40 Days Without Social Media: My Journey To Disconnect and Reconnect With Real Life


Maya Raphael

Many people are scared to delete their social media apps, but by deleting all of mine I realized it had no negative impact towards me in any way. Believe it or not, by unplugging myself from the digital world, I was happier and mentally healthier.

Rita Tran, Staff Reporter

During Lent, many Catholics around the world choose to let go of what they feel attached to for 40 days to represent the 40 days that Jesus spent in the desert fasting and praying. In past years, I have given up chocolate, snacks, watching TV, and eating meat all for 40 days. But this year, I wanted to challenge myself by choosing something that was really hard. 

Instead of merely giving up something that I don’t use daily, I chose to give up the thing that used to take up at least three hours of my day — social media. This was the thing that was distracting me from spending time with the people that were most important to me, such as my family, friends, and God.  

Even though I recently got social media in the fall and only used Instagram, I knew that I started to get addicted when my screen time report spiked by about 50%. I knew that I needed to stop wasting my time. I knew that I needed to get off of social media, so Lent was the perfect time to take a break and see how I felt afterward. 

My goals after these 40 days were that I would be sleeping much earlier at night, my screen time would be lower, and I would be spending more in-person time with the people close to me. 

Week 1: Attempt

The hour before I had to delete all of my apps, I started scrolling through them to make sure that I wasn’t missing anything and so that I could say my final farewells. It might sound funny to think that someone could feel sad deleting a little square on a screen, but it was a sad moment for me, realizing for the next 40 days I couldn’t see anything that was happening or just scroll through different apps. 

When the clock struck 12:00 a.m, I closed my phone and felt for the first time in a while what it felt like to not be able to pick up my phone to scroll just a little more. I slept much quicker than before, waking up a little bit more energized. 

In the morning, I opened my phone just to realize that I did not have anything to do on it. There were no new notifications to respond back to, which let me have more time to actually get ready for the day. 

During school, I kept opening my phone to scroll through social media when I had a break or when I didn’t feel like doing anything, but then I realized my phone was not entertaining anymore, and was able to actually concentrate on homework more.

Throughout the rest of the week, I still found my finger hovering over the place where my Instagram app used to be and then closing my phone because it wasn’t there anymore. I was constantly bored, feeling as if I had nothing to do and also having the fear that I was going to miss something really important that was posted. But I also saw that I was less drawn to spend time on my phone and was not having it near me when I was completing my homework. 

Week 2: Awareness 

I started getting used to the feeling of being self dependent, not needing my phone to entertain me when I felt bored. During those awkward moments walking around the halls without my friends or a break in class without them, I still felt the instinct to whip out my phone and pretend like I was doing something important, but it was less strong. 

Coming to school, I felt energized and relaxed with more sleep than ever. I was interacting and communicating with my classmates and friends around me in person a lot more during my classes and breaks instead of just scrolling through my phone. 

It occurred to me that a lot of the times that I was hanging out with my friends, we were not even hanging out — they were constantly on their phones and scrolling through different social media apps. I was the only one who had left my phone in my backpack because I did not feel the need for it. This made me realize that when I had social media, I actually did not talk and communicate with my friends as much as I did when I was off of it. 

In the previous week, I was really scared to be missing out on something or have people message me without me responding for more than a month, but that fear was melting away. My friends always kept me in the loop even though there really was not anything to update me on. 

My screen time dramatically changed this week, dropping by 49%! It was only one hour and 50 minutes which made me really proud of myself because I was able to see real proof of the change that was happening to me. 

Week 3 and 4: Productivity 

These two weeks were the most productive weeks for me. I got most of my homework done before even coming home without being distracted by my phone, allowing me to spend a lot of time with my family without being stressed out. 

