By Sierra Soto, Lakewood High School, Lakewood, Colorado
Social media is a tick. If you’re bored, you check it. If you are procrastinating against homework, you check it. We even use the excuse to read our news feed to avoid the people around us. Why? I found myself asking that question on the last day of school- a day that should be spent saying goodbye to friends for the summer- when I realized I was standing in a group of friends, each of us checking our phones. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram… their purpose is to connect with friends and other people, yet we have become so dependent on social media that we’ve forgotten how to socialize face to face.
Nine times out of ten, my phone hasn’t alerted me that it needs my attention. I don’t want nor need to look at it- it’s habit. When your parents take it away, it’s out of sight and nearly out of mind. Even when it’s not around, I still reach for the empty space in my pocket when I feel that itch. Why? I had not told my hand to reach out for the phone. It seemed to be doing it all on its own. I wondered what was wrong with me until I read a 2010 study in the journal Personal and Ubiquitous Computing that showed that, thankfully, I’m not a crazy person. In fact, my problem seems to be universal.
The authors found smartphone users have developed what they call “checking habits” — repetitive checks of e-mail and other social media applications. The checks typically lasted less than thirty seconds and were often done within ten minutes of each other. On average, the study subjects checked their phones thirty-four times a day, not necessarily because they really needed to check them that many times, but because it had become a habit or compulsion.
The study gave me an idea that has opened my eyes in more ways than I thought imaginable. My idea was simple: go the entire summer without social media. That’s what we check for, after all. We don’t automatically check our text messages, or our emails. We want to know that someone liked our post. It’s a constant check to see if we’ve got that thumbs up of approval yet.
At the time, I thought it would be easy. Yeah, I wouldn’t get to see pictures of my friends on vacation or keep up with the latest funny tweets on my feed, but at the same time, I also wouldn’t have to deal with any of the annoying Facebook drama that seems to be rolling in daily. The pros won out over the cons.
The first few weeks seemed unbearable; it felt like I had no connection with anyone. I didn’t necessarily want to call or text my friends, I simply wanted to know what they were doing. Were they having a good summer? What trips have they taken? Later on, after the tick had died and I no longer felt compelled to get on Facebook or Twitter, I realized I didn’t want to know about them but I wanted the reassurance that what I was doing was better, or more interesting.
Social media makes life a competition. Constantly being attacked with photos of that party you weren’t invited to or that girl’s non-stop posts about her amazing boyfriend makes the reader feel less significant. I can remember several times where I’ve seen a photo or a picture by a friend that makes me feel deflated. It’s no secret that Facebook can easily make a person think, “They obviously have a more exciting life than me.”
Now it’s a month after my experiment and at first I didn’t want to go back. It seemed too hard to have to add that to my to-do list again. Nevertheless, on the first day of school I logged onto Facebook, scrolled through my feed, and automatically deactivated it again. I went through my Instagram and Twitter to unfollow those people that made me feel deflated by their posts. Today I make it a rule to only use social media for good. My posts don’t relate to the issues of my life, but instead are filled with the silly and random things that make me smile. Instead of seeing people in my feed that I know will bring me down, I read posts by comedians and people that inspire me.
It’s amazing how much of the world you can see without having your head stuck in a computer. There is so much more enjoyment in seeing a movie or going to a concert without feeling the need to document it on Facebook for others to see. Still think it’s not worth it? I challenge you to try going without any social media for two weeks, just so you can get a glimpse of what my summer was like. Even if you end up missing Facebook like crazy, you’ll finally understand how ingrained social media is in our lives. And then you can decide whether that’s necessarily a good or a bad thing.the original article from hsj.org, written by Sierra Soto