I deleted Snapchat and Instagram* for a week. Worlds collided, the plague kicked in, and my life was in ruins, obviously. Here’s what happened:
The first couple of days, were comparable to the first days of a grueling diet wherein the body is in a constant state of wanting. Not for sugar or dairy or gluten or some other dietary restriction aligning with paleo, or vegan, or whatever the new trend is–no, this craving was very different. If I cheated on a food diet, well the satisfaction was instantly there, but here, there was my phone, dangling in front of my eyes throughout the day, and there I was grabbing for it (therefore cheating in a way), unlocking it, but not being satisfied. Unlocking my phone, or holding it helped fill some physical void of what to do with my hands, but when my mind figured out that what I was searching for was not there (because I had obviously deleted the apps and the option of re-downloading was far too much of a hassle) my mind just sat, confused and dumbfounded. And after looking at my phone for some seconds my thumbs would resolve to scrolling through it, sometimes through my texts, photos, or even sometimes venturing into the NYTimes and New Yorker apps I’d so graciously downloaded after subscribing in search for intelligence.
What became apparent in my action of doing this, was the frequency of which I picked up my phone, and became sucked into it, specifically into Snapchat and Instagram. I’d always known that this was a problem, it always lurked in the back of my mind, but this so-called diet underscored it.
And as I went through my day, I became even more aware of how addicted I was to this action (of picking up my phone, unlocking it, and aimlessly going through it). I’d sit in a coffee shop, and in a span of an hour, repeat this routine 14 times. Dinner at a restaurant or at home brought on the same thing. While watching a movie on Netflix, I’d pick up my phone, and repeat the action. Sitting on the train, I’d constantly open and close it as I listened to music. Even now as I am writing this, there’s this little itching in the back of my head, on my fingertips, that urges me to pick up my phone. But because of the progression of this “diet,” now it’s much harder to locate my phone.
So the first concrete conclusion I made from this, or perhaps the most prevalent one, was that my phone was equivalent to a chainsmoker’s cigarette. It needed to be in my hand for two reasons. First, the physical distraction–something to hold, an activity for my thumbs and hands, the craving to look and feel like you’re doing something and not just sitting. Second was the mental distraction, a type of procrastination or mind relaxer where I could put aside whatever was overtaking my brain for a moment or two or three or four, and become sucked into a dumbing exercise, because let’s be honest, Instagram and Snapchat aren’t exactly intellectually invigorating.
The next thing that happened involved social situations. You know that popular phrase circulating around social media that says something along the lines of “Let’s go to pretty places and sit on our phones”….Well once again, the lurking problem that had led me to this intervention, showed itself in full force. Here I was with a friend at a nice restaurant, soaking in her friendship, and as we waited for our glorious plates of food to be brought in, I reached for my phone. I reached, I opened, and then I put it away, because what I was looking for wasn’t there. She, however, reached, used whatever app is her first preference, and sat sucked into her screen. And well…I just sat and looked. But then eventually, as I became a little disgruntled and as she took the hint, we resolved to put our phones away, and bask in the moment and in our company. And as cliche as this is getting to sound, we had a great time.
As the days passed by, and the diet became easier, as diets tend to after the first couple of days, I felt that my social interactions were more wholesome, more fulfilling. Excuse my sounding like a TV ad, or a health journal—yes, I was becoming a ball of blazing sunshine everyone was attracted to. No…but in all seriousness, the effect of taking away Snapchat and Instagram made me channel any boredom that crept up on me into some other form of amusement–like starting a conversation on the assortments of different grapes with my siblings who, at this point, are fully equipped to be great wine connoisseurs. Whatever it was, I wasn’t going back to the mind-dumbing routine of my phone. Even just sitting with absolutely nothing to do motivates more thought. Literally.
The last thing that morphed out of this cleanse took a little more soul-searching and personal confrontation. To be completely honest, this was probably my main motivation for deleting the two apps, because I felt myself slowly turning into a narcissist and hypocrite. To start with the latter, I felt myself turn into a hypocrite as I went on rants and diatribes about the toxicity of excessive social media usage on a person’s self esteem and image. And although I ridiculed certain people for their social media usage and proclaimed it one of the worst things to happen to our generation, I was using it just as much. I felt myself succumbing to some other force, some other being. (Are Snapchat and Instagram God? Or even…Satan)? Whenever I liked the way I looked, liked my outfit, or felt particularly good about myself in that moment, I felt the urge to post it on either app. Not just for people to look, and hopefully admire and praise, but simply for the act, as if it were a designated routine. I was getting validation from someone other than myself–from a phone, an app, and obviously, anyone that responded. I was seeking attention and love for myself, that I couldn’t give myself on my own. Aside from my own public self-love and adoration, came the want to post anything socially related. The want to post anything I’m doing that is in anyway slightly interesting or above the mundane. I felt the need to give into this all-powerful force. In essence, I felt like I was working for someone, constantly submitting material. And yes, the attention I got from it was gratifying. That’s been proved. A text recieved brings a hit of dopamine to the brain, I would assume the same from a Snapchat or a like on Instagram. Especially when received from certain people.
So I guess what truly propelled me to delete the two apps, was when I found myself completely overwhelmed by the constant want to submit material, like I needed to, like I couldn’t go without it and where the purpose for doing so, was completely unknown to me.
Can I proclaim I am a changed woman? No, I’m not, this isn’t the overly dramatic, life-changing experience I’m making it out to be. There have been changes, small and big, but overall, I do feel more comfortable and confident in myself. I feel like I’ve gotten rid of an overwhelming, negative, and overbearing friend. I don’t feel the need to document everything vigorously, get certain responses from people, or even advertise myself as much. Moreover, I don’t feel the need to constantly have my phone around me–which reduces exposure to negative chemicals and radiation I assume?
To be honest, many people use Snapchat and Instagram and don’t feel like it’s encroaching on any part of their lives. Like dessert, for some people it’s not a problem, they have a little and they’re content. For me, well…that’s a whole different story. Snapchat and Instagram was like a constant binge of dessert. They were starting to control how I did things, and how I lived my life, infringing on a part of my happiness, or on who I wanted to be.
So now the questions remains…will I redownload Snapchat and Instagram? Perhaps. Perhaps when I feel that I won’t revert back to being attached. Maybe I won’t redownload. I guess only time will tell in that respect.
Right now how I feel is equivalent to running the expanse of a beach. And stopping. Taking it all in, and knowing that it is yours. Not taking a snapchat or a picture, just standing and knowing and feeling. And enjoying all that it has to offer, without having to validate that it is yours or that it is so great and wonderful because of anyone else or anyone else’s wanting to have it.
Just putting my non-heroic experience out there; maybe it’ll enlighten someone else.
*Not Facebook simply because I don’t use it that much, don’t see it as the bane of my problems and need it for school-related/homework purposes.
Photo creds: @copylab