60 Days of Disconnect

In her first article, Keegan Lee, a member of the writers group and wellbeing initiative, reflects on her cathartic decision to delete social media during the pandemic.

The pinnacle of my self-awareness, social-awareness, and motivation to make a difference initialized during the start of the pandemic when I was in lockdown. I lost access to an assortment of activities, especially socializing with my friends which forced me to gravitate toward my phone. When I finally became conscious of the large amount of time I was spending on my phone and how it was affecting my mental health, I decided to make a change. Social media and technology took time away from valuable relationships, aspirations, and personal development. From comparing myself and my life journey to the superficial realities of social media to using my phone as a pacifier, I knew this was not the pathway to living a fulfilled, productive life. I deleted my social media for more than a month and journaled the everyday effects in order to understand and evaluate what life was like without social media. Through this experience, I’ve learned the true importance of human connection in a technologically driven world, identified the joy of living in the present, and acquired more mental maturity than I ever have because I am living more and scrolling less. I intend to turn my journey into a book that will hopefully help people of all ages utilize technology in a more responsible, less time-consuming, beautiful way. So, allow me to share with you all the wonderful things that I have learned during this experience. Needless to say, I am a different person.

I am more creative.

When I told people that I was going to be deleting social media for a while, many of them were supportive. However, there were those who said “What? Why? How else will you be spending your time? You’re going to be so bored.” I knew that I was removing something from my life that was in my presence 24/7 and something that I used every 10 minutes. I questioned how I was going to spend my time; that I would be pondering what to do for hours. But it was the complete opposite. It was like an entirely new window had opened in my mind. I found myself coming up with new ideas, thoughts, and hobbies. I was more intellectually curious about life and all of its wonders. My imagination allowed me to see an ethereal perspective of being alive that I never thought was possible. The moments that my face would be usually covered by my phone, were replaced with books, artwork, and photography.

I am more productive.

Every night, whenever I would be doing homework, my phone was by my side. Every 5 minutes, I would click on my screen, wanting/hoping to see notifications. But I also wanted to have social reassurance. Sometimes, I would become aware of this and would ask my sister to hide my phone. They say “out of sight, out of mind.” However, this wasn’t true for me. Even though my phone wasn’t visible, I would constantly think about what was happening on social media. The anticipation and anxiousness of wanting to know and be informed stole my focus and attention, and postponed getting important school work done. The first few weeks of deleting social media, it was like my brain was on autopilot. Simultaneously, I would tap my phone. Even though I knew I would not have any updates from social media, I still tapped my phone because it was something I was used to doing. After a few days, the yearn for social media diminished. I was accomplishing my goals and finishing them quickly, because I no longer was distracted. I was using my time in effective ways, and it was such an incredible feeling. The benefits of deleting social media were becoming more and more apparent, making the journey all the more exciting.

I found the true meaning of human connection.

COVID-19 has been a time of hardship, trial, and isolation. Before I deleted social media, I wondered why I would be limiting my socialization even more than it already has been minimized. However, I believe that sometimes we need to disconnect to truly connect. I knew that isolating myself from social media would be difficult, but I can confidently say that the challenges were completely worth it. I found the true meaning of human connection. The type of interpersonal connection that creates real bonds and develops amazing relationships. The type of connection that doesn’t formulate through a screen. I learned that even though we may feel ‘connected’ through social media, it doesn’t nearly compare to when you have a worthwhile interaction with someone and feel the spark of harmony. It is unmatched. I became more socially and self-aware because I was learning to read, empathize, and understand people. I wasn’t spending time snapping random pictures to people I don’t even know on Snapchat. I was having meaningful conversations with the people I care about. These conversations and interactions are shaping who I am and have allowed me to learn so much.

I developed healthier habits.

