Welcome to our special section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus). We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.
Nearly every person in my generation has some form of social media. Our phones are constantly buzzing with some bit of new information, and we always seem to make time for our phones, but rarely do we make enough time for face-to-face conversations with our loved ones.
After writing my first article for Thrive, I began to seriously reevaluate my use of social media, and how it was taking away from my ability to get the most out of every day. I decided to delete Instagram and Snapchat (the only forms of social media I use) for a week to see how my productivity, happiness, and relationships might change.
In the beginning, I definitely was very aware of my lack of social media use. While I hadn’t been a big user of Snapchat in recent years, I scrolled through Instagram frequently, and it had become a habitual distraction for my ‘in-between moments,’ moments when I wasn’t doing any particular task.
When I opened my phone, I often realized there wasn’t really anything for me to do on it, aside from making a call or sending a text (I don’t have games on my phone). I started to have more time on my hands to do other activities when I’d typically be aimlessly using social media.
By the third day, I had definitely become more comfortable with the idea of my phone being a tool for communicating with friends, family, and my bosses, rather than an instinctive distraction. When I used my phone, it was to respond to a person, rather than to pick my phone up for one task and end up lost in the Instagram void for 15 minutes.
I found myself replacing social media with activities I never thought I had time for or didn’t allot enough time for, such as reading The New York Times, spending more time on my hobbies, or watching informational videos.
By the end of my initial trial period, I didn’t miss social media at all. In fact, when I later re-downloaded some of the apps, I realized I didn’t even want to be back on social media and deleted them again. Weeks later, I currently have Instagram and Snapchat on my phone again. However, the apps’ notifications are off and I have gotten so used to not using the apps that I often forget I have them.
My social media hiatus greatly helped my productivity, happiness, and interpersonal relationships. Instead of snapchatting my friends, specifically ones I had not talked to in a while, I called them on FaceTime and had a much more enriching conversation.
This experiment was incredibly eye-opening for me in terms of what was best for me and my happiness. On a night when I was at home alone, I wasn’t able to look at anyone’s Instagram or Snapchat stories, so very infrequently did I feel left out. Without social media, I felt happier and more fulfilled. If you have ever considered deleting your social media apps, I would strongly recommend trying it out. Even if you decide that you prefer to have social media, you will gain a better understanding of the purpose of social media in your life.
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