My niece Tina, a senior in high school, realized she was addicted to social media. To break the habit, she began by trading her iPhone for a “slower, dumber flip phone.” After a few months, she wrote about her experiences for the school newspaper. Her insights beam wisdom like a lighthouse sweeping away the darkness. Here is Tina’s story…
Up until a few months ago, social media had always been a big part of my life. I was obsessed. I would go on Instagram everyday, I had more than ten snapchat streaks at a time, and I would take pictures purely to post on my Instagram spam account. I was among the majority of people my age who look at their phones more than each other and count texting as a quality form of communication. As millennials, we are born into a world where a person’s social media accounts are judged more than the content of their minds.
This summer, I tried to break the status quo and go off of social media. To venture even further into a world before the internet, I decided to trade my fancy iphone, for a slower, dumber flip phone.
I quickly realized how spoiled I was for being able to instantly get directions to wherever I needed to go. I always thought of myself as someone who had a good sense of direction so I didn’t think it would be an issue, but it was. Within the first day of not having a smart phone, I asked countless people for directions to places I assumed I would be able to find on my own. I had been completely reliant on Google Maps. The first thing I learned from having a flip phone was how to read someone’s address and figure out how to get there using only my knowledge of the city. Yes, sometimes it took a few minutes longer, but I have never felt so self-sufficient.
Without anything to stimulate me, I had to do something I always thought only crazy people could do, just sit.
Aside from the trivial issues like not having Google Maps, Spotify or a decent camera, the biggest struggle was moments of waiting, the few minutes before getting picked up by a friend, or while waiting for something that’s only a few minutes away. Without anything to stimulate me, I had to do something I always thought only crazy people could do, just sit. I started noticing things about the places I spent most of my time that I never noticed before. I watched leaves fall off the trees and observed as bees floated from flower to flower. There were so many beautiful things I had never taken the time to pay attention to because my eyes were so preoccupied with the new snapchat filters or whatever meme was trending on Twitter. I had missed out on a large part of the real world because I was so heavily invested in the fabricated world of social media.
I found the strength in myself to match everyone’s kind comments with the words of self-love that so many people my age crave, and believe they will find in apps like Instagram.
When it comes to Instagram, it can feel good to have someone comment, “so cute” or “*heart emoji,” but this summer, I learned that some relationships now are only as significant as taking a second to comment and like someone’s instagram picture. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but after going months without the comforting chatter of kindness coming from the comments section and the reassuring hum of likes that cushioned my ego, I realized I didn’t need it. I no longer sought the approval of other people. I didn’t derive my sense of beauty and joy from the mindless comments of other people. I found the strength in myself to match everyone’s kind comments with the words of self-love that so many people my age crave, and believe they will find in apps like Instagram.
I knew going without a smartphone wasn’t just a test I wanted for a summer…
Toward the end of the summer, when I would tell people about my flip phone, their responses changed from dismay to some sort of admiration, as if I was doing something groundbreaking that they always had wanted to try. The first text my new phone ever received was from my uncle, who was my sole ally during hours of bombardment and ridicule from family members after they heard about my new phone. “I think it is great that you are getting away from your phone,” he said. “I wish more people would/could do this.” After he sent this to me, I knew going without a smartphone wasn’t just a test I wanted for a summer, it was the best gift I’ve ever given myself, and it only cost $15 and the Instagram account I ultimately didn’t want anyway.
Tina Prekaski is a senior at Roosevelt High School in Seattle, Washington and originally wrote this article for The Roosevelt News.