Last week, I found myself so upset over an event that I impulsively deleted my Snapchat and Instagram apps. In that moment, I felt immediate relief from the responsibility of responding to others — I had peace to move forward and focus on myself. While it didn’t resolve my initial situation, deleting the apps felt like a cleanse. Instead of being present on social media, I could be present for myself.
As young adults, and especially as college students, our minds are pulled in many different directions, including toward the responsibilities and distractions of social media. Social media can overshadow the realities of daily life, which becomes toxic when we have to deal with everyday issues. I embarrassingly admit that my average screen time is 3 hours and 40 minutes, so I understand the obsession. But it is saddening to realize I also spend 3 hours and 40 minutes of my day staring at a screen, expecting to be captivated by other peoples’ lives.
My 24-hour social media cleanse helped me reconnect with my emotions. It allowed me to put what really matters into perspective and understand that entertainment from social media is not a healthy thing to depend on to relieve negative emotions. It was also a relief to not have to be responsible for responding to people’s Snapchats or feel the need to post things based on what kind of day I was having.
A cleanse allows people to focus on the emotions of daily life without social media’s distractions and fantasies. When I deleted my social media, I was forced to confront reality rather than distract myself. I was present in every form throughout the day, whether in class or eating with my friends. I wasn’t using my social media as a safety net to distract myself when uncomfortable or to (unhealthily) compare myself to others. It also pushed me to talk to my friends about my emotions in person rather than Snapchat them my thoughts. I became more confident and less passive about my emotions. Deleting social media from my phone helped me deal with my emotions and situations in a healthier manner.
The social media cleanse also pushes you to find healthier ways to spend time with yourself. I was compelled to open my journal and write, which is quite therapeutic. I might not have done that if I was waiting to find some sort of affirmation by scrolling through Snapchat stories. I wrote a poem, which is one of my passions, despite feeling like I never had time or energy. Now I understand why: social media was consuming my time and energy. I spent more time outside by myself listening to music, and I planned to meet with friends to spend more quality time with people that are healthy for me. It is crucial to have this healthy break to focus on forms of self-care without affirmation from social media platforms, which can be misleading or contribute to self-doubt. The affirmations that matter come from the people we truly care about — or from ourselves.
Some people would argue that they can’t quit social media because they use it to stay aware of what is happening around them. One could also argue that social media is really good for our society and is used for working toward social change. I understand this argument, but the cleanse only needs to last 24 hours; I am not arguing to completely delete social media. But sometimes a break is necessary. 24 hours is a good time span because it allows you to live an entire daily routine seeing what life is like without everyone else’s screen-lives butting in. You can also easily catch up with recent news after that short amount of time. As a student journalist, I know that instant access to news is important, but refocusing on yourself can’t wait or take a break. Taking longer than 24 hours to refocus on yourself is also completely valid.
When I redownloaded my social media apps, I was so unamused by people’s posts. It made me put my thoughts and feelings into perspective. The ideas we get so wrapped up in are merely distractions and not always the healthiest way to spend our time. The 24-hour social media cleanse is an effective way to focus on what’s most valuable in your life. Those 3 hours and 40 minutes mean a lot. I’ve been using more of those minutes to do the things I love with good company. You should use them wisely, too.
Serena Pelenghian is a junior Critical Theory & Social Justice major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.