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Leaving Social Media: One Woman’s Journey

This article recently appeared in the Washington Post. As someone who’s attitude toward social media fluctuates between ‘suspicious’ and ‘hostile’, I find it refreshing and somewhat comforting. Coupled with the Surgeon General’s warning, perhaps we’re slowly but permanently turning a corner on this health hazard. 


I quit social media in college. This is how my life changed.

For me, the bad parts of social media were outweighing the good, by a lot

I’m a 19-year-old college student, and I’ve known for a while that I am unable to be a moderate social media user. I would constantly keep up with the lives of my peers, which pressured me to post all the time, proving that I had a social life, too. Sometimes consuming and posting made me feel good — elated, even — and that was the problem.

So, just like any toxic relationship, it was time for a breakup.

I’m joining a growing group of people in quitting these kinds of apps. I suspect more might follow since the U.S. surgeon general recently issued an advisory explaining there isn’t enough evidence to say whether social media is “sufficiently safe” for teenagers.

“It is no longer possible to ignore social media’s potential contribution to the pain that millions of children and families are experiencing,” wrote Vivek H. Murthy, referencing the ongoing mental health crisis in young people.

Opinion U.S. surgeon general: I am concerned about social media and youth mental health

I’ve gotten mixed reactions to quitting; some people were excited for me, and others were doubtful or quick to assume it’s some sort of brag. It’s not. For me, the bad parts of social media were outweighing the good, by a lot.

Last year, my best friend Bridgette and I started journaling, and it led me to reevaluate how I used social media — why share my every thought online when I can write them down instead?

Then, in the beginning of January, I watched a YouTube video titled “I replaced Social Media with Micro-Journalling for 1 Year.” It inspired me to try a year off social media, as it felt like the algorithm sent it my way for a reason.

I immediately texted Bridgette notifying her of this decision.

Her response? “Man I wanna do this too,” to which I responded “DO IT DO IT.”

Thus began the official challenge.

Jenna Bloom, right, and her best friend Bridgette, who are doing a year-long social media cleanse. Before it began, they posted this photo on Instagram. (Courtesy of Jenna Bloom)

We knew to have a chance at success, we needed parameters: Instagram and Snapchat — the apps that stole hours of our waking lives — were not to be on our phones from Jan. 3, 2023, until 2024.

I was also not going to be using TikTok, but I had already deleted it about six months before starting the break, after realizing how much of a distraction it had become in my life.

There were some exceptions to this challenge, but no re-downloading or active use, and absolutely no posting.

We also made a bet that the first person to lose owed the other person a sushi dinner, which was excellent motivation because we are both way too stubborn to pay.

I used social media constantly in high school, but especially during the covid-19 pandemic. Being stuck at home was pretty awful for my mental health, as I’m sure any member of Gen Z can attest. But I found communities on these apps that fueled my need for conversation.

Social media became my form of expression. I tried to authentically capture my life on my profiles, and my identity was broadcast online for hundreds (sometimes thousands) of people to see.

Things quickly went downhill when likes and comments became my validation. I developed an obsession with the way I was perceived online and spent entire days, weeks, months, on my phone. Despite being in constant communication with people, I had never been more alone. My screen time was at least eight hours per day, a terrifying number.

The summer after high school, Bloom met friends in Chicago from a Jewish youth group. She made a 20-picture collage, including this photo, and posted it on Instagram. (Courtesy of Jenna Bloom)

My mental health improved when I came to college, but here’s the thing: the nature of these apps hasn’t. Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok are designed to be addictive. Studies have shown that likes and comments create rushes of dopamine that give users a “high,” which is especially dangerous for teenagers because it can rewire our brains to constantly seek immediate gratification. The apps encourage us to compare ourselves to others, a losing game every time.

When I started the challenge, it was difficult at first to resist the muscle memory of opening the apps. So, every time I wanted to open one, I would either journal or text someone instead. If I had burning thoughts I wanted to share, I would jot them down. If I craved socialization and wanted to check in with loved ones, I would text.

It only took about a week for the initial weirdness to fade.

This blackout had a rocky start when it forced me to face my reality head-on. In late January, I got my tonsils out. Not only did this mean 7-10 days of brutal recovery at home, but it was also the day before spring semester began.

If I had spent “sylly week” (the first week of classes, short for syllabus week), looking at every fun moment I was missing at school, my loneliness would have stung more.

