Wake up, and scroll through TikTok.
Brush teeth. Keep scrolling.
Eat breakfast, and check out what’s happening on YouTube.
Hop on the daily commute; more TikTok, Reddit, Instagram.
Any spare second at work: Sneakily hop on the socials or update your LinkedIn.
Get home, create a few posts from your day and share them.
Watch YouTube videos, then fall asleep.
Wake up, rinse, repeat.
That right there? ☝️ It’s just a day in the life of most human beings in 2022.
Social media feels inescapable in this day and age. No matter who you are, what profession you’re in, or which circles you run with, social media platforms are the common thread tying all of us together.
Even if you want to ditch social media, the thought of giving it up can be terrifying. It almost feels like you’re withdrawing from society altogether—destined to get overlooked for party invites, updates from friends, and the latest memes.
But are we actually missing out, or are we just being held back by FOMO?
I gave up social media for a week in an attempt to figure out the answer to the ultimate question: Do you REALLY need to be on social media in 2022? In this post, I go through the good, the bad, and the ugly of my experience to help you figure out if you should stay online or ditch social media altogether.
First, a little bit about my experience.
I’m currently on Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, YouTube, TikTok, and LinkedIn (just a few platforms, I know 🙈). In my social media detox, I attempted to ditch all of these platforms to see just how big a role they played in my life.
I say attempted because I failed almost immediately.
I was writing a blog post, and as soon as I felt a lull in productivity, I opened up Instagram on autopilot. It wasn’t until I was halfway through watching a Reel that I realized: this is going to be harder than I thought.
I logged myself out of social media on my computer and got rid of the apps on my phone. But even with these extra measures, I noticed myself mindlessly typing in the Facebook URL on my computer when I wanted to procrastinate. Or, I’d desperately try to find something to scroll through when I was bored. I visited The Guardian, The Cut, and The New York Times website a dozen times a day, looking for the dopamine hit I get when the newsfeed refreshes.
I WhatsApped my friends instead of messaging them on Instagram. I took photos of my day with nowhere to share them. I had to proactively look for my daily news and updates rather than getting them aggregated in a feed.
Along the way, I discovered something important…
I actually wanted to be back on social media.
That’s probably not what you expected to hear, right?
It’s no surprise you think that way. After all, social media gets a bad rap these days.
There are so many articles out there about the negative influences of social media. Social platforms contribute to mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. Toxic content makes us constantly feel inadequate. Misinformation spreads like wildfire…and the list goes on. Because of this, the people who quit social media constantly talk about how much free time they have—how much more productive they are and how much easier it is to live in the moment.
While I found this to be true, there was a lot of stuff that I missed during my brief social media detox.
I missed the ability to check-in and see what was going on in my friends’ lives. I missed the ability to discover gorgeous places and delicious eateries on Instagram. I missed the daily laughs from TikTok and the helpful career updates I received from LinkedIn.
The truth is, I missed social media. Contrary to what I expected, my hiatus didn’t turn me off to it at all. However, it did make me aware of how I was using it and made me resolve to be more mindful of how I used it moving forward.
Social media: the good, the bad, and the ugly
Despite missing my daily feed, it was clear to me that I had let my social media usage spiral a teeny tiny bit out of control. Seven days was more than enough to reveal just how much social media had crept into every part of my life—and made me far more aware of the good, the bad, and the ugly side of our collective social habit.
First, let’s talk about something that rarely gets discussed these days: the upside of social media. In my short time away, I discovered that platforms like Instagram and TikTok added a lot of value to my day, provided I didn’t use them excessively.
Back in the days of MySpace and Facebook, social media was created as a tool that allowed people to connect with each other and forge communities online over shared interests. And while social media has evolved to be so much more than that, it’s still a powerful tool for building and maintaining relationships at heart.
That friend I knew from grade school? I could still keep in touch with them on Facebook. My family? I followed their stories on Instagram or saw my little cousins on TikTok. During my hiatus, I missed connecting with my friends and family and feeling like I was still part of their lives—despite being thousands of miles away.
On top of that, I realized just how essential social media was in helping me find people with shared interests outside my immediate circles. I have some pretty unique hobbies, and Instagram and TikTok both allow me to explore that passion with other enthusiasts from around the world.
It’s also thanks to social media that I landed a few jobs over the years. In my very short week of reflection, I found myself wondering if I was missing out on gigs posted on LinkedIn or Facebook Groups.
I know, I know—it sounds like I’m in love with social media. But honestly, during my time away, I also found that the way I was using social media had far more negative impacts on my life than positive ones.
It was only when I took all of my apps away that I saw just how dependent I was on social media as a crutch during my day.
