Breaking up with social media

Aida George

More stories from Aida George


My screen time was down 30% within one week of no social media. Now, my average screen time is 3 hours and 23 minutes a day.

I never thought I would be the type to be addicted to social media because of how annoyingly stereotypical it is for teenagers to be consumed by it until it was too late.

My addiction started when the pandemic hit. Quarantine gave me plenty of downtime, and being isolated didn’t help my natural instinct to socialize. So naturally, I resorted to TikTok. It was captivating. I could (and I did) spend hours scrolling through my custom “For You” page without a glimpse of regret. It was honestly alarming how absorbed I was in it.

I didn’t stop.

I was addicted.

However, I didn’t want to waste my teenage years glued to my phone.

In November 2022, I decided to quit. I wanted to get my life back together, and more importantly, finish my college applications that I had put off for months. After almost three years of commitment, I decided to delete Snapchat and Tiktok, but I kept Instagram to communicate with international family, for school updates and to not isolate myself completely.

I went through a couple of weeks without social media, which made me focus on school and mental health. However, I gave up my “social media cleanse” during winter break, since I finished all my applications and didn’t know what to do with myself with two weeks of downtime

That was my problem. I didn’t know what to do with my free time without social media. I relied on it to pass time. I could escape the problems in my life to live through someone else’s perfect and carefree world. I relied on these apps to fulfill a hole in my life that didn’t need to be filled. When I downloaded TikTok again, I realized how normalized, unrealistic lifestyles were displayed and promoted. I couldn’t get over how every post seemed forced for a minute of clout. I knew I didn’t want to support this behavior.

I started to notice my bad habits forming again in the new year. I neglected my school work, wasted my precious sleep for more screen time and wasn’t fulfilling my tasks to its full potential. So starting Feb. 20, I decided to remove all social media from my life. The cleanse was perfect timing for lent. Social media led me astray from using my time, talent and treasures to glorify God, so taking a break was the wisest thing to do. I wanted to learn how to enjoy life without depending on social media for happiness.

The self-experiment was built on the condition of finishing my college applications during the first trial. But for the second round, I wanted it to change my lifestyle. In order for me to do this experiment, I had to be truly honest with myself and maintain self-control.

The hardest part of falling out of my bad habits was finding new ways to entertain myself, since I had a lot of extra time. I focused on hobbies like piano, art and even catching up on TV shows. Days were longer. I felt like time slowed down to make me suffer. I was in a slum of depression, but I knew I couldn’t keep going through like this. I made an effort to do new tasks each day and not commit to a specific routine. I followed a positive mindset and forced myself to have good days. Soon my days weren’t blurred together, and I started to forget about my cleanse.

The social media cleanse forced me to channel my inner creativity instead of relying on other people’s ideas for inspiration, which allowed me to go out of my comfort zone and not follow a set of rules someone else made for their tutorial. It revealed my personal style for photography and art. I started exploring topics I was truly passionate about instead of sticking to the norm or trends. I also started to get into the habit of finishing my work instead of leaving it halfway done. I always accused myself of “not having enough time,” but it was just a pitiful excuse to avoid messing the art up. I didn’t prioritize tuning in with my imagination which set back my determination. I learned that I had to mess up and take risks to grow. Now I had a ton of free time to carefully plan and execute my ideas into art.

I exploited social media in fear of being secluded, but I realized that social media was secluding me from my life. I didn’t have the safety net of pretending to be busy during awkward social situations, so I had to push through and put myself out there. I became more open to others and started to notice my surroundings more.

Sometimes it is good to step away from the deceptions of social media and face reality. Most social media platforms are curated according to other users’ interests, which can damage their perception of real life. For me, I was stuck romanticizing a stranger’s life instead of living my own life.

I’m not discrediting social media entirely; social media is where the future is heading, so I might well be on board for future careers and opportunities. It also provides an opportunity for anyone to share their voice and advocate for what they believe. Social media is a useful source to seek inspiration, find TV show/movie/book recommendations and network, but it can be damaging if abused.