We Tried It

I Quit Social Media for a Week and It Didn’t Change My Life

But I did learn a few things.

By: Jasmine Lamb
Illustration: Meghann Stephenson

When I first started to consider the toll Instagram was taking on my life, I was a little overwhelmed. I started to calculate the number of hours spent scrolling through my timeline every week, and then decided it was better for my ego if I just *stopped* counting.

Collectively, we are more conscious than ever of the amount of time we spend on social media each day and the effect it has on our mental health, self-confidence, and overall anxiety. I think it’s super important that we keep this dialogue going, and I, too, have fallen victim to the digital rabbit hole of doom and self-pity that social media can inflict. So I decided to quit all social media for one week straight. I first planned on limiting myself to one hour per day, but then decided that was still my social media addiction talking. Plus, I love a challenge. Cold turkey it is.

I spent the last five years in New York doing what every bright-eyed, ready-to-take-over-the-world millennial does fresh out of college—work, work, and work some more. I had always pictured myself eventually venturing off into the world of entrepreneurship and starting my own business, and just three months ago, I decided to take that leap. Cue social media.

I’ve always felt pressure from my peers to be “bigger” online, as if it was a secret on-switch I was holding out on. (Sidebar: I accidentally ended up with a Insta-photographer boyfriend for a little over a year, and I think everyone else was more excited about it than me; that was awkward.) Don’t get me wrong, I love the occasional photo shoot, but for me, social media is a creative expression I like to do for fun, not to become Insta-famous. But every time a few months would go by and I wouldn’t post new styled photos, there was almost a guarantee that I would hear from a disgruntled friend or peer, and just like that, it was no longer about doing this “just for fun.”

As a naturally ambitious person, my social media ecosystem is full of boss entrepreneurs and creatives paving their futures on their own terms, their own way. Basically, inspiration is my jam. But sometimes scrolling through a timeline of go-getters can have an adverse effect on my motivation. Sometimes it makes me wonder—am I doing everything wrong? Am I on the “right” timeline for success (plot twist: there isn’t one)? Was I really that productive today if I didn’t accomplish the same highlight reel as my peers on Instagram? And the doubts keep building.

So I wondered, what would my week look like if I took back all the hours I spent on social media each day and put them towards bettering my business and myself? I can say, a few things changed.

1. I read more—I buy new books as much as I try new lipstick, so, a lot. I finally got around to making a dent in some pretty crucial reads. Instead of stopping to take mental work breaks to scroll through my various timelines, I picked up a book instead.

2. I doubted myself less—Let’s face it, comparison is a total killjoy. Every time I felt I had made significant progress in my entrepreneurial journey, I’d stop to scroll through Instagram and immediately felt I was back at square one. Quitting Instagram allowed me to be more present in the everyday wins and look at my experiences as a continuous story that’s just as unique and valuable as anyone else’s.

3. My focus shifted—Not only was I more present, but I started to think of new ways to be creative in my “in-between” time, whether it was brainstorming new ideas to reach my business goals, choosing to meditate and re-affirm the day’s intentions, or having more real-time conversations with people I value in real life.

But something I realized towards the end of my Insta-sabbatical was that I can still choose to do all of these things *and* have Instagram in my life. We get so caught up in making social media the bad guy, because that’s easier than admitting that we have full control over how we spend our time, yet choose to spend it on Instagram anyway. Social media has its dark sides, yes; but it also inspires, connects, and drives a new world of ideas and knowledge that allows us to influence change in ways we couldn’t before. We have access to more voices, more diversity, and more creativity than ever, and that, I believe, is a major win. We should stop pretending social media is the *sole* cause of our stress, depression, and anxiety, and start taking more responsibility for how we use it—this includes taking more ownership of our social footprint, the conversations we’re having, and using it as a tool to connect, rather than just self-promote.

If you’re looking to disconnect for a while, do it. I can 100 percent say I gained some valuable personal insights and was able to reset my mental space during my week-long cleanse. But I also recognized that the power is not in my feed, and I do have a choice on how I use it. Just know that, Instagram or not, you can always find time for things that matter by consuming less, creating more, and being an active participant in the parts of your life you value most.

 

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