Whenever I had a slow patch in the day, I’d typically default to social media to entertain myself. Without it, I was stuck sitting there, twiddling my thumbs, looking for something to distract me from work or while I was waiting for my friends at a cafe.
It turns out that I had NO idea how to be alone without having a social media platform to check in on—so much so that I started scrolling through Google News to try and find something to look busy with rather than sit idly by myself.
There was one upside to this, however. Having nothing to procrastinate with, I actually got more done during the week because there were fewer distractions in the day.
Then there’s the modern tree in the forest question: if something happened and you didn’t share it, did it even happen at all? I found myself recording videos and taking photos throughout my day, only to message them to a few close friends for lack of another platform to share them on.
This one’s not just me: Apparently half of Gen Z social media users feel pressure to post content, which is significantly higher than older generations.
And the ugly
One of the best parts of my social media-free week was that there was far less misinformation floating around in my life.
When I was on Facebook, every second post would be one of somebody proclaiming they “knew” something because they saw it online. As a matter of fact, the numbers show that one in three Americans accidentally shared fake news. Without this in my life, I could just curate my daily online experience based on things I wanted to see—not on what other people post.
It was also refreshingly nice to know that my data was being collected and used by fewer platforms. After the experience of being followed around by ads for days after viewing a product online, the internet felt (slightly) less like a stalker that was spying on me at every turn.
With social media, addiction is also very, very real. Many of us normalize our addiction because everyone else is on it, but I saw firsthand just how attached to it I was when it was absent in my life. In fact, without Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube on my phone, I gained back an extra 2 hours in my day.
I don’t even have the worst of it. A research study estimates that as many as 210 million people around the world suffer from social media addiction to such a degree that it decreases their overall life satisfaction.
Ultimately, what my experience made abundantly clear was that I had let social media control my use, rather than the other way around. Social media isn’t all bad—it can even be beneficial—and it’s up to us to use it in the best way possible. Regardless of how often you use social media, this past week has shown me that everyone should regularly re-evaluate their relationship with the feed.
If my experience has made you reflect on your own use of social media, here are four questions to ask yourself to figure out if your usage is healthy, unhealthy, or even borderline toxic.
1. Are you using it for the right reasons?
Stop for a second and consider why you’re on social media.
I mean, really consider it.
Do you spend most of your time on social media staying in touch with family and friends? Or are you constantly just scrolling through posts from influencers, wishing that you could do what they do? Is it your go-to for information or to lash out at strangers for their grammar?
If you’re using social media mainly to escape from life or let out your frustrations, it might be time to cut down your usage and spend time in other areas instead.
2. Are you connected to the right people?
When spending time with people in person, we’re more deliberate about who we give our energy to. We try to spend time with the people who lift us up, and spend less time with those who drain us. But when it comes to social media, we tend to ignore this logic and instead give mental real estate to everyone who appears on our newsfeed.
You only have so much time in the day, so it’s important to invest it in relationships that enrich your life, even on social media.
Sit down and audit the people that you’re connected to on social media. If you wouldn’t say hi to them on the street or care if you ever spoke to them again, seriously consider removing them from your friends’ list.
Doing this on a regular basis is a great way to ensure that you’re taking care of your social media circle, much like you are for your circle in real life.
3. How does it make you feel?
It sounds a bit like a question a shrink would ask, but hear me out.
We use social media all the time, yet so few of us actually stop to think about our mental state after our use.
Does it make you feel inspired? Is it bringing you happiness and a sense of fulfillment? Or do you just feel bad about yourself every time you open up your platforms because you can’t stop comparing yourself to your other friends or influencers?
Answering yes to the latter is a sign that you may need to shave down your use of social media or be more selective in who you follow, so it’s lifting your mood—not bringing it down.
4. Is it holding you back?
Social media is valuable when it enables different aspects of our lives. Careers, friendships, and hobbies…all of these benefit from a healthy dose of social media use.
Then, there are times when social platforms have the exact opposite effect.
I’m talking about spending so much time on social media that you fall behind on work tasks, term papers, or studying. Or sinking hours upon end on TikTok or Instagram as a way to procrastinate from tackling a big goal you have. Or hanging out with people without actually hanging out with one another:
When your use of social media begins to negatively affect other parts of your life, it might be a sign that it’s time to reign it in.
Social media: friend or foe?
Ultimately, my social media hiatus was a good opportunity to take a step back, reflect, and reset—and I encourage you to do the same no matter how much or little you’re on platforms like Instagram, TikTok, or Facebook. You’ll have more free time in the day and maybe even switch up how you use social media in the future.
As for me, at the end of the week, I reinstalled almost all of the social media apps on my phone. But I still haven’t logged in on my laptop—and my day is definitely better for it.