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.