Although social media began as a way for friends and family members to communicate virtually, in the span of just a few years, it has become an appendage that humanity can no longer live without.
It is widely agreed among psychologists that social media is consuming the attention of the modern world and its inhabitants, specifically teenagers and young adults. Recently, social media obsession has been deemed by mental health care professionals as a very real addiction that can result in anxiety, depression and an overall decline in mental health, according to the Addiction Center, an online guide for those struggling with mental health issues.
A new trend is to complete a social media cleanse to combat this serious addiction. During a cleanse, individuals choose to delete all or most of the social media platforms they use on a daily basis from their devices.
NAU students are among the many young adults who are currently participating in or attempting their own social media cleanses. Freshmen Hannah Rockwood, Kyle Thomas and Kourtney Madsen are three NAU students currently participating in their own social media cleanses.
Each individual that participates in a social media cleanse has their own ideas regarding which social media platforms are important to remove from their daily routines. Rockwood and Madsen both said they stayed off their primary media, such as Snapchat and Instagram, but kept Pinterest, because they did not consider it to be a harmful form of media. However, Thomas said he has deleted Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and YouTube for his personal social media cleanse.
Thomas is still taking part in his cleanse, because he has decided to partake in a trend known as no-social-media November. He cut all ties with social media beginning Nov. 1 and will continue this cleanse until Dec. 1.
“I saw how much of my time social media was consuming, and I knew that it was time to cut back, but I was so addicted to it that I didn’t have self-control in limiting it,” Thomas said. “I also wanted to see how my mental state would change with social media gone from my life.”
While Thomas is only two weeks into this monthlong endeavor, he has already made several observations about those around him who are still on social media. Thomas said conversations with others tend to fall flat when they are buried in their media timelines, and he said he cannot continue to do the same. With this 30-day cleanse, Thomas has several goals he is pursuing.
“I hope to break the habit of constantly comparing myself to others based off social media,” Thomas said. “I hope to become more personable and social so that it is easy to talk to people without having to rely on my phone to do so. Overall, I just want to see how my life might improve without the influence of social media.”
Although not as recent, Rockwood performed her own three-week social media cleanse this past summer, because she felt a need to take some time for herself.
“When I did my cleanse, I even stopped texting for that period of time and communicated primarily through phone calls,” Rockwood said. “It made my relationships feel more genuine and focused.”
Both Thomas and Rockwood said without their social media, they tend to spend more time reading, thinking, being with loved ones and simply enjoying their surroundings.
Rockwood was able to paint, read and write more. She found herself spending time with friends and having more meaningful conversations. Thomas had similar experiences that replaced the time social media took up in his life.
“Instead of occupying my time with social media, I have been reading a lot more, hiking and reaching out to more people to spend time with outside of class,” Thomas said.
Although Thomas and Rockwood had positive experiences, not everyone feels the same way after attempting a social media cleanse. Madsen is a prime example. She attempted a social media cleanse by deleting all of her media platforms except Pinterest.
“I decided to get off social media so I could take some time for myself and my mental health,” Madsen said.
Madsen stayed off social media for one day. She ultimately went back to social media for fear of missing out, as well as simply missing the opportunity to connect with her loved ones.
Although her own cleanse did not last as long as she originally planned, Madsen said she still believes in the idea of social media cleanses and the good they can do for others.
“I hope others can gain some idea of how much time they spend on social media when they could be doing other, more important things,” Madsen said.
Thomas, Rockwood and Madsen each said one of the greatest benefits of doing a social media cleanse is the increased productivity that naturally comes with it. For most college students, extra time is not something to be taken lightly or ignored.
In addition to an increased level of productivity, there are immense social benefits that one can get from a social media cleanse.
“I think that increasing in-person social interactions builds a lot of important communication skills that will serve us all well in becoming a happier, more friendly community,” Thomas said.
Social media, though it does hold a firm grasp upon much of society, may not be the healthiest form of entertainment or comfort. Although the accessibility and enjoyment of media and technology can make it difficult to give up, these students all advise going at least one day without it.
“If you’re wanting to clear your mind and live in the moment, a social media cleanse is a perfect fit,” Thomas said.
For those who are wary of missing out by being away from their media, Thomas advised the truly important things in life are those happening in the present — in immediate, real life — not upon any digital platform or media network.