Today I decided to delete a large majority of the social media apps on my phone. It was a spur of the moment decision done on the walk to a lecture, but I have been thinking about it for a while.
It’s worth clarifying that I haven’t deleted them in their entirety. I kept the apps that I need in order to communicate with people in my everyday life. The survivors are Facebook due to their messenger app being the firm favourite of my housemates, and it containing Facebook pages related to my extra-curricular activities. Snapchat also made it through since this is how my friends from home stay in touch. Ideally I would like to get rid of these too, but I decided that since I use it primarily for communication, it could stay for now.
So, why did I decided to purge my phone of these apps?
The first big reason I decided to delete the apps off of my phone is because I felt reliant on them. When I was in public, killing time between a lecture or walking home, I found myself constantly staring down at a screen. I wasn’t paying attention to my surroundings or appreciating what was happening around me.
I was missing things, and it was this fear of missing things that kept me so connected to my phone. I didn’t want to leave a notification sitting on my screen without checking that it wasn’t something important, and I didn’t want to miss out on the latest breaking news on Twitter. I’d like to point out that I am not alone on this either: social media is the most popular type of online news for 44% of UK adults according to Ofcom.
Not only was I too reliant on the apps for news and passing time, I felt obligated to reply to every single notification. I was reliant on social media, but it was also reliant on me. Without me responding to my friend’s posts or notifications, I let the chain end. I felt responisble and obligated to reply to every lit up screen and ping that my phone recieved. I was no longer participating in social media actively, it became a passive activity to waste away the hours.
In addition to being reliant on my phone, it quickly became detrimental to my study habits.
As an English Literature student, I’m sure it’s not hard to imagine the amount of reading I have to undertake in order to stay on top of my degree. I love reading, but I find it’s one of those activities where unless you are entirely invested in a book, it can be easy to become distracted.
This was happening to me far too frequently. Despite the fact that I love my course, there are always going to be books that you do not enjoy. For me, that was Middlemarch. It took me twice as long to get through this book because I kept getting distracted by notifications. I couldn’t answer just one text. I had to scroll through countless Instagram posts and Twitter feeds.
It can be hard to motivate yourself to read something challenging or mind-numbingly dull when you have such an easy distraction tool at your finger tips. Rather than passively scrolling through the social media on my phone, I now have to focus more closely on studying.
If I want to access social media I have to open my laptop and use the desktop version of these apps. This is not only a lot more effort, therefore making me question how much I actually want to use social media, but it means my decision to go online is more conscious and I am digesting information in a more invested manner.
The final reason for my decision to remove these apps was due to self-confidence. This is primarily due to Instagram’s overwhelming presence in my life, but it applies to all platforms.
My social media, partly due to my own choices in who I follow, is consistently flooded with images of women photoshopped beyond what is humanly possible. I also follow a huge range of figures promoting natural (i.e. non-photoshopped, arm hairs still intact) beauty and positive social change. For example Jameela Jamil, Iskra Lawrence, and Amy Schumer. However, the majority win out.
Despite the occassional positive message and reaffirming post, the odd sponsored tea detox diet designed to shrink you down to nothing but an empty tea bag, still appear on my timeline. Whether this be through a celebrity endorsement or simply a sponsored advertisement, the message that we are not good enough is constantly force fed to us – even those who actively go against this narrative.
I deleted these apps to escape this message. Instagram is not a reflection of real life, everything is moderated in a completely biased way. We are self-editing things that do not need editing out. I am still yet to see an influential figure flaunt an inflamed red spot the size of the one on my cheek as I write this. However, with the proliferation of photo-editing apps designed to smooth your skin and remove acne, I doubt this is on the cards any time soon.
Will I ever re-download?
The reality is that no matter how hard we avoid it, a lot of the modern world runs on technology. But realising that it is not the be all and end all is important.
I might find that after deleting these apps, and having a clear phone for a week or two, that I prefer life this way! In which case, why bother? At the end of the day, social media can be an incredibly powerful tool for change – but it can also be detrimental.
So, for now, I’m going to stick to being offline. My laptop can stay the only way to access these apps for as long as I feel it’s working for me. Who knows? I might even delete those apps which I feel even more reliant on – do I need Facebook and Snapchat?
I guess we’ll see.