When I am asked to share one fun fact about myself, I usually choose, “I don’t have any social media accounts.” And it’s true.
Although many people assume that I’m social media free because of parental restrictions, that is actually not the case. When my friends were creating their first social media accounts, I decided to conduct a one-year experiment; I wanted to see how much I’d be missing by abstaining from social media, which I perceived as time-consuming and unnecessary. For one whole year, I observed my peers as they cultivated their new virtual lives.
During this period, I realized that social media is addictive. People feel compelled to constantly check their social media accounts to avoid missing anything. Consequently, people spend abnormal amounts of time scrolling through screens instead of spending time in the real world with their real friends. I prefer taking long walks and connecting to nature rather than lying on my couch and scrolling through Instagram. I appreciate strolling over scrolling because you get to live in the moment and connect to the real and tangible world around you.
The teenage years are not an easy time. Rumors. Insecurities. Stress. Flaws. At an age when teenagers are already so sensitive, it’s so unjust that teens fall into the social media trap of comparison. I have all too often heard a peer mention how unglamorous or imperfect her life is compared to someone she follows online. It is poisonous to constantly be exposed to perfection in such an unattainable form. Social media influencers don’t post the ugly moments of their day; they only showcase the fabulous. Outside of social media, I don’t consciously feel like my life is lacking in comparison to others. I can see the beauty in my blessings and generally aim to be happy with who I am.
These days, I don’t have much time to spare. Between school and my hour-long commute each way, I usually end up going to bed later than I’d like. If I used social media, I would probably be up even later. It’s not unheard of for kids to show up to school tired and attribute their sleepiness to a long night of social media usage. Essentially, I value my sleep and dislike things that detract from those precious hours.
Research indicates that an average teenager opens up social media accounts at age 12, the age at which I began my experiment. Now, I’m 17, and the results are in: social media isn’t for me. I am prolonging my one-year experiment indefinitely because life with no social media accounts is liberating in its silence. I’ve chosen a certain kind of life for myself, and five years in, I stand by my decision. I have no regrets.
Although I do without social media, the majority of my friends do have accounts. However, Shabbat is the one day a week when we are all on the same exact page. The Halachot of Shabbat mandate removal from technology and by extension, from social media. Interacting with my friends is noticeably different when there are no captions to talk about, no screens to refresh and no updates to analyze. Without our phones and social media, my friends and I must be more creative and pursue Shabbat-appropriate social opportunities. We talk, reflect, hang out at the park and revel in board games. Shabbat enables us to be social in ways that arguably facilitate even deeper connection than liking and commenting, which is why I’ve chosen to abstain from social media all week, not just on Shabbat.