My family saw a change in how I was spending my free time. Whenever I was being driven to and from school, I used to just be on my phone and not talk to my dad who was driving me home, but now I was actually having deep and meaningful conversations about topics such as college, marriage, and professions with him and chatting about everything that happened at school that day. My sisters saw that I was hanging out with them more by just talking to them and interacting with them when I used to ignore their presence and take them for granted. 

I had a lot of days, especially over the weekend, where I ‘lost’ my phone at home and did not care to find it until I really needed it, which was usually only once a day. I did not feel the urge to even be on my phone anymore because I knew that it was a waste of time and not interesting anymore. 

My phone’s purpose was now only to text my friends and parents and take pictures — it had no more purposes because there was nothing else to do on it.

I was a lot happier just being present and in the moment with the people that I encountered and talked to, during school as well. I didn’t feel the need to gain more followers, to fill up that free time with my phone, or have my phone in my pocket 24/7 acting like my protection shield. 

Week 5: Appreciation 

This week was spring break and I was going on a road trip to Disneyland with my family. During the drive there and back, I was so bored because I did not have anything to do other than eat, sleep, and talk to my family for 20 hours there, and then 20 hours back. I had the urge to just redownload Instagram so that I could have something that was entertaining. 

Instead of redownloading Instagram, my mom told me to read, so I read my English book, “1984”, which kept me occupied during those moments where I could think of nothing except wanting to get out of the car. I felt a lot more fulfilled after I completed the book because my time was spent productively.

While at Disneyland, the longing for something to entertain me during those long two hour lines grew immensely. Instead of caving into my cravings, I got the Charades app, and that kept my whole family entertained during the overly long rides. 

I also felt the urge to post pictures of my trip on my story, but then I realized, there really was no point because I did not have to let everyone know that I was on vacation, I could just send some pictures to my friends who already knew that I was there and not have to stress about how good the lighting was, if the angle was good, and if I looked good in the photos. 

My phone was used solely as a camera on my vacation because I was able to be present at all of my surroundings and was able to have an amazing vacation without constantly needing to post pictures of what I was doing on my trip. 

Week 6: Achievement 

This was the last week — the homestretch. I felt a little surprised to realize that next week I was allowed to be back on social media because I did not feel ready yet. This break was more relaxing and enjoyable than being on social media. 

The screen time on my phone was a constant one and a half hours per day each week, which was a whole lot better than an average of four hours per day that week. 

My sleeping schedule had improved immensely, and my relationships with my family and friends have grown deeper as well. I was paying a lot more attention during classes and to the nature around me. 

I never realized how much I was missing when I was constantly on my phone, from the beautiful trees surrounding my neighborhood, the knowledge of not losing those two hours of sleep to my phone, and the stunning sunsets that occurred every single day. 

My mental health has improved so much during these weeks. I never felt scared or stressed of being judged. I was not looking at other people’s posts and comparing myself to them. I was not stuck on my bed glued to my phone, but instead, was spending a lot of my time going outside playing tennis or going on walks. 

After Easter: The Realization

Waking up on Easter morning, I didn’t even want to redownload it, it was not at the top of my list of things to do for Easter. But after a while, I got it, and wanted to delete it right away.

Just scrolling through everything that I had missed over the past six weeks, I realized that nothing important had happened; my real life was more interesting than my digital life. It was all just the same thing over and over, pictures that made me insecure and jealous that my life was not that perfect. 

I deleted a lot of old posts because I did not want people who I didn’t know to see my personal life. It was just a waste of time and energy for me to wait for people to look at them and like them. If I never talked to them in person, then I did not want them to know me by just my posts that I put on my profile to seem cooler.  

Though I haven’t redeleted it, I did hide Instagram from my home screen so that I would not be constantly on it. So far, I am only on it once a day, but even that makes me realize how much it is a waste of time. 

I think everyone who is on social media right now should try and take a break from it. You might think it’s hard, and at first it really is, but the end result is going to help and benefit you a lot more than scrolling on your phone for hours on end, because I know from experience now how much more fulfilling it is.