Thursday, June 20Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

Disconnect To Reconnect

No one can deny that we, on the whole, are a social media obsessed generation. The average person has five social media accounts and spends an average of 1 hour and 40 minutes browsing these networks every day, according to the latest quarterly report from Global Web Index (GWI).

After finding out about these staggering statistics, I decided to take a break from social media and delete all my apps for a month. These are some things that I learnt.

My levels of procrastination decreased wonderfully and it was incredible. I was doing double the work in half the time. I felt amazing. Mostly because this all meant that I had more time to do what I loved with the extra minutes that I had left over. I was painting more, writing more and feeling much more satisfied and content knowing that I was filling my time productively.

Another thing was that my interaction with other people had changed. I looked around and I noticed that 99% of people had headphones in or were so engrossed with their phones that it became slightly terrifying. Even couples on dates or friends meeting for a coffee would subtly check their phones. It was heartbreaking. I found myself smiling more at people and giving them my full attention. I overheard snippets from strangers and small encounters progressed into entire conversations. Almost every day I was meeting new people in small but significant ways.

The small spaces of nothing that fill our everyday lives, such as waiting for buses and trains, queuing in lines, and waiting for people, were suddenly full of interesting things. I started to notice things that I hadn’t noticed in ages or seen before like spiderwebs, the worn out pieces of material on seats or just the scenery on a train journey. Tiny details that were strangely more rewarding to notice rather than two minutes of absent-mindedly scrolling through an app.

The most prominent effect of this social media break was an element of detachment. I had an ugly feeling of separation from everyone I was close to. At the time, I was in a foreign country with little access to my friends or family. Every letter I sent took a week to arrive and I couldn’t receive anything because I was moving so frequently with no permanent address. I was missing out on what my friends and family were up to and they felt so far away that it made me miss them so much more – but that only meant that I was so much more grateful for the time I got to spend with them afterwards.

Of course, there was a strong the temptation, particularly towards the end of the month, to quickly log back in and have a sneaky peak. When I finally did return, it was extremely anticlimactic. I wonder still what all the fuss is about. This break from social media has shown me that, if platforms weren’t so crucial in the organising of events and communication, then I would certainly be deleting them all and I would recommend anyone to try it out themselves.

Throughout my experience of leaving social media, I felt that I was much more in tune with what was real and less concerned with mindless scrolling. Platforms such as Instagram and Facebook have helped connect us to the world but we should invest less time getting wrapped up with other peoples’ lives and stop attempting to show a more attractive version of our own lives too.

What we should do is spend more time getting reconnected with ourselves and the people around us. •