Every year, I like to have what I call a wi-fi detox, which is basically a period of time when I go without internet, usually a couple of days. This year, my detox was different. It turned out to be a social media detox, and it lasted for nearly two weeks. I needed it more than anything else, and I will try my best to explain how impactful it has been to my overall productivity, happiness, and mood.
Two weeks ago, I realized how badly social media can influence us, if we don’t know how to use it efficiently. Without even noticing, we start to be caught in a trap of apparent wellbeing, based on likes, follows, views, and the list can continue with so many superficial factors that might define our mood much more than they should (aka not at all!). Even more, you can dwell so much into scrolling the feeds that you forget about what is most important to accomplish for yourself, at that certain time. Instead of working on that project that will bring you a lot of satisfaction, or reading that book you wanted so much to start, you choose to watch what that-girl-you-know-from-7th-grade-and-don’t-even-talk-to-anymore does, or where your ex has been last night. Isn’t it funny? You give up parts of your personal achievement and growth to waste WAY TOO MUCH time on an activity that is anything but enriching to the mind, body, or soul. Realizing this, I immediately deleted my Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat, keeping only my communication channels to talk to my friends, family, and school-related groups.
I knew it was going to be for a longer time than usual. I was experiencing a difficult situation in my life, I was managing my stress poorly, and finals’ week was right around the corner – for a person taking maximum number of credits and wanting only A’s, I had to do something to achieve my desired results. So here I was, ready to start my “detox”, and making it last until my last final exam was done. I was actually becoming excited. I felt such a big satisfaction clicking on that “X” button near the social media apps. I felt that this was the right move.
And it definitely was.
From the moment I let these apps go, my mind’s space significantly enlarged. It was like I suddenly had time to reflect on topics much more important than “What insta story to post?” or “Oh I should not lose this streak!”. I’m not assuming that before that all I was thinking was social media, but taking it off my mind made me look deeper into more important and meaningful parts of my life that I might have treated superficially before, even with ignorance. Such parts include appreciating my teachers’ efforts, thinking about how I see my future career, asking myself WHY I’m doing all the things I’m doing, finding the purpose of every part of my life, cutting off toxic things that no longer fulfill me or make me happy, observing my mind and body’s reactions to different situations that occur in my life, redefining my values, and setting my short-term goals, as well as my long-term vision of how I see myself.
Besides the introspective view, disconnecting from the screen time made me connect better with the people around me. I started noticing behaviors that I didn’t before, I became more understanding, and I was more receptive to their stories and concerns. The best example is the one regarding my roommate. She is a sweetheart, honestly the cutest person I could have ever had as a roommate. However, due to my stressful period before the detox, I used to be annoyed by so many things she was doing, whether it was leaving the lights on, eating chips, or going to bed late. As I began my detox period, I shifted my intention to my self, and I realized the problem was not with her, but with me who kept blaming outside sources for my mood. During the two weeks, I remembered what a beautiful human being she is, we talked and laughed a lot, and I was curious to find out about her most recent endeavours. I had the time to put effort and rediscover a person.
I also had the time to put effort and rediscover myself and my passions. It’s incredible how productive I was, and here is what I accomplished during my social media detox:
- Taught myself mindfulness meditation: While I was in the bookstore I came across this book called “The Mindful Twenty-Something”, which seemed to be just the right thing at the right moment – I bought it and immediately started reading it. I learnt what mindfulness is (being able to dwell in the present moment, with no regret about the past, or worry about future), and started practicing meditation techniques that are meant to train my “mindfulness muscle”. I have been reading, practicing, and journaling the reflections every day since I bought the book, and so far, it shaped a lot my way of seeing life’s events, and my reaction to them. I recommend anyone to try this practice.
- Along with this book, I also started reading another one that caught my attention: “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg. If you read my latest blog post, well I have to tell you that this book goes hand in hand with it. Sheryl, the COO of Facebook, talks about her experiences as a woman leader, empowers women to aspire for leadership positions, and gives advice on how to do that, based on her stories. It’s the perfect read for college students, who just begin to shape their careers, but also for any person who wants to feel motivated or learn more about women’s abilities and how to promote them at their best.
- Went to the gym almost every day, doing intense workouts of 1-2 hours (well, at least intense for me), and motivating myself to keep going and don’t stop. I observed how I got stronger with each day, and I immediately started to see the results on my body. Combining the workouts with yoga practice, my body gave me a big unspoken “thank you” note. Not only, but also my mind felt clearer and more balanced after each workout, pretty much like meditation, but in this case exercising my actual muscles, and not my “mindfulness” one.
- Last but not least, focused on my finals. I had three exams and one big design final project (design being the free elective class that I took this term, and that took me the amount of time all my business classes took), and I worked hard to ace them all. Hours in the library, late nights, and a lot of time management skills put into practice, but the satisfaction of getting them done right was worth all the effort. From all of these, my final design project is one of the most meaningful and personal works of art I’ve done so far. I put all my heart into it.
Its main theme is “Transformation”, and it shows the life phases that changed me the most until now: childhood, the beginning of the first grade, middle school, high school, college, and the last part being my vision of the future. It is filled with meanings, such as the ballerina showing my passion for ballet as a child; the circles and cubes revealing my love for mathematics when I was little; Bucharest’s buildings that I used to pass by every day when going to high school, combined with Philadelphia’s skyline that I can see from my classes now; cherry blossoms which are a symbol for renewal, meaning a lot to my life (no wonder why my blog’s favicon is a cherry blossom!); and, last but not least, the unpredictable future, which can be shaped in so many ways. The black string with white glitter that starts and ends the project is a symbol for the luck that follows me throughout my life.
Truth is, I didn’t expect this “social media detox” to be so impactful. The fact that it increased my productivity and self-awareness in HUGE amounts says a lot about the attention I used to give it. These two weeks taught me so many lessons about how we should value our time. When we know what we should put our focus on, the outcome will be significantly greater than what we expect to be.
I encourage you to follow my story, and disconnect. It doesn’t have to be the crazy amount of two weeks, it can only be one day. As long as you observe how that makes you feel, and you invest your time in something more meaningful for you, that’s already a start. It’s funny how, in the end, the fact that you disconnect makes you feel ten times connected with yourself, as well as with the world in all its beauty and forms.
If you do it, let me know how that works for you. Right now I’m in the airplane, leaving for my next adventure: a personal development trip to Costa Rica, combining entrepreneurship with yoga, and travel. Excited to share my stories with you!