Overwhelmed by the internet? Try this 30-day social media cleanse

In this day and age, it's not abnormal to see someone glued to their phone when in public. Our generation has become very attached to technology, and a big part of technology for many people is social media.

I got my first taste of the online social world when I was in the sixth grade. Getting Facebook was a huge deal for me because all of my friends were on it and I was finally a part of this completely new online world everyone was talking about. Within a week I was addicted and I'd do anything to be on my profile and check my notifications. It was fulfilling to be online - there were people liking and commenting on my pictures that I never talked to at school before. There was something so satisfying about watching my friends list slowly increase. Although it was very fun and exciting for me, I also got my first bitter taste of social media when I was in the eighth grade. Online sites like Askfm and Twitter were oozing with drama and mean comments.

There are positive sides to social media: it can connect you with people, raise awareness on certain issues, etc. but I've found that social media does just as good a job at disconnecting you at certain times. Earlier this year, I came to the conclusion that social media had become a very big issue for me. I was spending much less time with actual people and dedicating more time to my online ‘relationships.’ I was so concerned with what was happening online that I started paying less attention to the things and people that were around me. Too much of anything is a bad thing and the fact was, social media had become a drug that I'd overdose on daily and without second thought.

It's extremely easy to be consumed by a world that isn't real and overrides so much of your time. Unfortunately, that's the place I found myself in several months ago. It wasn't just me who felt that way. Many of my friends and people around me were also struggling with the unnecessary stress that social media can sometimes impose on us. One day, I saw something online that upset me and I felt fed up. I took my phone and deleted all of my social media apps for the entire afternoon. To my surprise, it felt good to be offline for that period of time. That night I made a decision that was tough, but one I knew would be best for me: for 30 days, I would be completely social media free. My friends and family were surprised but extremely supportive at my decision. There were definitely some tough points, but in the end I successfully did it. It's something anyone of any age can and I think should do at least once. Here are some tips on how you can approach this 30 day social media cleanse and my personal experience with it.

1. Easing yourself into it

A 30 day social media cleanse can be an intimidating thing to even consider, taking in the fact that so much of our daily life revolves around the online world. However, sacrifices must be made in order to see results and positive changes in yourself. To make it easier, try easing yourself into the cleanse by eliminating one social media site each week. Start with the ones you're less active on and slowly take away the others. Once you've eliminated every site from your daily life, you can then attempt to begin your 30 social media free days.

2. Dealing with school and other important online updates

You might be thinking the 30 day social media cleanse is something you'd like to try, but there are some sites that are completely unavoidable, whether it’s an important Facebook page with information you have to check daily, or any other online update. The first thing you can do is ask a friend to inform you of any updates they may see online for you. Have them keep an eye out for important information you'd need, and then report it back to you. Or try and get the phone number or email of someone with important information you need on the daily. Remember that there are other methods and places to go for information that don't involve social media.

3. Keeping busy

The first week could either be the easiest or hardest part of your social media cleanse. Based on my personal experience, it was surprisingly the easiest part for me. This was because I made sure to have things to do in order to keep my mind occupied. The most time consuming thing I had to do was my schoolwork of course, which turned out to be a great thing. I found my grades were slowly improving because I began to spend much more time on my work without the distraction of a notification buzz or an online world at my disposal, and no longer rushed my homework and schoolwork because I was anxious to get online and see what I had missed. Although schoolwork is something to keep you busy, it's also work and not always the most enjoyable thing you want to be doing. If you're planning on doing the social media cleanse in the summer especially, you need to have actual leisurely activities planned that you enjoy and aren't so much stress on your brain. My first tip is to know your likes and what you actually enjoy doing. Write out different things that you can do without going online. For me, I went straight to Chapters and bought some books that were of interest and started reading them when I got bored. Because I love writing, I filled about two journals full of poems, excerpts, and daily logs. The mix between writing, reading and schoolwork definitely kept me busy and occupied. I also did some research and found out when certain TV shows were playing, along with many trips to Netflix. Make plans to go out with friends, go for a bike ride, rollerblade, visit a museum, bake something, make a collage, enjoy any of the many festivals and events happening in Mississauga this summer, go to the beach, watch a drive-in movie, and do anything else you enjoy. You know yourself better than anyone - do whatever works for you.

4. Monitoring your progress

One thing that I did while on my 30 day cleanse was making daily video logs, re-capping how my day went without social media. As simple as this sounds, it made a world of a difference for me. I was able to get out how I was doing and feeling without technology. Something about that was so therapeutic and even encouraging. All you have to do is take a couple of minutes at the end of your day, press record, and just start talking about your day. Begin the video log with how many days it's been without social media and go into greater detail on how and what you've been doing. After awhile I actually started looking forward to making the video logs because of how therapeutic and stress relieving it became for me. Video-logs aren't the only way you can monitor your progress while being social media free. You could write daily logs, draw pictures every day that express how you feel, or anything you think would help monitor your personal progress. You'll also feel a great sense of accomplishment after re-watching or re-reading your daily logs, because they show the process and journey behind your achievement.

5. Appreciating the little things

You may not have even realised how different your life was before you started the social media cleanse. While I was social media free, I found that my relationships with people around me changed dramatically. I was able to come to terms with who the real people were that love and care for me. Rather than worrying about the 'friends' and 'likes' I had and saw online almost every day, I began only worrying about the people who mattered to me, spending more time face to face and focusing on the ones that made an effort to be a part of my life even when I wasn't on social media. Because of this, I became distant to certain people, but much closer to others. Going social media free can help put things into perspective and make you appreciate things that are real and right in front of you.

I can confidently say the 30 day social media cleanse was one of the best decisions I've ever made. It taught me a great deal about self control, appreciating the people around me, and how not to be consumed by a world that isn't real. It will get difficult at times - some days easier, and other days you'll be so tempted to go online it might drive you a little insane. As difficult as it may be, in the end you'll be able to say to yourself, "I did that." Hopefully the following tips and some of my own experience have shed some light on just how personally beneficial it is to unplug from the online world and experience life without the constant intrusion of a screen. So what do you say? Are you up to conquering the 30 day social media-free challenge?