Putting Down Your Smartphone

India Flinchum, Columnist

Social media can be a temporary distraction, but its long-term effects are shocking; they’re what ultimately turned me away from excessive social media use towards infrequent and unreliable social media engagement. I deleted my Instagram account this summer and have, quite honestly, only regretted it after one week. I began using an iPhone app called Moment to track the amount of time I spend on my phone.

I’m currently down to an average of 30 minutes a day, a huge feat considering where I began at the onset of the summer. The negative implications of social media were instilled in my subconscious by my overprotective but well-meaning mother. Until this summer, I interpreted her concern as nosiness and rolled my eyes whenever she criticized my selfie-taking or questioned my mindless Instagram scrolls.

It wasn’t until the summer after my senior year of high school that I took her incessant degradation of social media seriously and, over the course of one night, permanently deleted my Instagram account.

My mindset towards social media changed completely when I finally internalized and accepted what my mom had been telling me all along, and what I felt inside my gut. I wasn’t particularly happy, relieved or calm while scrolling through my Instagram feed or browsing Facebook. If anything, my anxiety was heightened.

Since the deletion of my accounts, I haven’t once felt what’s commonly known to millennials as FOMO, or “fear of missing out” towards the friends that used to occupy my feed. Instead, I’ve been more productive, less anxious and generally happier and more concentrated on the present moment.

I attended a high school in the heart of Silicon Valley, where the Google and Facebook headquarters were within 15 minutes of my campus. Competition permeated the halls of my high school and I found myself reverting to aimless scrolls through my Facebook feed to distract from my all-consuming studies. On a similar note, being a freshman in a college setting can be scary and unsettling. It’s easy to feel isolated and to feel like the odd-one-out. Freshmen can latch on to the social-media based relationships that they have cultivated with friends, or they can simply feel jealous of their friends’ “college experiences” being publicized on such open platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram. When these moments of idleness or loneliness strike, attempt to start a conversation with a nearby friend, listen to some music or simply unwind with a favorite hobby. You don’t want to miss out on your own life because you’re so busy watching someone else enjoy theirs.

Dr. Jean M. Twenge, a Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University and the author of more than 140 science books and publications, claims that media use has significantly altered the behavior of 21st century teenagers.

“The more time teens spend looking at screens, the more likely they are to report symptoms of depression… the number of teens who get together with their friends nearly every day dropped by more than 40 percent from 2000 to 2015,” she said.

After recognizing this dramatic increase in depression, Twenge set on a mission to determine its cause–soon she found it. The spike in the curve, Twenge determined, occurred when more than 50 percent of Americans owned a smartphone.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be part of a generation that spends less time making face-to-face contact with individuals than contact with my electronic devices.