A week and a half ago I deleted social media apps from my phone, and since then the results have been significant enough that I feel comfortable telling people that they should seriously consider doing the same.
I’ll clarify that I didn’t cut social media out of my life. I still have different messaging apps to keep in contact with people and when I get home at the end of the day, I’ll still open Facebook or Reddit on my computer and scroll a bit while I decompress. While I think that social media in general has many positive and negative effects on the human brain and society in general, that’s not what this experiment was about.
What I wanted to solve is the mindless opening of an app and scrolling just because it’s easy and there’s nothing better to do. I’ve increasingly noticed over the past few months a compulsive tendency to open Facebook, Instagram or Reddit and scroll through them, not even looking that hard at anything that passes by. I’m just using it as a filler during a moment when there’s nothing to do. That subconscious anxiety, that need to fill empty space, is what I wanted to correct.
So, I deleted those apps, and this is when the real introspective nightmare began. For the days following my purge, I would regularly go to mindlessly open the apps only to be struck with the realization that not only were they not around to save me from a boring or awkward moment, but also how much I was truly compulsively reaching for them. I could do my best to notice my own behaviors during normal times, but when it was so clearly put on display, I was shocked by how much of my time had been thrown into the void.
This isn’t even because scrolling is bad. The problem is that it was unintentional. It seems like people like to think they’re aware of everything they do, totally in control of their decisions, but this experiment has shown how untrue that can be with certain mental processes. It makes sense, the apps are designed to grab your attention so you become a perfect advertisement-watching machine, but it is disturbing to realize about your own mind.
I was bored a lot. I knew it would happen, but it’s still worth mentioning. This isn’t even necessarily a good or a bad thing, but I found that I suddenly had a lot more time sitting and waiting around that I had been glossing over. I had two new things to do. Number one: suck it up and just…be bored when there was no other option. Number two: for the longer breaks in my day, I had to find something else to do since I couldn’t just sit around when there’s a half-hour break between class. For instance, I began to read more and realized how much of my life the tweetbook and snapstagram had been taking. I used to read all the time. I loved it. But until recently I hadn’t touched a book in far too long.
My attention span changed. Reading more showed just how much my brain had a hard time focusing for a long period of time. I would go a few pages before the intrusive impulse to check my phone began to worm into my mind. This is one of the biggest negative effects of social media. Most of what I had been reading for a long time have been only a few sentences of a Reddit post or Facebook rant.
If you have the slightest twinge of relatability when I talk about wanting to read more, or a decreasing attention span or impulsive scrolling, I highly recommend you at least try it. I promise, if it throws your life into shambles, the apps will be waiting with open arms.