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A millennial experiment: the 7-day social media blackout

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A full calendar week without any access to social media (barring Facebook Messenger and other messaging apps). An insurmountable task or an easy feat? 

I’m always up for a challenge, big or small, so when my editor and pal Alessandro assigned this piece to me I was ready to put my self to the test. There was a new film about to come out - Ingrid Goes West - about social media stalking, and that prompted the idea for this social experiment.

Yes, it’s not exactly a groundbreaking piece of hard-hitting journalism, I didn’t even have to work that hard for it. I just had to avoid doing something that, in theory, should only take up a small part of my day. Whether seven days of no social sounds like a piece of cake to you, or you don’t think you could ever get through it alive, there are lessons to be learnt from every experience. Including this kind of self-inflicted social experiment.

I had something to prove to myself and to all millennials out there. Why should we let those out of touch boom babies taunt us with our phone addictions? Someone had to take one for the team and prove once and for all whether life sans social media is any life at all. We’ll take a look at how I fared throughout the experiment and what I gained from it by the end.

Precautionary measures

If you are a normal person with average self-restraint this shouldn’t be necessary, but since I know I can’t be trusted to avoid all social media apps just from sheer willpower I had to put up some deterrents.

To block all possible distractions on my laptop I used a blacklist extension on Chrome and selected which website I wanted to be blacklisted. I would instinctively try and log on to YouTube or Twitter whenever I had nothing better to do and I’d be slapped with a “blacklisted” warning. As far as my phone was concerned, I ended up putting all social media (and Grindr, for my own good) in a lonesome folder away from their fellow apps.

Day One

It’s Friday morning, the alarm goes off and I have a few minutes to snooze before getting up and leaving the house but with this social media blockade, I have nothing to browse through while I’m in bed. How bad is that? The minute I open my eyes my finger immediately goes searching for a social feed to peruse.The rest of the day goes by pretty smoothly, now that I don’t have the luxury to go on Instagram and drool over hot people. I just read a book on my Kindle app instead and at uni lectures I’m not tempted by the open tabs of Facebook and Twitter. Success.

Day Two

Productivity levels are up; this term’s coming to an end and my assignments are piling up so this was actually much needed. My day feels weirdly empty without all the useless information dump but I really should implement this every time I have exams. I can live without Twitter or Facebook but the absence of Youtube is felt strongly. I wasn’t even sure if YouTube is classified as a social media platform but I added it to the list just in case.

Day Three

I had a dream I forfeited the challenge by going on Instagram, so I seem to be taking this thing very seriously. We went out for a Sunday roast at this cute pub and I couldn’t even post a pic of friends on my Insta story. How are people going to have confirmation of my social life? No pictures of my delicious veggie roast and brownie either.

Day Four

Revising for a test while Insta Dm'ing my friends who are also taking the test and bitching about it has been a long-standing ritual that I have had to let go. I mean I can still text them, and I do, I’m not perfect, but I’m feeling positive about my productivity. I watched a YouTube video embedded in an article I was reading, does that break the rules?

Day Five

My productivity came to a crashing halt. Despite not having access to my main outlets of procrastination, my addiction has simply replaced one drug with another. Instead of Youtube, I’ve spent hours browsing things on Amazon that I’m never going to buy and I’ve started playing words with friends, to my best friend’s horror. So it seems that as long as there’s any type of way I could procrastinate, I will choose it over revision because there's nothing I'd rather do less.

Day Six

I keep thinking of things I want to tweet when I get the chance again, what did people do with their thoughts before Twitter came around? Am I just supposed to forget them? Also, not live-tweeting new episodes of TV feels insane but there’s the silver lining of no spoilers getting to me. 

Day Seven

How time flies when you’ve lined up Instagram photos to be posted as soon as this challenge is over, videos to binge on and Reddit threads to study, but I’ve had fun. My days have been a bit calmer I guess, my thoughts more gathered. I’m not sure if I can go as far as saying my mental health has improved, there’s been no deficit either so I don’t think the internet’s really ever affected me that way.

Thoughts

I’m thinking of things I should do as soon as I wake up tomorrow, what app to open first but I’ve decided I might give up on some for good. I don’t care for Facebook, as long as I can use messenger (and to be honest we’d all probably be better off and safer not using it in light of its recent information breach). Twitter is a tough call because I don’t need it but I do get a lot of my news and updates through it. Instagram I’m not ready to give up because I use it for photography.

This would have been a completely different piece if I had to stay away from my phone for a week because I'd literally go insane / do anything in my everyday life. What the black-out illustrated is that it is easy to abstain from social media as long as you just set some boundaries. Perhaps this is something we should implement every now and then as a detox, like eating green for a week.

To sum it up this was a success overall and I feel like the try-guys on Buzzfeed, only they get to eat amazing food and I don't.

Ingrid Goes West, the film that inspired this article, is available now on DVD and Digital Download.

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