Could You Ever Give Up Social Media?

That was the question we posed to two intrepid teens, Libbe and Davide, who bravely agreed to spend two whole weeks off their apps and keep a journal of the experience. How would they spend their time and energy when scrolling, liking, and swiping weren’t options? Would their FOMO get totally out of control? What was it like to live IRL when everyone else was glued to their screens? Read on to find out the surprising things they learned about their habits and themselves.

Libbe Phan

Age: 17. Home: California 

Instagram, Reddit, TikTok, and Facebook 

“Four months ago, I decided to unfollow everyone from school on Instagram because I was comparing my social life to others’ and I’d become envious. Or when I’d see someone really pretty and confident, I’d view myself in a more negative light. I’m very into art, so now I mainly use the app to get inspired or to share funny things with friends.” 

“I want to be productive and live more in the moment.”

DAY 1: I use my phone as an alarm clock, so I check my Instagram notifications as soon as I get up. During this experiment, I decided to keep my social media apps on my phone because I don’t remember my passwords. When I woke up today, I made the mistake of checking Instagram for 9 minutes. I think stopping the urge to do that will be my biggest challenge! But I avoided social media for the rest of the day.

DAY 2: I started missing the apps a little bit during my free time, and I have a little FOMO because my friends send me TikToks and I can’t watch them. The great thing is I finished my homework quicker! 

DAY 4: Not being on social media is turning into a huge benefit. After school and at night, I’ve been working on my college application essay and SAT test prep when I normally would be on my phone. It’s probably better for me to be off Reddit anyway, because strangers on there will say, “Oh, you can get into this school,” or “You can’t get into that school.” It would make me feel bad. 

DAY 7: I think I might be creating a new app addiction: YouTube! I’m on it more now because I’m looking for things to make me laugh and relieve stress. I don’t think of it as social media—to me, it’s entertainment. But I’m annoyed with myself that sometimes I’m going on it without a purpose.

DAY 9: I’m so busy with school, a part-time job, personal projects (I have an online zine), and college applications. If I were on my phone more, I’d be even more stressed because I’d be thinking about all the work I have to finish. 

DAY 12: I went to see The Addams Family with my family. In the car ride there, I was a little tired, so I just closed my eyes instead of staring at my phone. It was nice to relax. Before the movie, we stopped by an ice cream shop, and they had little games like Connect Four, so I played that instead of being on my phone. At the theater, as we waited for the movie to start, I just sat there and checked my email. Later, I went out for dinner with a friend I hadn’t seen in a year. I kind of wish I could have posted a picture with her on my Insta story. (I prefer that to the feed—likes and comments make me nervous.) 

DAY 14:  I was so productive these past two weeks! I focused on my zine, wrote a college essay, and finished a graphic design piece for my college art portfolio. This time away from social media even helped me rekindle my love for the arts because I could give my creative pieces my full attention. There were some hard parts, though. I have friends in other countries, and we usually message each other on social media, so staying in touch wasn’t easy. I also missed having my usual sources of entertainment and design inspiration. I realized I used to spend so much time falling down a rabbit hole of posts on Instagram and TikTok, which meant I wasted a lot of time. Going forward, I see myself being on the apps a lot less. 

ONE WEEK LATER: I tried to catch up on what I hadn’t seen in my feed during my time off social media, and I had this realization: I didn’t really miss anything! If you want to see something again, you can always search for it or have a friend fill you in. It’s not like things are going away.

Davide Murillo

Age: 16. Home: New York

Snapchat, Instagram, messaging friends, watching videos, and getting news. 

“My parents have taken my apps away as a form of punishment before, but I’d find loopholes—like signing in to Snapchat through my friends’ phones. This time will be different because I’m taking the initiative and I have a real goal in mind.” 

“The hardest part will be finding ways to amuse myself when I have nothing to do.” 

“I want to develop better study habits, get more focused in general, and not rely on my phone so much for entertainment.”

DAY 1: Last night, I deleted my social media apps. This morning, as soon as I opened my phone, I automatically pressed the area where the apps used to be. That showed me how much checking social media is a habit. I hope that changes.

DAY 4: It’s Saturday and I went to the park with some friends. We were walking, talking, and joking around, and they were all on Snapchat, recording funny things. It was a bit frustrating that I couldn’t see what they were looking at, but I didn’t even bother to ask because I’m serious about distancing myself from social media. My friends also understand why I’m doing this. They’re like, “Good for you, man.” 

DAY 7: Today I had an in-class essay exam. I realized afterward that I use social media as a way of escaping when I’m done with something stressful. Normally, after the test I would have rushed to my locker, grabbed my phone, gone on the apps, and felt a sense of relief. Today I grabbed my phone only to remember there was nothing on it. It’s fascinating that after seven days, my brain still thinks the apps are there. 

DAY 10: Friday at last! I went for dinner with some friends, and as we were hanging out at a restaurant, they were checking their social media. I sat there doing nothing, so it was kind of awkward. 

DAY 13: I’ve become so used to not looking at my phone while doing my homework that I was able to keep my phone in my room while I worked, and I didn’t get distracted. It amazes me that in two weeks there’s been a massive improvement in my habits, and I’m not as tempted by my phone. 

DAY 14: Today was the last day without social media! This experience was truly enlightening. I was able to see how much influence social media has on my behavior and how much time can be wasted on the apps. I think everyone should try to go off of social media for a bit, because a break opens your eyes to how it affects your life in a detrimental way. 

ONE WEEK LATER: I’m trying to go on the apps as little as possible. When it’s not necessary, I’ll figure out something else to do—homework, read a book, Facetime a friend. I’m working on self-control!

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