Getting over FOMO: a foray into my week without any social media

Amy Wang, Editor-in-Chief

Art by Phoebe Vo.

Not to alarm anyone, but I have a problem. It’s a small one, really, only a little bigger than my hand. It has a glossy, black screen, and every time it lights up with a new notification, I feel a little burst of serotonin in the back of my head. 

Contrary to what everyone else tells me, I’m not addicted to my phone. At the very least, I probably use it less than some of my peers, who can rack up six consecutive hours on a single app. Still, I’ve found that the people around me, especially those I care about, have taken to making pointed comments about just how “chronically online” I am. If even my teachers were noticing it, I decided that maybe it was time to get myself in check.

So, like any solution-oriented student, I decided to embark on an experiment. I was going to spend one entire school week with only 15 minutes of screen time total, almost the same stringent screen-time restrictions my parents put me under during my freshman year. If I could live with that, I thought, I could prove I wasn’t addicted.

By the middle of day one, I realized that I’d underestimated the scale of my undertaking. I don’t want to say I was going through a kind of withdrawal, but I felt an almost compulsive urge to reach across the table or into my pocket for my iPhone. Yes, technically, I knew that, should I really need it, my phone was right there. But what if I was missing something important? 

This feeling was one that stayed with me throughout the course of the week. I wasn’t quite sure why it was bothering me so much until, when in the middle of talking with long-distance college friends about how they were doing at frat parties or studying in their dorms, I could only watch helplessly as the white screen of death flashed into place, flashing screen time limit. At that moment, it came to me. I wasn’t glued to my phone because I was drawn to any particular social media app. My issue, I saw, had always been one of letting socializing leak into the boundaries I’d try setting for studying and schoolwork. 

With this knowledge in hand, I’ve come to terms with the fact that if I’m going to try and combat my dependency on my phone, I need to start at the root—the idea that an immediate response or connection to someone online was really keeping connected. In that vein, I’ve decided to be more mindful in weighing the happiness I glean from chatting on Instagram with prioritizing schoolwork—I can set aside specific blocks of time for socializing, while also being firmer about putting my phone down. Even if it’s only been one week, it’s a start, right?

Well, maybe. When I told a friend that the reason I was taking so long to respond was because of my resolution, she laughed at me. “No wonder it takes you three hours instead of three minutes to get back to me”, she said, and then asked, “What did you do with all that time?”

The answer to that, I’ll admit, is a little embarrassing. I found myself paying more attention to the people around me, found more time for reading, for writing, for doing virtually nothing. I may have even brought out the old lady-hat when I curled up in bed late at night, reading to my little brother. I’ve found that, even before the week was out, I’d find myself reaching into the back of my mind for the feeling of my phone, only to remember and to smile.

Which is to say that while I’ve still yet to find the right balance, I’m gradually getting there.