Rather than doom-scroll for a week, I watched a ton of movies. It was a humbling, grounding experience, and something I haven’t felt in a long time: living entirely in a lousy moment without escaping via social media.

By the first month, the urge to open the forbidden apps vanished completely.

I soon noticed some differences in how I behaved. On one five-hour car ride with friends to New York, the only time I unlocked my phone was to control the music. I am certain if I had access to Instagram and Snapchat, they would have lured me out of the moment I was living in.

This car ride became an incredible opportunity to talk with my friends — who were also unplugged for these five hours. We sang along to classic rock and made plans for our trip. The only thing that mattered to us was the present; we were not trying to make the ride a shareable moment.

For the New York trip and other travels, it was odd for me to not post these memories online. In the past, each trip had dedicated Instagram posts that captured the highlights of my adventures. I wanted to show off.

Bloom with friends during a recent beach weekend in the Outer Banks, N.C., where they swam and played games — and her phone use was about 45 minutes per day. From left, Joe Larson, Lily Tobiasen, Bloom and Vignesh Lella. (Courtesy of Jenna Bloom)

Instead, I now keep my favorite photos in various albums on my phone, and when friends and family asked, I showed them the pictures of the beignets I ate in New Orleans or the sleek jumpsuit I wore to my cousin’s wedding. Instead of mass sharing to hundreds of people, only the closest people in my circle — the ones who checked in individually — got to hear my updates.

As someone who struggled with keeping things private online, this was a great way to realize that not everyone needs to know everything. The beauty of these memories is that they only existed for me and the people I chose to share them with.

I also realized that the moments I mindlessly used social media were when I was bored, like waiting for class to start or in line for food. Scrolling was a safety net. When I needed a distraction, they were there. Instead of pulling myself out of reality when I have time to myself, I embrace the silence and glance around. And honestly, it’s nice.

Another issue was the constant overwhelming sensation that there’s always more to look at — Instagram pictures of a friends’ vacation, trending videos on TikTok, a recap of an influencer’s day on Snapchat. If I wanted to stay on these apps all day, there was always another rabbit hole. Now it feels good to know when I’m done; there’s not more to look at.

I recently went to the Outer Banks for the weekend, and I had less than an hour of screen time each day I was there — a huge feat for me, and completely unimaginable three years ago.

I’m not perfect, and sometimes I still spend far too much time on my phone. But there’s a difference in how I’m using it. I ended up downloading a ton of games. This way, when I want to sit on my phone and do nothing, I do. I’m just playing solitaire or 2048 instead of scrolling through Instagram posts. I still get to be lazy and waste time without hurting my mental health.

While I have no regrets about this cleanse so far, I definitely lost contact with a lot of people. I never announced my plan online, so only those who saw me in-person knew. This meant losing touch with many friends I made in the pandemic that I only communicated with on social media.

We’ll see what this summer brings, likely a mix of challenges as I navigate a full-time internship, studying abroad and limited connection to my college friends as they embark on their own plans.

But there’s a comfort in knowing that the return back to school will be filled with updates — new stories and memories, shared face to face instead of over a screen. Until then, I’ll embrace each moment as it comes and jot them down in my journal as I go.

For years, I poured my identity into living two lives: one online and one in-person. So far, 2023 has been a nice break from that and a reminder of the beauty of an offline world. Bridgette and I are still in a competition over who will pay for sushi dinner, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be me.

Jenna Bloom is a journalism student at the University of Maryland.

14 thoughts on “Leaving Social Media: One Woman’s Journey

  1. Suggestion:

    That American citizens and voters petition their local and state representatives to escalate the Surgeon General’s advisory mandating any and all such sites be prefixed with the so-called ‘Precautionary Principle’ which can be summarised as follows: “ The precautionary principle is a broad epistemological, philosophical and legal approach to innovations with potential for causing harm when extensive scientific knowledge on the matter is lacking “.

    Obviously readers and tribe members who live in countries other than the US can or should do the same. I have emphasised the US because of the broad influence the USA has in the promulgation of laws, trends and suchlike. Through the US it will be more likely to gain traction.

    In the past, and perhaps the not too distant past, I might have suggested to those with a hankering for social media to try the UK’s Tatler magazine who bill themselves as the ‘original social media’. Unfortunately they’ve gone the way of the woke. Sad days in the realm.

