Students, their phones and a social media cleanse

Social media cleanses, we all know what they are, but we are all reluctant to try one. Or we don’t think we’re in need of one. Some people are addicted to their phones, but we deny that we ourselves are. In the minds of many, social media cleanses are for the hopeless, the radicals, and the down right crazy. They’re not for the likes of us, or at least they weren’t for the likes of me.

But when your phone screen turns black mid scroll and nothing will bring it back to life, a social media cleanse is no longer a choice. This is what happened to me two weeks ago. My phone had been playing up for weeks and given that it was four years old and 100 times dropped, I knew its expiry date was coming soon anyhow. I wasn’t fazed, I believed I could survive without it.

How very wrong I was. Dismay first kicked in when I went to set my alarm for the morning. How am I going to wake myself up? Somehow I managed. On route to my 9am the impracticalities of being a student without a phone dawned on me. How was I going to keep up with my emails? How would I contact my friends? Would I feel safe walking home alone without one? I decided not and left the library earlier than I normally would.

Of course, these problems were mostly solvable with the aid of my housemate and a trusty spare Nokia brick she had lying around. Now I could call and text when I needed to. Sure, I couldn’t access social media, but for me this seemed like no biggie.  

It didn’t take me long to realise how great my dependency on social media was. I missed the celebrity news on Snapchat I had been so used to checking on the daily. I forgot a close friend’s birthday due to the absence of the all-important notifications on Facebook. As someone who uses Instagram for life updates, I felt out of the loop of not knowing what my friends from home were doing at their universities and when. Strangely what I missed the most, however, were the videos I had become accustomed to watching on YouTube. It wasn’t until I reached for my phone, seeking to fill a moment of silence with the background chatter of YouTubers boasting their fitness regimes, their clothing hauls and clips from Loose Women that I realised I had a problem. Every task seemed so quiet and dull without them playing by my side. Peeling potatoes was a mind-numbing experience and even applying my make-up seemed like a chore without a video to help me pass the time.

Life without YouTube has taught me how much of my life has been wasted on YouTube. Whilst the odd 20-minute video here and there throughout the day never felt like a crime, there were so many other ways I could have better spent my time. Life without a phone, even just for a short while, has improved my life overall.

So I may not know who wore what to the latest red carpet event, whose uploads I’ve missed on YouTube or even how my friends spent their Friday nights – so what? Life goes on. And without a phone, I’ve been sleeping better, studying with more focus and have genuinely enjoyed the freedom from the constraints of a phone.

Whilst I didn’t want to cleanse from social media, it took a broken phone for me to realise that I needed to. I only hope that it doesn’t take breaking yours, to realise the same.

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