The dangers of social media used to invade me like a cancer, eating away my health, happiness, and motivation. I would spend so much time on social media that I would forget to do things essential for survival and living a high-quality life. As an athlete, I approach achieving my goals like a puzzle. To accomplish my dreams, multiple pieces need to fit together to create the entire picture/end result. For me, these ‘pieces’ include nutrition, training routine, recovery, strength, stability, and mental toughness. When I had social media, it was like these essential ‘pieces’ were lost. I wasn’t nurturing them like I should have been, which in turn pushed my goals back further and further. When I deleted social media, not only did I see improvement in my athletic puzzle, I also saw advancement in my life puzzle. I was dedicated and excited to accomplish my goals. I listened to my body and paid more attention to how I felt because I wasn’t mindlessly scrolling through social media platforms. I had more time, was less irritable, and more focused on fostering the elements that would enhance my performance in my sport but also in all areas of life.

I am more appreciative.

Social media blinded me from all the beautiful things life had to offer. I took so many things for granted such as opportunities, time, and simple pleasures. When I deleted social media, I began to feel a greater sense of appreciation and gratitude for all of the things I had rather than what I lacked. I wasn’t viewing the highlights of other people’s lives wishing I had or experienced what they shared. I found joy in the tiniest of things, such as how the moon illuminated the entire night sky, or how the sun’s rays would come through a window, shining light to all areas of the room. Even a little flower on the pavement was viewed differently. There are so many beautiful things in life, if only we are keen enough to see them. I had transitioned to living my journey, paving my path, being thankful for everything I was given which in result, gave me the feeling of pure bliss, incomparable to anything I ever encountered on social media.

I am living in the present.

When social media was an integral part of life, my focus was razor-sharp on posting for social validation. Although there are moments worth sharing, posting became a compulsive urge I couldn’t resist. I wasn’t experiencing reality because I was so concerned with capturing the most astounding picture to make my life seem perfect; even though it is far from it. Deleting social media has taught me to live in the present moment, absorbing each and every marvelous detail. My mind didn’t constantly revisit the past or fast-forward to the future every 10 minutes. It stayed present, allowing time to go by so much slower, allowing me to harness the luxury of just being alive.

I can think clearly .

I remember being so bombarded with the stresses of social media that I could not think clearly. There was always some form of blockage that stopped my brain from functioning completely. I have observed my thoughts have become positive, my demeanor more relaxed, and I worry less. My mind feels like a clean slate, because I have simply unplugged to recharge.

I have better communication skills.

For so long, social media was my main source of entertainment and communication. When I deleted it, I found that I could communicate more efficiently because I wasn’t doing it through a screen. I was having socially distanced conversations with people and could get my point across more easily.

I am more attentive .

The time that I had spent without social media allowed me to improve my attention span in many areas of my life. I could focus more and had a greater reaction time. My responses were not delayed, I could answer questions quickly, and my comprehension of concepts was more fluid.

I am living my own life.

Comparison is something that humans naturally do. When it comes to social media, we tend to subconsciously or consciously compare ourselves to others, questioning the value of our own lives. We might compare others’ experiences, appearances, and popularity to our own which allows us to curate our lives around this idea of perfection. What needs to be recognized is that these ‘highlights’ of other people’s lives are only a small portion of their life. We are all human, and we are all imperfect. Social media makes the world look flawless because people post what they WANT you to see. People lose sight of their own life and their purpose. An anonymous quote I have recently come across describes this idea of comparison- “Life is the most difficult exam. Many people fail, because they try to copy others, not realizing that everyone has a different question on their paper.” This means that you are the author of your own story. Stop comparing yourself to distorted reality of social media and start reminding yourself that you are the main character; embracing each chapter of your life.

Social media is made to be addictive. It is made to steal your attention and increase your engagement in a digital world. For so long, I was eager to show, tell, engage and observe. I didn’t realize how much beauty there was in privacy. Everything isn't meant to be on display. The dopamine spikes you get from the likes, comments, and notifications leave you wanting more, forcing you to find ways to earn that gratification. I was that girl. I was the girl blinded by the algorithms behind the screen. I was the girl becoming programmed, hypnotized and robotic -until, I became aware of these dangers and started educating myself on how I could resolve them. We do not have to delete social media to be less digitally dependent. Simply being conscious of how we are affected by social media and how much time we spend can help change our mindset. I have learned so much from this experience, and I hope that others can take this information and apply it, so that together, we can start a conversation on digital wellness.

(Shown above: Keegan Lee)

Cover Photo by Sasha Freemind from Unplash

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