This past week, I challenged myself to give up social media entirely. Don’t get your hopes up, that didn’t happen. However, what I really wanted to get out of this challenge (besides the bragging rights) was an insight into my own habits when it comes to phone and social media usage. The insight I got was, honestly, not at all what I expected. Nor was it the outcome I was prepared for.

First, let’s take a look at the stats. For the week of Sept. 10, my screen time clocked in at a total of 43 hours and 18 minutes, with 31 hours and 15 minutes of that time being spent on various social apps. For the week of Sept. 17, my total screen time was 50 hours and 25 minutes…oops. However! Only 26 hours and 40 minutes were spent on social apps.

Okay, okay. I failed. Hard. But truthfully, I think I got a lot more out of this experience failing than I would have succeeding. I was able to examine not only how much screen time I used, but also why I used my phone so much in the first place. Of course there’s the entertainment aspect of it, but what else was making me feel like I always need to be on my phone?

I’ve known for a long time that I use my phone as a distraction, but I never really noticed how I turned into a full on iPad kid. I take my phone everywhere, and I’m constantly scrolling on something. I listen to music when I get ready, I watch TikTok when I eat, I have YouTube on in the background while I do homework. Even when trying to use less social media, I downloaded a bunch of games so that I always had something to do.

Not to say that doing any of that is inherently wrong. It’s more so to say that I never really considered how much time I was wasting taking in pointless media when I really should have been doing more productive things. I’m a senior in college, why am I spending so much time doing nothing?

I think that a large aspect of this need for a distraction comes from a lack of control over myself and my mental health. Instead of facing my problems head on, I rely on social media and apps to distract me from thinking about them at all. Obviously, this is not a healthy way of thinking, but unfortunately that is the truth of the situation. 

Another thing that failing this challenge made me realize was just how much I miss having hobbies. For the longest time, I’ve felt like a fraud when I’m forced to list things that I enjoy doing. Are they really hobbies if I haven’t touched them in years? When I looked at my screen time and found out that I wasted 18 hours on TikTok this week, it really put into perspective why I feel like I never have time to have hobbies.

I love being creative and using my hands to create things. Paint and knitting and writing have been things that I have always bragged about being able to do, but I can’t really brag about those things if all I have to show for it is a pile of unfinished projects. 

The last thing that I noticed this week is how much I genuinely don’t really care about anything that’s happening on social media right now. I used to be terrified of missing out on the latest trends and jokes, but I found myself questioning why I have such a fear of missing out when half the time, I don’t even find the jokes funny, and I don’t care about internet drama because, hello, I don’t know these people!

Still, there’s a part of me that is too scared to just quit social media cold turkey. I mean, I like sharing photos and seeing what my friends are up to. I like getting inspired by small artists on the internet and could always use a dose of cat videos. But is it really necessary for me to be caught up on every bit of internet drama? Can’t I miss just a few seconds of the lives of strangers?

Personally, I think so. Reflecting on this past week, I’ve been able to come to terms with my addiction to the use of social media. For a good portion of my time on the internet, social media was all I had. Without it, my life was void of any joy. I thought that if I didn’t have the internet, I would have nothing at all.

Now, I think that I am starting to see the world beyond my screen. I have so many friends to make and so many places to explore. I want to travel and read books and create all the things that have been swarming my mind. Not to mention, I have a growing pile of homework waiting for me. 

While I am not going to throw my phone into the ocean and run away from the internet anytime soon, I think that even attempting this challenge has put a lot of things into perspective for me, and I’m thankful to myself for even trying.