5 Days without Social Media

This week I was challenged by my professor to “give up” something for 5 days. I had to find a way to measure and track the data during the week and produce this blog with the outcome. Since my school-related readings have been about our use of technology, I decided to “give up” all social media networks for the week. “But isn’t that extreme? Why don’t you just give up one?”, my fiancé asked me after I told him my choice. I replied, “It’s not a challenge if I just give up Facebook; everyone posts the same stuff on Facebook and Instagram anyway”.

What I know about my screen time (pre-challenge):

When it comes to social media, I mainly use Facebook and Instagram. I even manage an Instagram account for my dog (shameless plug to follow my dog @brava_ava). I dabble in Snapchat, always forget about Twitter and won’t bother with downloading TikTok. I spend a lot of time scrolling my Facebook and Instagram news feeds when I have an extra minute or two to kill. I use my phone to take photos of my food and my pets and share them with friends via texts or social media. I text my close friends and co-workers as my main form of communication and always keep my phone with me.

My questions for the week: When I give up social media, will I just replace it with something else? Will my screen time increase or decrease? Am I addicted to or dependent on my phone?

How much time am I spending on my phone?

Before I dive in, I need to provide some parameters. I am giving up social media for 5 days from Tuesday, September 8 – Saturday, September 12. I created the graphs below to compare with my screen time with the week prior: Tuesday, September 1 – Saturday, September 5. I use an iPhone and decided for this challenge I would use the iPhone integrated “Screen Time” app to record my data.

From my iPhone data I created two graphs. Graph A shows the total amount of time I spent on my phone and what I spent my time on. I spent almost 8 hours on my phone and embarrassingly enough, 6.5 hours of that time was used on Social Networking. Graph B displays my screen time (in hours) for each day. The most screen time was on Wednesday, September 2nd with 3 hours and 43 mins and the least screen time was Saturday, September 5th with 35 minutes.

Graph A displays the categories that I used my phone for: Social Networking, Productivity, Creativity and Other. According to my iPhone, Social Networking includes Facebook, Instagram and text messaging. Text messaging is not something I thought would be defined as Social Networking, but it makes sense! Productivity includes things like checking email and my calendar. Creativity is defined as using the iPhone camera and looking at my photos. Other is everything else from browsing the web, online shopping, using the Dunkin Donuts app or following a recipe on the Allrecipes app.

Challenge time!

Tuesday, September 8th was the first day of my “no social media” challenge. I was excited to begin because I’d been getting bored of scrolling lately. My workday is usually in my home office, at my computer and includes Zoom meetings, emailing, content management, messaging with co-workers and editing video. Saturday, September 12th was the last day of my challenge. It looks like on Saturdays I don’t use my phone much. I can attribute that to being out with friends, hiking, or having fun somewhere!

Here are some things I noted during the week:

  • The first thing I immediately noticed was that after a few hours of work I like to take short social media breaks to scroll mindlessly and disconnect from my work. The fact that I take a break from my computer work to check my phone screen is not a healthy habit.
  • I get my news from Facebook. Now that’s a scary thought. I realized I don’t seek out news generally. I obtain my news from the radio in the car (NPR), from word of mouth or from Facebook. On Facebook I usually see news shared from friends or from the news outlets I follow likeThe New York Times.
  • Local businesses (at least in the Brattleboro area) update their Facebook pages with store hours, menus and information more than their websites. Probably because it’s quicker and easier than contacting their “web guy” to update the information.
  • Similar to news, I find out about local events and happenings with Facebook events. Facebook will suggest events I could be interested in or I will see an event a friend is “going” to attend.
  • I “check” my phone a lot. I do this by tapping the screen to see if I’ve gotten any texts or to check the time. I haven’t had push notifications turned on for anything else but texts for years.
  • The first two days were hard without social media, just because I kept thinking, “what’s wrong with a mindless scroll break?”. It eventually got easier and I substituted the “craving” or “urge” to check my social media with an iPhone game or checking my email instead.
Results: (Drum roll please…)

It’s pretty easy to see the difference in screen time! During the first week, the most screen time I had was on Wednesday, Sept. 2nd with 3 hours and 43 minutes and the lowest day was Saturday, Sept. 5th with only 35 minutes. The most I used my phone the second week was on Thursday the 10th with 1 hour and 53 minutes while the lowest was 55 minutes on Saturday the 12th.

I cut my screen time by MORE THAN HALF! This is a result that I didn’t expect. During the week when I had the urge to check social media, I would play a game or check my email instead so I figured my screen time would still be high. I think the biggest change is that I didn’t get sucked in to “clickbait” or I couldn’t mindlessly scroll on my other apps.

My total screen time for September 1-5 was almost 8 hours with the majority of the usage being Social Networking (Facebook, Instagram and texting). This was followed by a handful of minutes of productivity, creativity and other. My total screen time for September 8-12 was a mere 3.35 hours with the majority of usage once again being Social Networking. Since I had cut out social media, this leaves the 1 hour and 40 minutes of screen time to texting. This time, Social Networking was followed by Other, Games, Creativity, and Reading.

Thoughts and Conclusions:

During the week I thought a lot about why I was checking my phone. I’ve also been thinking about a quote from the book, Deep Work, that I’ve been reading for class. Cal Newport says, “The habit of frequently checking inboxes ensures that these issues remain on the forefront of [our] attention”. It dawned on me that I check my phone because it’s habitual. I use it to check the time, my texts, calendar, email, etc. It holds a lot of things that are important to me. It allows me to take photos and share them with friends and tune in to the news and events around me. I like to get information right when I need it.

Let’s get back to my questions for the week from earlier:

  • When I give up social media, will I just replace it with something else?
    Sort of. I had replaced the urge to check social media with playing games, texting friends or checking my email.
  • Will my screen time increase or decrease?
    DECREASED BY HALF! Overall my screen time was dramatically reduced because I didn’t get sucked into scrolling for hours.
  • Am I addicted to or dependent on my phone?
    No I’m not addicted to my phone. I did replace social media with other phone apps but I didn’t use those as much as I would have used Facebook or Instagram. I was able to reduce my screen time and live happier! I am, though, dependent on my phone for a lot of things like connecting with friends, keeping up with the news and my calendar.

Overall, I’m so proud of myself. This was my first social media “cleanse” and it was easier than I thought. If you are thinking of taking a social media break, DO IT! You’ll thank yourself later.