, I didn’t think that many of my phone habits would change. In reality, the challenge did alter my phone habits because it forced me to perceive my phone as something negative throughout the week. This perception of negativity might have influenced me to avoid using it altogether, instead of just for social media.
Julia: My phone usage dropped significantly (decreased by 1 hour and 53 minutes!!) from when I used social media to when I didn’t. This definitely made me confront how much I use my phone for social media (embarrassing) and how, most times, I don’t get that much out of it. Not that going on social media isn’t a worthwhile activity-- it’s just that I should probably set more time aside for other things. Being aware of the experiment itself made me think more about the negative influence of my phone over the positive, which I would assume contributed to this drop in usage as well.
Overall, this experiment taught us about the impact that the immediacy of social media has on our lives. Sometimes, having unlimited amounts of entertainment and information at a moments notice can become overwhelming and seem impossible to turn away from. Some things that may seem urgent in the moment, such as monitoring Ariana Grande’s Instagram story post-Pete Davidson break up, may seem frivolous only days later (thank u, next). Resisting the urge to check social media made the frivolity of these instances much more apparent to us. In the end, we were able to survive the brutality of Heck Week by studying, spending time with our families, and playing Episode -- no social media necessary. Though we don’t encourage every individual to undertake this challenge all of the time, unplugging can be a surprisingly revealing experience that can make you acutely aware of the amount of time that you spend on social media, along with the other ways that you can spend that time.