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DARKOA: Quitting social media can improve your quality of life

Column: As It Is

Social media apps like Instagram take up hours of our time and distract us from more important or fulfilling tasks. 
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So many of us spend hours mindlessly scrolling through our different social media feeds. It seems as though a new application is developed every few years and escaping the social media frenzy often seems next to impossible.

Current research shows that teenagers spend an average of 9 hours each day on social media. Not surprisingly, the increase of social media consumption is also linked to higher rates of mental health issues such as anxiety, stress and depression.

For the millions of college-aged students on social media, the anticipation is real. Many of us constantly refresh our home pages over and over again, hoping to see something new on our feed. We close apps, only to reopen them a few minutes later. We spend hours taking and perfecting pictures of ourselves.

We spend even more agonizing hours looking at the number of likes and comments we have. These apps make it all too easy to compare ourselves to others. Oftentimes, when we finally do manage to log off, the FOMO (fear of missing out) kicks in and we are usually back to scrolling within a few hours.

In the middle of last year, I decided that I no longer wanted to live my life this way and deleted all of my social media accounts. Although I was only ever really active on Instagram, I knew that it would be in my best interest to end my nearly 6-year relationship with the app and embark on a new journey.

Prior to doing so, many thoughts ran through my head. How would I stay in contact with people? Would I miss out on any current news? How would I spend all my free time? What if this was the wrong choice?

Nonetheless, I took a deep breath in and clicked the “permanently disable account” button. The first few days post-social media were indeed strange, but it was not long before I became fully accustomed to my new lifestyle. It has been almost a year now since I permanently left social media behind.

In retrospect, I can say that it was a very wise decision, hence why I am here to give you a few (of the many) reasons as to why you should consider deleting (or temporarily disabling) your social media accounts.

Decreasing the amount of time you spend on social media will teach you how to live in the “real” world. When most of our attention is diverted towards a virtual reality, we passively allow our day to day lives to pass us by.

When your eyes are not constantly fixed on a screen, you will find yourself paying more attention to the people and the world around you. When you are no longer being constantly distracted, activities that may have seemed boring to you (such as taking a stroll in the park) will excite and rejuvenate you.

Foregoing social media will also give you an innate sense of peace and clarity. So much of the anxiety that young adults face stems from social pressure and the need for validation.

When you are not constantly viewing other people’s feed and attempting to keep up with everyone else’s lifestyle, you may find that you live more intentionally by doing things that you actually want to do. Your attention will no longer be divided up and you will have more time to work on yourself, which is always a good thing.

Furthermore, procrastination may no longer be your enemy. With so much more free time, you are more likely to complete all your assignments in a timely manner and there is the possibility that you may have even more time left to your leisure.

Since deleting social media, I have found that I spend my time much more productively. The abundance of free time means that I often complete my assignments ahead of time, something that was not possible when I was spending 4 or more hours each day on Instagram.

Of course, this is not to say that deleting social media will solve all of your problems. Successfully quitting these often addictive apps requires dedication and an honest reevaluation of one’s values. Quitting may also not be feasible for everyone, as many people rely on social media for crucial things such as income. Others may need it to stay in touch with distant friends or relatives who they may otherwise have no contact with.

Nonetheless, even if you are not able to permanently quit, I still encourage you to aim to spend less time on these apps. The current pandemic has shifted nearly everything online, especially for college students. Being that so many of us spend hours each day on Zoom classes, the last thing our eyes need is even more scrolling.

Every hour that is not spent on social media can be spent on completing a creative task or on rest. Such activities are much more fulfilling and are likely to leave us feeling a lot happier than any social media app can. In this digital age, we must actively seek out ways to care for ourselves. Making this one small change can be the first step towards a better you.

Vanessa Darkoa is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in English and minoring in history and education. Her column, "As It Is," runs on alternate Mondays.

*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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