Audrey Ardine, 129 TESS
Rewind to about a year ago when I was still in training. I heard about all the downtime volunteers would have at site and I told myself it would be a great opportunity to exercise, journal, maybe start a blog, read, and find new hobbies. I would have time to work on myself.
Fast forward to a year at site and I’d fallen into the same routines and habits that I’ve always had. Some of the things I hoped to pursue at site are go-to things for me when I have free time, but more often than not I’m glued to my phone. Don’t get me wrong, having a phone (and all of the apps that come with it) is convenient and pretty awesome. But being on my phone often takes away from time that could be utilized in a more positive way.
Hours spent watching Netflix, mindless Facebook scrolls, and even creating a separate Instagram account to follow basically every celebrity from Bravo were definitely taking away from time I could’ve been using for more “productive” activities. My lowest point was when I found myself on a YouTube channel with videos about people trying to prank their significant others. I spent two hours watching these 15 minute videos.
There are positives to social media, but I’ve found that when I spend a lot of time using it, social media takes an emotional toll on me. I can’t help but get caught up in FOMO or comparing myself to the people who seem to be doing amazing and great things ALL the time.
I never considered trying to give up or limit screen time, especially social media. I assumed that it wasn’t worth a shot because I’m impulsive and find it easy to break commitments I’ve made to myself. But a friend and fellow volunteer, Theresa Kozelka, told me about how she was giving up social media for Lent. I was intrigued by the thought of forty days without Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and the many productive possibilities that awaited me. I deleted all the social media apps on my phone. I was all in.
In the first week of my social media hiatus, I read two books and was starting my third. I felt more motivated. At school, I felt more focused. I was getting more work done at a faster pace because I wasn’t taking as many breaks to check my phone. I was journaling daily, listening to more music, and finishing a plethora of chores and housework. I was more present during conversations because I wasn’t checking my phone and tuning out the speaker. Sometimes, I use my phone as a security blanket in social settings, but not having any social media apps to scroll through forced me to break that habit.
It was a refreshing experience. I felt a sort of freedom by not allowing myself to be bogged down by checking my phone. And I started to limit screen computer time too. I would try to get a lot of things accomplished with pen and paper until I absolutely had to use my computer. I found that less screen time had a positive impact on my energy level. I didn’t feel completely exhausted by the end of the day. I felt an overall sense of better well-being. Things felt more balanced and in a way, it felt like I was taking better care of myself.
It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be but it wasn’t easy either. But if I felt the urge to be on my phone, I would use my Talking Thai app to practice Thai.
Despite all the positives, I started to feel an itch to go on Facebook and Instagram. As a PCV, it’s an easy way to keep up with friends and family. And I’ll I admit it, I couldn’t go the full forty days without checking out what was going on in the world of Facebook and Instagram because of one weak moment (don’t judge me – you wanted to know where the 130s were going too). Was it worth it? No. And it strengthened my resolve to continue on. This relapse made me realize that I needed to pick up the phone and call to check in with loved ones more often.
My social media hiatus has been officially over for a while. I haven’t reinstalled most social media apps to my phone. I don’t think I can ever completely give up Instagram. And who doesn’t love Netflix binges? However, I still try to limit the time I spend using both those apps. Giving up social media was a positive journey for me and one that I will try again. If you feel like you get stuck in endless scrolls or make separate Instagram accounts to follow celebrities, then maybe you too should give up social media. A few days, a week or more — I promise it will be an interesting and worthwhile experience.