Around the start of this semester, I decided to quit social media. I had been Googling ways to stop procrastinating — which was itself an example of me procrastinating on the millions of assignments that had somehow already piled up — and found myself examining my daily routine for the biggest time-wasters. One of these was, of course, social media.
Like many other college students, I spent a great deal of time on social media, particularly Instagram. This app was my primary source of social media; the only other platform I used regularly was Snapchat, and that was for less than 15 minutes a day. The week I decided to change my habits, I was averaging just over an hour a day on Instagram alone.
To some of my friends, this was not a great deal of time, but I felt like it was too much of a distraction for me. While I would leave my phone in another room before bed so I wouldn’t be tempted to spend hours scrolling at night, my phone was almost always next to me while I was studying, mainly because it was too much of a hassle to have to get up from studying to use it for small tasks. This made it very easy for me to develop the habit of navigating to Instagram whenever I got distracted during my work.
That week was particularly busy for me, and I found myself getting frustrated with how little I was getting done. Every few minutes, I would automatically pick up my phone, scroll for a bit on Instagram before remembering what I was supposed to be doing, put my phone down to get back to work, and promptly reach for it again. This was obviously a problem — while I may not have been using social media for a long time in total, it was hindering me from working efficiently.
In a fit of madness — or maybe genius — I decided to sign out of all my social media accounts. This was a little harder than I expected because even after logging out of some accounts, I would be automatically logged in when I reopened the apps. I had to change additional settings before being able to log out completely.
To my surprise, I found that some apps would still send me notifications after I had logged out, such as reminders to view new stories on Snapchat. I had to turn off notifications for those apps within my phone settings.
The first few days were, quite frankly, depressing. I hadn’t considered how many people I talked to mainly through Instagram’s direct messaging feature, and I didn’t know what “important” content I was missing out on. Yet one day, without any social media to distract me, I was able to finish my tasks early enough that I went on a walk all around campus.
After returning to my dorm, I found that I still had hours to waste. I automatically opened Instagram and, upon being greeted by the login screen, sobbed dramatically until I felt better.
Of course, whenever one of my friends asked me how my social media cleanse was going, I would rave about how amazing and life changing the experience was — only so they would be tricked into joining me in my misery. Sadly, no one seemed to be interested enough.
The only thing that really kept me going was that I had told most of my friends that I would be living social media-free for the semester — and my promise to The Vector’s managing editor that I would write an article at the end of it.
I can’t pinpoint exactly when I stopped relying on social media, but sometime in October, I opened Instagram to post something for a club — and found that I was already signed into the app from a week prior, when I had last used it for the same reason. Somehow, I had gone from opening Instagram multiple times a day to not even remembering that the app existed. That’s when I realized that I had succeeded.
There are some things I still need to work on. I do occasionally log in to post to my Instagram story; however, I have eliminated the mindless scrolling I mainly used Instagram for before.
Has it stopped my habit of procrastinating on assignments? Well, procrastinators will always find ways to avoid doing work early; the time I had spent on Instagram before is now spent staring out of the window or at my pencil.
What this whole experience has taught me is that it is entirely possible to break some of my bad habits. It was a bit of an uphill battle in the beginning, and I had truly hated life during this period, but staying off social media apps is something I will continue to implement for future semesters.