Stepping away from social media

Cal State LA students take a break from social media during the school year


Photo illustration by Joshua Mejia.

Guillermo Aranda, a kinesiology major, caught himself on his phone late at night for three hours straight, his eyes “struggling to stay open” while scrolling through Instagram and Twitter. Aranda said he would ask himself in bed, “Why am I doing this?”

He finally decided to take a break from social media late December 2020 — just in time to get ready for the new semester ahead.

For many, computer and phone usage has been up during this pandemic. According to a survey by Twigby, a nationwide phone service provider, overall video calling usage is up by 32% while 36% of respondents indicated using social media more.

However in Aranda’s case, eliminating social media from his life made it easier to fall asleep and even pick up better hobbies, like reading self-rehabilitation books — something that Aranda said he thinks is overlooked in today’s culture.

“Now, I am staying up really late to read, but I know it’s good for me because I’m just feeding myself new knowledge and it just feels so good to have a book in your hand,” Aranda said.

After his social media cleanse, Aranda said he has had time to discover himself, finding that he enjoys waking up at 7 a.m. and feeling well-rested from the night before. Nonetheless, the concept of interacting with his friends and other students at Cal State LA brought him back to social media.

“I re-downloaded social media, but I don’t have that urge to go on it anymore because I’m slowly realizing that it’s not that purposeful as I thought it was,” added Aranda.

When considering some positives to social media, Aranda said, “Interaction on social media is unmatched. It’s the next best thing to actually talking to someone face to face.” This is one of the reasons why Aranda said he finds himself enjoying social media and also for the memes.

Pre-television and film major Myree Co said she felt the pressure to act and look a certain way on social media.
“Being young and impressionable, it felt as if there was a standard to look a certain way — to live a certain lifestyle and to post about everything and live up to the hype,” said Myree Co, a pre-television and film major.
Co took her first social media break in 2017 during high school. She said she knew at that moment that she didn’t have the motivation to keep up with all the things social media required. Co said she never understood how “maintaining a following and a reputation could have such a deeply rooted meaning to someone.”

Now, Co is active on social media for the sole reason of staying connected with her friends.

Co said that she found that while continuing online instruction her social media usage since Fall semester has definitely increased. When classes were in person, Co said she wouldn’t find herself on social media as much because she was interacting with those around her.

“Due to isolation, social media is my form of interacting with others, as of right now,” said Co.

With using apps such as Twitter, TikTok and Twitch, Co is able to communicate with her friends and feel the presence of another person even if it’s on her phone screen.

While on her break, Co said she felt happier when she did not need to focus on social media or a following and agreed that she would definitely take another break in the future.

Criminal justice major Kazz Gallegos has taken several breaks over her five years on social media. Like Co, at a young age, Gallegos also felt a lot of pressure to care about followers and likes.

“As I got older and my mental health took a toll, I realized that stressing about it wasn’t benefiting me or anyone else. Since then, I’ve tended to not care about such things,” said Gallegos.

Gallegos said she sees social media as a great way to connect with others and meet new people, however, she also realizes that taking breaks are needed for reflection on her life.

“Over the breaks I would take, I realized the amount of time and energy I put into social media. I was able to analyze what actually mattered beyond just social media, like going out to socialize with friends in person rather than online interaction,” added Gallegos.

Without social media, Gallegos said that she wouldn’t have met all the people she knows today, but she said this was her only positive view of social media. Gallegos also said she will continue to take more breaks throughout her life so she can dedicate more time to succeeding in school by decreasing her social media usage.

Pre-psychology major Adam Sanchez is currently in the midst of his break, which started about four weeks ago. Sanchez deleted his Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat because he was tired of the way the social media apps made him feel.

“I got rid of it because when you’re on social media too much, you start to care more about other people’s perspectives… instead of taking your own,” added Sanchez.

Only four weeks into his break, Sanchez realized the amount of time he now has for school, to go work out and focus on himself.

“Social media affects your mentality. It molds who you are,” added Sanchez

Instead of being tempted by ads and products on social media, Sanchez said he’d save his money to buy himself a brand new car.

While only in the first few weeks of his break, Sanchez doesn’t plan on going back to social media for a long time or at least until he improves on his work habits to become the student he wants to be.

Sanchez said he is feeling a lot happier, and is doing better in school. While attending classes online, he said he doesn’t have the urge to go on his phone anymore and he probably will not go back to social media.

“The people that are most important to me, they have my phone number,” said Sanchez.