The average teenager spends over nine hours a day online. At first glance, I thought that this statistic certainly could not apply to me—there was no way my screen time was near that number! However, I quickly began to interrogate my own social media usage: in a socially distanced world where socialization comes from Snapchats of half our faces, or overly active group chats with countless notifications every day, it’s understandable that our lives fit into a rectangle the size of our palms.
My reckoning came the day I dropped my phone into a puddle of post-snowstorm slush. How was I to reply to text messages? What would I do without TikTok or constant coronavirus and weather updates? Maybe I was a tad bit obsessed.
When January 1st hit and people made New Year’s resolutions, reducing their screen time was a top priority for many Lexington High School students.
Inspired by stories of people unplugging from social media, I decided to start my own journey. Could I really go an hour, a day, a week without checking my phone every thirty minutes? Alas, I survived, and can confirm that it was a euphoric experience. In a world where everything is online, reducing screen time allowed me to focus more on reality and being in the moment.
But it wasn’t perfect: I suffered withdrawal symptoms—boredom, a short attention span, and too much time on my hands. Still, it reminded me of what life was like pre-pandemic, when my eyes weren’t routinely switching between a phone and computer screen every few minutes.
While the negative effects of excessive social media use are often expressed by both adults and teenagers alike, we don’t necessarily promote a solution. It’s easy to rant about the toxicity of Instagram or the addictiveness of TikTok, but how often do we intentionally delete these apps or effectively reduce our screen time? For most, it may last a day or two before we return.
Maybe it’s a fear of missing out. It often feels like I miss so much if I spend just a day away from my phone. But there’s also a gradient to the benefits of social media—ten minutes can be a nice breather, but what about an hour? Five hours? For me and many others, the balance of social media’s benefits and negatives is constantly in flux. Still, it’s true that being mindful of our social media intake and taking breaks every so often is beneficial to our mental health.