Three months ago, in an attempt to avoid constant distraction, I took the drastic step of uninstalling the Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok apps from my phone.
This life changing, limited approach to social media is a lifestyle choice I will take with me into 2021.
Netflix’s The Social Dilemma made me question my social media use. I realized that I was wasting hours a day scrolling through apps and gaining nothing but a dead phone battery and eerily targeted advertisements on Facebook. So how can I justify wasting so much time on these apps, when I can’t find enough time to prioritize my university and personal responsibilities?
Social media apps are enthralling and entertaining. They are visually appealing and stimulating, and their addictiveness makes it incredibly hard to maintain focus on any given task. The moment I clicked on a social media app, my productive train of thought was gone, and 20-minute tasks began to stretch into two-hours-long ordeals. The hours of the day dwindled, yet I was getting nothing in exchange for that time.
To be clear, I don’t outright oppose social media — I still log in once or twice daily on my computer for updates on my friends and family. But I am opposed to the plague of constantly using our phones to quench our social media addiction.
Mobile apps bombard us with posts and advertisements, and this tsunami of content tends to spill over into our lives beyond the screen. When I’m at a restaurant, it saddens me to see an entire table of people on their phones for the duration of their meal, rather than enjoying the human experience and connection.
I’m not acting holier-than-thou. I’ve been guilty of being on my phone for entire meals too, but I can now see what we lose when engrossed in these apps. Meals have become a period of isolation, even when we’re next to people.
I’ve also realized that social media subtly manipulates people to act a certain way. We are incentivized to become performers for our digital followers. Sure, we feel this fleeting happiness once a post is up and the likes and comments start pouring in. But that happiness isn’t as enduring as the genuine joy from the experiences themselves.
It feels like we no longer do things for the happiness of the experiences, rather we do things to post about it from our phones, with likes and comments being an infatuation that we can’t seem to escape. Limiting social media use to only the computer adds much needed distance to prevent this problem.
My initial concern with deleting these apps was that I wouldn’t be as informed about current events. Oddly enough, I am still well-informed. The difference is that I now read the news from original news sources, and can spend less time seeing doom-and-gloom posts or time-wasting conspiracy theories.
There are times when social media apps are necessary to keep on the phone, like when running a business page or creating content that can’t be posted from the computer. Otherwise, I believe that social media can be limited entirely to the computer.
Though I deleted all the apps, other people may benefit by starting with deleting the app that wastes the most time. To check which apps you use the most, check the Screen Time setting for iPhone or the Digital Wellbeing setting for Android.
With the apps gone from my phone, my life has improved. I have more time in the day and I am more peaceful and calm. When I feel the need to procrastinate, I now direct my efforts to useful tasks. Rather than scrolling through Facebook for the tenth time this morning, I find a simple and easy task to complete — perhaps there’s an email waiting for a reply or a class discussion post to get done.
Whether you choose to delete one app or all the social media apps, it’s still an essential step in the right direction. In 2021, let’s save time and live in the real world by giving the social media apps on our phones a break.
This op-ed was written by a University of Saskatchewan undergraduate student and reflects the views and opinions of the writer. If you would like to write a reply, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Declan Cameron is a fourth-year undergraduate student studying agronomy. He enjoys finding ways to optimize and improve his daily life by making small changes each day.
Graphic: Kristine Jones A. Del Socorro | Culture Editor