Going off the grid has become almost something of a trend over the recent year or so. Disconnecting from our social media platforms seems desirable in a social climate that can be daunting and overwhelming at the best of times. The likes of Twitter and Facebook constantly overstimulates us to the point of having truly negative effects on our mental health, productivity and creativity. But, as students, is it really possible to go ‘off the grid’, or is this just a dream? Also, what can we do to keep in contact with peers and university life whilst still maintaining a healthy mental state?
“We’ve all been there – you sit down to check one notification, and the next thing you know you’re on your seventeenth vine compilation in a row.”
Even as part of our degree, we are encouraged to keep in contact with our seminar peers through group chats on Facebook, so deleting the Messenger app seems difficult, when it would appear to hinder our studies if we do. However, it’s not unknown that social media can distract us from our learning. We’ve all been there – you sit down to check one notification, and the next thing you know you’re on your seventeenth vine compilation in a row. It’s all about finding a balance and ways in which we, as students in a digital age, can limit, but not eradicate, our social media usage.
One solution that has worked well to limit smartphone usage during study hours for myself and many friends of mine is the ‘Hold’ app. Essentially, you can accumulate points over the time spent not using your smartphone, and these points can be used to redeem Costa gift cards, high street clothing store vouchers, cheaper cinema tickets, as well as donating these points to UNICEF. This app is extremely useful if, like me, you get distracted on Instagram’s ‘explore’ feature far too often.
Another important link to social media usage is the negative effect it has on our mental health. The overstimulation undoubtedly gives us a heightened sense of anxiety, and, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, the constant pressures to live our lives in the way Instagram models and Pinterest boards tell us to do is detrimental to our self-esteem. With mental health, this is something most easily monitored by yourself and the people closest around you. Constantly check the way you feel before and after spending time on social media platforms – perhaps some make you feel positive, but others may increase your anxiety and depression levels tenfold. If this is the case, be kind to yourself, delete the app, and come back to it when you feel ready. Listen to your peers, as well. If they believe that the way you are using a platform or the way you respond to notifications, for example, is inherently unhealthy, listen to their advice and don’t simply disregard it. Sometimes we can’t even see the damaging effects these platforms are having on ourselves because we are so absorbed in this entire world inside our smartphones.
“Sometimes we can’t even see the damaging effects these platforms are having”
As a student, going off the grid is something which many find difficult, considering the role social media plays in our lives and even our degrees. However, it is important to check in with yourself from time to time, be kind to yourself. This digital age brings some incredible things – within an instant, we can connect with someone from the other side of the world. But, of course, this is also a daunting fact of this era of social media. It seems as if escaping it is an impossible feat. It isn’t – there are always alternatives and solutions. Embrace the incredible developments from recent years – but avoid total absorption into this strange new world.