Like any college student, a lot of my life revolves around social media. I spend my minutes between classes staring at my phone as I mindlessly scroll. I take breaks from homework assignments to check for updates from the last fifteen minutes. I have become a slave to Twitter. There’s nothing new and I still refresh, waiting for new tweets to flood my timeline. I check the Trending page to find my news. I don’t watch TV or read newspapers, so online is the only way I find out what is going on in the world today. It has gotten to the point where I check it unconsciously and before I know it, I’m scrolling through my feed. When I decided that Twitter was going to be what I was going to take away from myself, I was very nervous. The night before it started I checked my feed one last time and went to bed. I had to stop myself for the first time when I woke up in the morning and was doing my usual social media rounds in the morning. I checked messages, Snapchat, and Instagram and Tw- not Twitter. I quickly shut the app and made my first tally. Throughout this process, I decided that I was going to tally the amount of times I tried to open the Twitter app, as well as tracking my overall screen-time for my phone. In the previous week, my overall screen-time was eight hours and 33 minutes.
The first day, I tried to open the app about 20 times. I felt myself thinking about it all the time. In the past week, I had spent over 2 hours on Twitter alone, and that is a good amount of time and now I had an extra couple hours to spare. By the second and third day, I was still trying to check Twitter on impulse, and one time I had opened the app and was scrolling for about thirty seconds before I even realized I was on the app. It was then that I really saw just how mindless my addiction was. In Deep Work, Newport discusses how meaningful deep work really is and how these mindless behaviors can really take away from it. “Another issue muddying the connection between depth and meaning in knowledge work is the cacophony of voices attempting to convince knowledge workers to spend more time engaged in shallow activities” (Newport, 75). This made me think about my career path. A lot of people and employers put so much emphasis on social media and being up to date, so a lot of the reason that I am constantly trying out new forms of social media, is because I want to be up to date in interviews. That has turned into an addiction that has taken away from my ability to be distraction free. It was day two and three that I noticed myself really distracted, even without using the app. I was constantly reaching for my phone.
In the remaining two days, I found a significant decrease in the amount of times that I reached for the app. Over the five days, I reached for the Twitter app 77 times. What I found to be the most disturbing and interesting part of this experiment was when I opened the Twitter app for the first time after I didn’t have it for five days. It felt dangerously good to open the app again. There was this rush that I got, scrolling through everything that I had “missed” over the five day period. This made me wonder, am I addicted to social media? Although I may not be addicted per say, I definitely think it has had an effect on the way that my brain functions. In a Health Essentials article entitled, “Is It Possible to Become Addicted to Social Media?”, the author interviews psychologist Joseph Rock, “‘People get a sense of social well-being – it’s as though they’re interacting with somebody, like they’re interacting with friends … Researchers find people who are really heavy users develop a tolerance to that feelings, so they need more and more exposer to get that same effect’” (Health Essentials, 2019). That is how most of the youth population has become so addicted to Twitter and Instagram and Snapchat. Just a quick check won’t do, we need to keep searching and finding more things we haven’t seen before, even if they aren’t important or necessary.
In the week that I restrained myself from Twitter, my screen-time went down 12%, to seven hours and 31 minutes. For the next week, I noticed myself almost forgetting that the app was there. I would check it later and later in the day. I have consciously been trying to check it less. I think this exercise was a great way of making me aware of just how much I use social media and just how much it runs my life. Twitter was something that I used to use before bed as well, and since I didn’t have anything to do before bed, I noticed that I fell asleep easier. In the article entitled, “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” written for the Atlantic, it talks about the link between social media and sleep deprivation and all the side effects of it. I never really thought about that, because I always looked at scrolling through my feeds as a way to unwind, but that was never really what I was doing. Now, I have tried to become aware of where and when I am using my phone, and it just may save my brain.