Lent, the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, is a time for fasting, abstaining from meat on Fridays and reflection. This introspection is supposed to come from giving up one thing you enjoy doing. This year, instead of my usual cop-out of giving up soda, I decided to tackle my worst millennial vice: social media addiction.
For 40 days, I decided to refrain from checking up on my high school classmates’ Snapchat stories, stalking crushes on Facebook, and constantly refreshing my beloved Twitter feed. It hasn’t even been two full weeks since Ash Wednesday, and I have to say it has been so hard.
Yet, I can definitely see what older generations are talking about. I have a remarkable amount of time now. I am alone with my thoughts for the first time in what seems like ages. As I wait for a paper to print in King or for pass the time before my next class begins, I rediscover daydreaming. I chat with people (in real life). I scroll through books on my phone instead of Instagram.
As I consume less “news” brought to me through Facebook and Twitter, I read more actual newspapers. It’s a welcome change to read the New York Times contextualize President Trump’s statements rather than to see the hot takes from everyone I follow, who feels obligated to reply to his latest tweets. I feel more informed and willing to engage in actual conversation with other people.
I realize how growing up with social media has affected me. My attention span is short. I sometimes open my Kindle app and find myself unwilling to focus, wishing instead for the brevity of tweets or captions. I still fidget with my phone, checking it periodically, though I know I will receive no notifications. I find myself with an increased sense of FOMO (fear of missing out). It’s alarming. Before this experiment, I never considered myself obsessed with social media. I thought, “I can quit anytime I want” — but isn’t that the classic mantra of an addict?
According to a 2017 study by GlobalWebIndex, the average person has five social media accounts, and spends over two hours a day on social media. Perhaps more troubling is the way time we spend on social media is shaping our lives. Common Sense Media found in 2012 that 18 percent of social media users check Facebook every four hours, and that 28 percent of iPhone owners check Twitter in the morning before even getting out of bed. Those numbers have probably risen in the past five years.
Without the urge to check social media multiple times a day, it’s been easier for me to complete tasks, and even to complete thoughts. It’s obvious but worth saying nonetheless: being present and in the moment is worth giving up Twitter.