“Social media can be a really important tool, but it can also be a really negative part of our lives for a lot of different reasons.”
Social media has become an integral part of society today. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram – all these apps have wriggled their way into our lives, with people spending more time tweeting and ‘liking’ their friends’ posts than they would actually connecting with others in person. It can feel all-consuming, which is why we need a break from it sometimes. That’s exactly what Ariel Bissett decided when she chose to take a week-long break from social media.
Before diving into the content of the video, Ariel shares her thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement and how she worries it’ll be yet another “moment” in what feels like a never-ending news cycle. “My biggest fear with this moment is that it will be only a moment,” she says. In order to prevent this from happening, she advocates for her viewers to keep discussing the issues at hand and to support those within the Black community, whether that be YouTube creators or those who run small businesses.
Moving on to the core of the video, she discusses why she started her YouTube channel, citing her want to connect with fellow readers. What she didn’t realise at the time, however, was that this, along with her getting her first smartphone, would forever change her reading habits. She learned about books she wouldn’t have otherwise read, based on recommendations from other BookTubers, and she also discovered new ways of purchasing books and the different facets of the industry itself.
She also learnt that she started to read for more “performative” reasons, saying, “I have to show up and film a video. I better have read a lot.”
Fastfoward to 2015 and Ariel found she wasn’t reading as much as she used to. This was due to a number of factors, including school and different changes that were occurring in her life, but she found that social media was also beginning to take up a lot of her time.
Enter the challenge: to stay off social media for a whole week.
In order to accomplish this, Ariel deleted all the social media apps from her phone and replaced them with reading ones. She learnt two things, the first of which was that she’s more productive when she isn’t able to access the likes of Twitter and Instagram. “I would pick up my phone and just kind of look and be like, ‘Oh, there’s nothing to do,’ and I’d put it down and I would then do something that I cared about more,” she says. She states she would do a variety of different activities during this free time, including playing Animal Crossing, having conversations with those around her and, of course, reading more.
“Secondly, I read so much more than I usually do,” she shares, moving onto the second thing the past week taught her. In total she completed three books and made it partway through a fourth. The ones she read were How To Do Nothing by Jenny Odell, Uncanny Valley by Anna Weiner, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and Writers & Lovers by Lily King.
She says this was made possible by the “re-direction” of her attention, and it’s something she wants to learn from, as social media, while having numerous positive affects, can also be negative. She cites its ability to hurt one’s mental health through the constant comparison we do with those on our timeline, as well as the “surface level” relationships that are often formed.
The experiment also taught her “how much more I can learn being offline than being constantly plugged online”. While she enjoys social media and loves seeing what her friends are posting, she was able to read a lot of “valuable” books over the course of those seven days, and thus she wants to keep the momentum going.
While she’s not about to delete all of her social media accounts, she is going to ensure she introduces moderation and creates a balance between her online life and her offline one. She concludes:
“I need to spend less time on social media. Reading means a lot to me. Reading, to me, means escape. It means education. It means growing. It means becoming a better person. Those things are all things that I value so much. I am happier when I spend more of my time reading. I feel like I’m engaging in the community that I love and supporting artists and supporting authors when I read. I feel like I’m in the world I care about the most when I read.”