Millennials Admit They've Tried Quitting Their Phones


Hi, I'm Trevor. I work at KFI. I'm a millennial. And I'm a social media quitter.

My generation is known for valuing "authenticity" and "realness." So let me be honest. Facebook and Instagram went to my head.

Lots of people experience feelings of envy or FOMO (fear of missing out) as they scroll through the lives of others. Sample thoughts: Wait, another college acquaintance is getting married? Did my friend on the East Coast really need to remind us all how effortlessly handsome he is? Why is that dog so much more popular than I am? My problem, though, was typically more myopic. And more embarrassing. Where others see through the window, I couldn't see past my faint reflection. I thought if I posted the right photos, taken from the right angles, I could finally convince myself I was OK with myself.

Like I said: embarrassing.

So I deleted my accounts. And I recently found out I'm not alone.

Social media ditcher designs quitting tool

A tech company CEO named Jason Kingdon and I have a lot in common. Well, actually, maybe just one thing in common. He's a social media quitter too. His moment of clarity came during a walk in Central Park, he told me.

"The sun was just scintillating on the water and it was just, you know, picturesque. And the first thing that popped into my head, unconsciously was, 'This will get me a lot of likes.'"

Kingdon's company, BOLDFISH, makes an app to help Android users quit social media. Users can set the app to shut them out of Facebook at bed time, or to put YouTube on lockdown during Sunday morning brunch. BOLDFISH is also working on guided meditations to help people dealing with stress. Which makes sense, at least to me as a former chronic user. Flicking through newsfeeds and timelines was often my digital equivalent of nervous nail-biting or fiddling with a stress ball.  

Surveyed millennials confess phone misdeeds

When BOLDFISH surveyed over 1,000 millennials, most of them said they've tried to reduce their smartphone use. Seventy-two percent. Most of them said they felt good about trying. And yet 8 in 10 reported keeping their smartphone in bed with them at night, or on the nightstand at the farthest. The confessed phone-sleepers were more likely to also admit to socially unacceptable smartphone behavior. They'e whipped the phone out at the movies, in the midst of a job interview, or even during sex.

This isn't necessarily all a social media problem. Before we were Snapping and posing for the Gram, we were sending way too many text messages or playing too much Snake on our postage stamp-sized Nokia screens. Still, social media presents a novel concoction of traps and temptations. Twenty-eight percent of the survey respondents (the ones I can relate to!) admitted to removing a post when it didn't get as much attention as they'd like. 

Quitting not necessary for everyone

Kingdon says he sees social media a net positive - just not by much. The BOLDFISH survey asked millennials to rate the potency of their emotional experience on social media from 0 to 100. Negative emotions averaged at 46. Positive emotions registered a 56. Kingdon and I agreed we aren't the best at harnessing those positives without succumbing to the negatives. Call it ironic, but my tech-challenged grandma seem to get along on Facebook swimmingly, tranquility undisturbed.

Quitting every account may seem drastic or unrealistic. That's OK. Kingdon thinks many would do well just to whittle their accounts down to one.

"We don't need five different social media accounts to keep in contact with people a million different ways," he told me. "It's distracting, it's built to magnetize our attention, and it's something that really just eats away at not just your time but, as we've seen, your mental well-being."

I'd love to hear your thoughts, dear reader. My post office box is always open!


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