In the midst of an electricity lab in class last year, a student and I somehow got on the topic of social media addiction (I can never remember how these conversations come up in class, and I’m grateful that they do). She shared that she finds Instagram not only a big waste of her time, but that she feels sad using it.
When I asked her what was sad about it, she gave the answers that we could all probably guess: her life doesn’t seem as interesting or worthy of documenting, people seem to often be inauthentic, and she’ll blink and a half-hour has gone by while she’s been staring at her phone.
Then I asked her what she would do with her time if she weren’t spending it on Instagram: what does she really want to use that time for? Practicing her instrument or sleeping. And the way she said it, I could tell that she thought it would be a really positive thing.
I’m sure I then made some suggestion about experimenting with giving it up, because, of course, we’ve all got our advice monster and I’ve only begun the journey to taming mine (I highly recommend this 14-minute TED talk on taming your advice monster).
I then forgot about our conversation, and a week or so later, she came into class excited to tell me that she had given up Instagram and it was great. She was sleeping better, practicing her instrument more, and she found herself generally a little happier.
I was blown away. Here’s a 14-year-old kid grappling with addictive behavior that she knows diminishes her well-being, yet with what seems like a snap of her fingers, she was able to transform the detrimental behavior and positively impact her own well-being.
I recently chatted with the student, now a sophomore, and she said that she uses Instagram occasionally, but that it doesn't have the grip on her that it once had.
How long has it taken me to be able to handle my detrimental habits and behaviors? How much suffering do many of us adults still go through when giving up a bad habit or trying to foster a good one? And this 14-year-old is taking her first steps into the realm of adulthood with a very real experience of the before, the after, and the how of shifting away from an unhealthy habit.
Last summer, my wife and I together read Atomic Habits by James Clear. We both found that the book offers very effective perspectives and strategies to form healthy and productive habits. We both had the thought while reading it, “Why didn’t we ever learn this before?”
Thanks for reading ❤️.
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