As some of you know, I’m currently a marketing major in college. This means I take a bunch of really cool, overpriced business classes. This semester I’m taking a Digital and Social Media Marketing class which I am actually very excited about, because it’s what I actually want to do once I graduate (also it’s just an interesting an evolving subject). The first assignment for this class was to go on a social media fast for 24 hours. Basically, the assignment was to turn your phone off and refrain from using social media, apps, or texting for 24 hours and write an essay about it. (Here’s a picture of the assignment guidelines, if you’re interested).
Unfortunately while this is a very interesting assignment, when I heard about it I just felt scared. Some of you might not understand this or some of you may relate to this, but my cellphone is basically my life. Some people think it’s sad, that my life revolves around a telephone, but I don’t.
Last year my family hosted an exchange student, and I came to think of her as my sister, but now that she has returned to Italy we can only communicate through apps like Snapchat and Instagram. I love being in college, but living on campus means that my family, and boyfriend are almost an hour away. I use my cell phone and Snapchat to communicate with them daily.
Basically, I live alone, and honestly I spend a lot of my time being alone, so my cellphone, and social media allow me to connect with and communicate with the people I love even if I can’t physically be around them. Turning off my cell phone means disconnecting from the people I love.
In addition to my concerns about communicating with my family and loved ones, there’s the fact that when I’m not in class I often use social media to occupy my time, even my job and running my blog include working with social media very regularly. (Also, y’all don’t understand, my life basically revolves around Instagram, okay?)
Okay so if you skipped that whole part above (I don’t blame you), basically I was challenged to turn my phone off, or at least avoid using it for 24 hours. Specifically, I had to refrain from using social media, using apps, texting and emailing. Sounds Impossible? It was.
Before I started my social media fast, I gave myself some guidelines, because besides saying no social media the assignment leaves some wiggle room for what all is allowed.
- I wasn’t actually going to turn my phone off, instead just refraining from using it and checking it regularly
- For the sake of my snap streaks (fun fact: my lowest snap streak is with my boyfriend at aprox. 200 days while my highest is with my sister at aprox. 450 days), I would cheat and send snapchats to my streaks at the beginning and in the middle of the fast. (But that’s it!!)
- I decided I would only respond to text messages from my family, boyfriend, and close friends, but besides that’d I’d refrain from texting as well.
- The assignment also suggests to avoid email, but I decided to ignore it, none of my emails are really any fun anyways.
So that’s it! Beyond the occasional snapchat, text, and email for a whole 24 hours I’d be app-less, network-less, and dead to all things social media. I just had to decide when to pull the plug. My goal was basically to be unconscious for as most of the 24 hours as I could be. So I chose to start it January 23rd 9pm and it would go until January 24th 9pm.
Here’s a timeline of the first hour, to prove I didn’t go crazy immediately:
9pm- I texted my family and close friends to let them know, just so they wouldn’t worry if they didn’t hear from me for awhile.
9:30pm- I officially closed all the social media apps on my phone and even considered deleting them temporarily just to avoid temptation.
9:45pm- I opened snapchat and told everyone (my streaks) I was signing off for a bit. (Does snapchat even count as a social network? It’s just texting but with pictures)
10pm- I turned on Netflix (that’s not against the rules right?) and listened to music until I fell asleep.
Basically the first thing I did after telling everyone I was logging off, was regret it immediately. I already felt bored and lonely, but now everyone knew, and could shame me if they witnessed me breaking the rules. Let me tell y’all FOMO (Fear of missing out) is REAL AF okay?
The first few hours were tough, especially right before bed I can’t tell you how many times I found myself reaching to check my phone (and remembering and sighing to myself before setting my phone down again). before finally going to sleep.
On Wednesday January 24th the only plans I had were going to my class at 9:30am that would last until 10:45am.
The first thing I did when I woke up at 8:45am was reach for my phone and try to check social media. I did send a snapchat to all of my streaks saying something “clever” like “I’m cheating on you” (I’m sure my boyfriend didn’t appreciate that one). I already had a text from my mom, so I opened it and gave a brief response.
I got ready for my class without using my phone and made it to class around 9:20am. Right before class my research partner texted me, and even though I said I would avoid texting, it felt rude not to respond to her, especially since she didn’t know I was completing the fast. So I texted her back and we had a brief conversation about the assignment due that morning,
After class I grabbed lunch at the dining hall, alone. Normally I would spend my lunch checking social media, or texting a friend, but instead I focused on my food. I spent the rest of my day alone in my room painting, drawing, listening to music and working on assignments.
Around 4pm the fire alarm in my building went off, and my first reaction was to grab my phone and take a snapchat, but I didn’t (are you proud of me yet?)! When we exited the building and as we waited for the fire officers to reset the system I looked around to see everyone else on their phone. It felt weird.
After the fire alarm I went to dinner, and it was very similar to lunch. I’m used to eating meals alone but usually I have my phone to occupy my time, instead this time I just focussed on my food again. After dinner I took a nap, and a shower and generally tried to tidy up my room a bit. I also drafted up a few blog posts which I’ll hopefully eventually finish?
At 8pm I had exactly one hour to go and I gotta say I was struggling to find ways to keep myself entertained. Luckily, my boyfriend stopped by and I was no longer bored or alone.
By the time 9pm rolled around I felt relieved. I did a quick check of all my social media profiles, checking all my notifications before I put my phone down again. I hadn’t really missed that much in the grand scheme of things.
Before the fast I had been so worried about how boring and lonely the day would get, and I was right, I was very lonely and bored, but I did manage to occupied my time with other things besides social media. However I didn’t feel “more plugged in,” to real world in result of my break from social media. Instead I just felt alone, and like I was missing out on important news, or entertainment, or even just hearing from and interacting with the people I love.
One of the hardest aspects of this entire assignment was getting notifications sent to my phone but being unable to open or look at them. There’s something about seeing the notification but not knowing being able to open it that just killed me. It was kinda like having presents RIGHT THERE but having to wait to open them. And I know that doesn’t bother some people at all, but for some reason I really hated that.
I know that taking breaks from social media can be very beneficial and important. Breaks can be a good way of making your taking care of yourself and maintaining good mental health and a good self image. Breaks are also a good way of making sure that we’re spending more time face-to-face time with the people we love. We also need to make sure that we’re respectful with our social media usage, and not using it when people are trying to have conversations with us, etc. However, social media isn’t evil. It can be a good source of entertainment, and many people use it as a news source as well (I do too, but be careful with that one!). A lot of people use social media to connect with people they love that they can’t see regularly, and some people use it as a creative outlet.
After this assignment I am going to try to cut back on the amount of time I spend on social media simply because I’m bored, and instead I’m going to try to find more productive or beneficial ways to spend some of this time.
Would you try this 24hour challenge?? Let me know in the comments!