“What do you do in your free time lately?” said Tomoki Minami, a friend of mine in Japan. “I spend most of my time on Instagram, YouTube, stuff like that,” I answered.
I didn’t expect that this simple conversation he and I had two months ago would lead to a big decision in my life.
I got my first phone when I was 10 years old. This 10-year-old boy was very excited that I could play games and chat with people on the phone. It was just so wonderful to have the phone, making me feel like I was connected to people all the time. Since then, I played games with my friends every single day and normally went to bed extremely late like at around 4 A.M.
When I was in middle school, I was getting interested in social media little by little as my friends introduced it to me, and my curiosity drove me toward it. The first social media app I had installed was Twitter, which was the most popular social media app in my school. I always Tweeted anytime, even during class time and checked others’ Tweets. Also, it was so satisfying to get many likes and messages from people and I felt flattered. A year after I had downloaded Twitter, I started installing more apps that led me to a social media swamp.
Without noticing, it had been seven years since I had accessed media platforms. I was stuck on it for almost half my life.
Basically, I had lived my life on social media.
I spent a whole day on the Internet such as watching YouTube videos or scrolling on Instagram and repeatedly had been doing the same thing during the years. I didn’t even go outside besides playing sports and was always stuck at home at all times. I gained a lot of weight and couldn’t focus on studying. My grades were so low that it was almost the lowest in my school.
Social media also affected friendships too. When I was with my friends, I was always on my phone. So were my friends. We sometimes didn’t even have conversations. We mostly communicated with each other through a messaging app, so we misunderstood each other many times, especially when it came to arguments. Our friendships got screwed up, and I lost some of them. I regret it and feel like I could have made up with them if I had not always been on the phone.
Even while walking and biking in the street, I’d be ignoring traffic lights and staring at my phone. I have been in traffic accidents, not only once or twice, but five times. I actually broke my arm in one of the accidents when I was 14 years old. At the moment, I was biking and checking messages from my friends, and I didn’t pay attention to the traffic lights. Suddenly, a car appeared in front of me, and it was already too late. When the doctor showed me the X-ray, I could see my arm bone was nearly snapped. I wore a cast for two months after that.
It made it a bit harder to use my phone but I still did of course.
One of my friends broke his lower back because he was biking and on his phone at the same time and he got hit by a car. I knew that it was horrific that I had been in situations where I could have died, not only once. I thought it was crazy that my bad habits had been so dangerous and yet I kept doing it.
Why can’t I just stop using the phone? What’s wrong with me? I wondered.
I had been thinking that I might not be able to go back to my normal life.
Until that conversation with Minami. “I feel like I waste most of my time on social media,” he said. “What about you?”
I responded, “Let me check my social media usage.”
It was jaw-dropping because my average screen time was 19.5 hours per day at that time. Basically, I only slept for 3 hours in a day at that time, sometimes 4 hours. Like I said earlier, I was using the phone all day. My daily routine was like I woke up at 8 A.M. and went to school, finishing at around 4 P.M. From 5 to 8 P.M, I watched Youtube or went on Twitter, then I played games with my friends from 9 P.M. to 4 or 5 A.M. So, I was on my phone all day, even when I was in a shower room, washroom, and class. I always had a battery pack with me.
I finally realized how quickly time had flown and how much time I had wasted.
Minami’s screen time was nearly the same as mine, so he was shocked too. “Hey, I think we should stop wasting our time over it,” I suggested. “Yea, I agree,” said Minami. It happened so suddenly. One of the most memorable events in my life was about to begin.
I was lucky to have a peer like Minami, whom I could do something challenging with to change our lives, and I thought it was going to be less stressful than trying it by myself.
However, I knew that it was going to be tough for me not to use social media, so I deleted the apps temporarily. For example, if I didn’t use the apps for a week, I allowed myself to have a day to use them. It took at least a week and a half to get used to it. I thought the first week of the attempt was going to drive me crazy because I had no idea what to do without it.
I tried to listen to music to calm myself and to reset my mind, but it didn’t work. I was just frustrated that I was in my room not being able to do anything. So, I just spent time lying on my bed as meditation for the whole week.
In the second week, I decided to go outside as it was a sunny and beautiful day. It had been a long time since I had gotten sunlight. As soon as I opened the main door, I thought, Wait, it feels so good being outside! I know it’s really normal to go outside, but for me, who had not really gone outside besides school, it felt as if I was photosynthesizing like plants do. And, I enjoyed going outside for a walk, and it made me feel refreshed. At that moment, I realized exercise was important to manage stress. From that day, I started exercising whenever I felt bored and down.
I had slightly got used to life without social media day by day, so, once a week, when I allowed myself to use the phone, I didn’t feel as excited as I used to. Using social media just made me feel sick and guilty.
It was not challenging as I got used to not using media platforms. Though, I had a tough time when YouTubers whom I used to watch had uploaded new videos. I was so curious and wanted to go on their Twitter to check the context of the videos. I tried my best not to lose control and not to ruin my plan. I suffered many times during that time and was stressed, but Minami was my hope. Once a week, we called and reported how we were doing. He had already overcome social media addiction or anxiety by that time, so I had no time to think negatively. He was my motivation.
I continued doing it. Eventually, I somehow managed to shut down access to social media with Minami’s assistance.
Because I have blocked social media, my life has been very healthy. Here are three reasons why.
First of all, I can focus on my own things more. As I stated earlier, I couldn’t study and my grades had dropped a lot, but recently as I get more time, I can do assignments immediately, prepare for a quiz or a test and go to a fitness gym every single day. I lost some weight and built muscles. My recent grades have improved and remain considerably above average. I think I have acquired so many more things than I had during the 7 years.
Secondly, my sleep schedule has improved and has been stable since I have deleted social media. I go to bed earlier as I’m not distracted by it all day. Therefore, I get good quality sleep
and wake up early in the morning, so I have lots of energy as soon as I wake up, which makes me feel like I can do anything. These days, I start my morning by stretching and sometimes doing assignments, so I can spend my time efficiently and get important things done much quicker than usual.
Lastly, I live a stress-free life. I used to get depressed easily as I overthought things, and I didn’t really smile or laugh at that time. In addition, I always compared myself to others whenever I saw their posts or tweets. There were always disruptive thoughts about the people stuck in my head that I didn’t necessarily have to think about. I was really negative towards myself and thought I was broke. For instance, when people posted videos of themselves playing sports well, I was so jealous as an athletic person and felt I wanted to be like them, but, at the same time, I felt like I could never be like them. I put too much pressure on myself, became more anxious, and that led to me developing more stress which didn’t help me at all, it just kept distracting me.
However, now, I concentrate more on myself I realize that I think more positively as I don’t really care about what people do or think. So, I have been maintaining a stable mental health status and have been calm all the time.
I have taken the first step on reflecting on my life and learning from my past mistakes to be able to become mature and grow as an adult.
I was an addict but was too absorbed to notice. Now, my path is a hopeful one.
Image credit: Unsplash