The feeling of scrolling through photos, reading comical captions and appreciating messages sent from friends and family is one of familiarity to most people these days who have access to modern technology. The use of social media has skyrocketed within the last decade, a phenomenon with implications that are still being uncovered to this day. According to a survey done by the Pew Research Center in 2018, 88% of Americans ages 18 to 24 use at least one form of social media platform. This usage—while arguably more common among young adults—is also prevalent among adults ages 30 to 49 and 50 to 64, of which 78% and 64% use social media, respectively.
The frequency with which these groups are accessing online media platforms is also a factor to take into consideration; of the 68% of U.S. adults who use Facebook, ¾ of those use it on a daily basis. Of the age group of 18-to-24-year-old people, 71% of those who use Snapchat visit the app several times a day, and 55% of Instagram users in this age range also visit the app several times a day. How is this usage affecting people? A study done at the University of Hawaii interviewed students on their experience with the various forms of websites and media platforms affected their life as a student. Over half of those interviewed reported “detrimental” effects on their study habits. The students described the amount of time they wasted scrolling through feeds before beginning their homework—something students and employees everywhere have been guilty of at one point or another, even on Hope’s campus. Bailey Ellens (’22) has experienced “those moments when you get stuck on social media, and then suddenly it’s an hour later and you’re still sitting in your bed finding cool stuff instead of working.”
Not only does this form of communication lead to decreased productivity, but the students in the study also reported negative effects on self-esteem from time spent on online platforms. When posting on social media, users tend to put forward their best side; the users observing everyone’s most flattering experiences and photos often triggers unhealthy feelings of self-comparison and insecurity. The usage and effects of public networks might be less of a concern if there was a certain level of control, but 51% of 18 to 24 year old people surveyed claim that they use social media to an extent that would be difficult to give up. So what do we do with this information? Purge all of our social media immediately to avoid increased procrastination and self-esteem issues? That isn’t entirely necessary. A movement gaining in popularity among technology users is a “social media cleanse.”
This is simply a period of time in which a social media user significantly cuts back the visits they make to the app. This practice can be done at many different lengths of time, all depending on the user and what they feel is necessary for themselves. Anna Scott (’22) made a pact with her friend to take a break from Instagram, deleting the app for a week: “If we both did it, we would be able to keep each other accountable. We felt like we were being very distracted by our phones while we were trying to get work done, and wanted to reclaim our time.” Scott said that “for the first couple of days, I noticed myself subconsciously wanting to flip through Instagram when I was bored. After about day three, it became something I didn’t really think about.” Many Apple users on a mission to cut back their use of social media apps have been taking advantage of a new feature called “screentime” that was introduced to the iPhone in the most recent software update.
This feature allows you to place a time limit on specific apps, and Apple will close them once that time has been fulfilled. Fancy Apple features are not always necessary, however. If you desire to cut back on social media use, something as simple as moving the app on your phone into a folder further away from the front page of apps can be an easy way to remind yourself not to mindlessly open it up and start scrolling. While this idea of a cleanse may not solve all the world’s problems, it may free up a few extra hours of the day, something everyone could use. What will you do with yours?