Every morning before I even get out of bed, I find myself scrolling through Twitter, checking my emails and watching everyone else’s Instagram stories. This is a typical morning for many people — and hon­estly, it’s quite sad.

It was only a couple of months ago I realized that I was addicted to my phone — more specifically, social me­dia as a whole. I was wasting my time following up on other people’s lives — worrying about what they were do­ing and what they were wearing rather than focusing on my own wants and needs. My priorities were a mess and my time was being wasted — and for what? To read about other people’s lives through a screen?

The time I spent taking the perfect selfie, finding the best filter and think­ing of the right caption could have been dedicated to something more worthy and useful — something that would push me towards my goals and make it become a reality. Instead, I was busy entertaining everyone else on my time­line — wasting my days away posting content and scrolling.

Eventually, social media began to af­fect my mental health. I felt more com­fortable on my phone than having ac­tual face-to-face interaction. Even simple conversations made me feel anxious — even ones with close friends and family.

My ability to communicate with oth­ers deteriorated, and I slowly began to isolate myself from the real world. Social settings became a battleground, and I avoided them like the plague. Social me­dia began to cut into time that could have been spent towards my relationships, academics and even sleep. I was on a dopamine high — addicted to the endless source of how many likes, comments and shares my posts would receive. I had sud­denly reached the rabbit hole of social media and couldn’t find my way out.

When I finally took a step back, I realized just how addicted to my phone and social media I had become. I started to do a few things differently in order to break my addiction.

I decided to charge my phone on my desk instead of on my nightstand next to my bed when sleeping — this took away my temptation to check social media rather than sleep. By not having my phone in reach, I also eliminated my abil­ity to hit snooze on my alarm from bed and go back to sleep.

Once I turned off my alarm, I would spend the first hour of my day social media free. Instead of scrolling through everyone’s posts, I simply got to enjoy my morning and focus on myself and the day ahead. This also helped me to reduce the amount of time spent on social media — with my usage dropping to roughly two hours per day.

Walking to campus is now a time where I let my mind roam and wander — just enjoying the observations of the world around me. Taking a break from social media made me look up at the rustic buildings, busy streets and various people rather than my phone — some­thing I’ve really never done before. If you’re constantly on your phone and al­lowing it to distract you from life, then you won’t have any time for innovation and creative ideas.

I’ve also audited my social media channels, for which I tailored my fol­lowing to create an inspiring online experience for myself. Instead of follow­ing my old friends from high school, I purged them off my timeline and de­cided to follow those more in my field of interest — in this case, the film and television industry. I have followed Hulu, Netflix, Paramount Studio, my favorite directors and authors, as well as motivation pages with tips for aspir­ing writers. Now, the two hours I do spend on social media is dedicated to I looking at that inspire and motivate me to make great strides for my future.

While minimizing the time I spent on social media has been somewhat of a challenge, it was well worth it. I’ve noticed that both my social skills and overall health has gotten better, and I feel much less anxious and less like a failure, with my productivity increasing dramatically.

So here’s my challenge to the UW community this week: before you check your phone in the morning, take a step back and give yourself five minutes before you tune into the rest of the world. Within those five minutes, do something productive like make a to-do list for the day, or relax and eat a bowl of your favorite cereal. Just do something for yourself rather than checking your phone and worrying about the rest of the world. Let them worry about themselves — make 2019 the year for you.

ILLUSTRATION BY BRUNO MARQUEZ
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