For the month of October I decided to go without social media. I am not the biggest social media fiend so for me this meant not using Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, or Tumblr. I only use Facebook for my work with PETA, so that was allowed. I decided to do this because I noticed in the months that I had been at college I was getting prone to looking at these sites, and using this as a way to fill the time in between doing other things. While I didn’t think it was extremely harmful, I recognized that there were more constructive things I could be doing, and one I wanted to do was to introduce myself to more people and connect with those around me more. One cannot make friends with their face in a screen. I saw many other ways to spend my time, and I wanted to test my theory.
I have to be honest and say going without social media for a month was not the biggest challenge for me, or the biggest life-change. This isn’t one of those stories where my time away from technology transformed me into a better, more enlightened self with unlimited time to devote to enjoying myself in solace. I am still a college student who has work every day, and often uses technology as a tool to get it done. The month started slow. I thought I had chosen the wrong month-long project, because I didn’t notice any changes in my behaviors or my attitudes, besides the fact that I was eager to Snapchat my best friend back home again. I was a little bitter for cutting out the things that allow me to catch up with the people that mean the world to me, but I was willing to see what would happen if all the other mindless factors were cut out too. It wasn’t until a few weeks in that I started to realize there were a lot of things missing from my life, things I had habitually done before moving to school, but had fallen out of habit recently. I took some time to think about this, and determine who it is I want to be- this, of course, determined by the things that I do on a regular basis, because action shows character, right? I started to think of myself again as someone with many hobbies and much enjoyment for the world, and not the version of myself people see on social media, or the version people at school perceive of me. I am so much more than that. I had to refocus my goals and realize while there aren’t so many things I want to remove from my life, there are quite a few I want to bring back. I’ve vowed to get back into meditation by meditating every day for thirty days to see how it will improve my well-being. I am getting back into writing poetry, doing yoga on my own, reading, and making art. I never want to get so wrapped up in mundane daily routine that I forget to do the things that make me enjoy life. Social media is not one of those things. Its role in my life is minimal, and I will remember to only use it in a positive way, and not abuse it to the point that it negatively impacts my well-being. It is an extra, not a necessity and I must make sure my mind and body are in a good place and those needs are satisfied before I seek other outlets. I don’t want to waste my energy or time on things that have no importance to me; that doesn’t even make sense!
I did end up talking to more people and doing more constructive things, but could I have also done this while still occasionally using social media? Of course. Yes, there are quite a few downsides to using it often, but blaming social media for sucking up your time and keeping you away from important things is just escaping from your personal responsibility to carve out a life you love. I realized this. I am in control of my life, and I determine the level of enjoyment I get out of it, by choosing the things I do. It’s only an illusion- that when you have these things in your life like social media that they are “distractions.” Nothing is distracting you from your goals and passions but yourself. I came to realize this. I can balance it all. I don’t need to take vows from things I do- I just need to spend the most time doing the things that add the most meaning to my existence. We need not deprive ourselves of any pleasure, if our hearts and efforts lie with the deepest ones. While part of me admires anyone that swears off social media or technology, another part of me says why can’t we have it all? We are modern, multitasking humans in this ever-changing world and I think it is alright for us to find joy in silly things, so long as we can put those things to the side and tackle the important issues in this world. No one should be all work, all the time. So maybe a part of us needs these “distractions” in our lives. When we acknowledge them, then we can center ourselves and get some incredible things done. It is also important to recognize ourselves as multi-faceted human beings. Don’t forget the things you do well and the things that make you feel at peace. I see less importance in defining ourselves, but rather listening to our heartbeats, taking note of our existence, and satisfying its demands in the healthiest possible way.