    If I may add one thing. This problem did not start with clever techie boys in IT who developed these vehicles. Not too long ago something called television invaded the family home. Instead of families sitting down to dinner together to discuss the days events a TV set was wheeled in so that they could watch and eat. Family comms went south as did table manners. This in turn saw the demise of the dining room table and gave way to slobs sitting on couches ‘scoffing’ their dinner. This curse has been evolving for some time now.

    ‘Suspicious’ and ‘hostile’ were good choices of words by Byron.

  2. Jenna Bloom appears to be a pretty young woman with a strong sense of self, the true and measurable benefits of discipline and ‘what she brings to the table’!

    I’ve met several others like her in my ‘business career/history’ and can say with absolute confidence and conviction that you should stand back folks because ‘she will go far’ personally and professionally.

    Simply stated – she’s still young to know herself so well – but already extraordinary! Mentors in her life – watch out for her! The fun part for her and the most satisfying for a mentor has just begun. If you’re lucky and she accepts you – there’s no stopping you both!

    Thank you for your story, Jenna and – thank you Byron – for sharing it with all of us!


  3. Good morning David! I totally agree with your Suggestion and subsequent remarks – very discerning all!
    And thank you again for your beautiful Biblical quote in a previous post!
    You are one of the best bloggers I follow; likewise – you, Byron. Always interesting, informative and a pleasure to read. You and your posts inevitably make me begin to think, reflect, learn, research, etc. etc.

    I look forward to lots more ‘reading’ from each of you for years to come. (Likewise you – Amy, Elle, Expat, and Mister Maurice, etc.!

    And finally a little ‘lagniappe’ (look it up as I sometimes have to do for the words all of you use – part of the fun – thank you) —

    ‘This is a long track for each of us to run! Please don’t anyone get disheartened! As Jenna Bloom would undoubtedly say – recognize, claim and display your discipline – ‘dig in’!

    You MUST continue to write — because doing so is not only important for yourselves but for everyone else! Keep the dialogue open, swallow invalid criticism. articulate, debate and defend valid points and then move on. Use CAPITAL LETTERS and then beg for forgiveness if you must, BUT DO NOT BE SILENCED!

    Take Heart! And keep going the distance DOING SO ALWAYS MATTERS!

    Since childhood with my remarkable parents, I have been and will always be invariably true to my word — Trust Me On This!


    Best Regards to all! I love you! Let’s talk soon!

    Thank you,


  4. It takes considerable inner strength to give up on social media. Driven by shareholder + competitive pressures and enabled by technologies like VR/AI, social media firms will deliver unimaginatively addictive experiences in the future

  5. Good morning, Maurice! I appreciate your post!
    Each point you made about social media was germane but frightening to me as well!

    The wondrous Colorado mountains outside our windows are once again totally obscured by the continuing foul weather. Perhaps Climate Change and what mankind can do now to anticipate and assist might be an interesting topic for a future blog.

    Thank you again for your comments sir!

    If you all are enjoying some sunshine where you live, please send it our way soonest!


  6. Yup. I pulled the plug in 2016 for exactly the same reason she states: every interaction made me feel awful. Leaving it gave me instant relief. And I still communicate with friends and family every day; in fact I feel closer to them now than I did when on FB, etc.

    On the rare occasion I follow a link to a Twitter article, it is like getting a glimpse inside a hell populated by sociopathic lunatics whose life mission seems to be, “burn it all down, and everyone with it.”

    If you give it up, it may surprise you how much relief you will feel, and how little you crave it.

  7. Good morning Expat Yank! Thank you for your enlightening and invigorating post! I appreciate it!

    Jenna Bloom and you are my new heroes! (Along with ‘outspoken and active’ David!) Especially since you ‘cut the cord’ in 2016!!! Long ago!

    In contrast to you all, I’m a mere novice. I am
    ‘a woman of a certain age’ and from a softer and much less harsh generation i.e. only mere days ago did I learn that CAPITAL LETTERS equate with YELLING! I apologize! Who knew!!!???

    Once again, I find myself startled and astounded by the world we all strive to live in! But intrigued at the same time. And interested in it all!

    Any recommendations for books for me to read, sir, for a brief but intensive, honest and accurate education into this new world (at least to me)?

    Likewise – any other members of the OMG Family — your suggestions and comments would be appreciated – but please don’t overwhelm me! I almost certainly know enough already to run away like a terrified rabbit at his first sight of a water moccasin on the move. Been there done that already!

    I am so grateful for your post, Expat! Thank you!


  8. Good morning everyone and special thanks again to David, Mister Maurice and Expat (so far, to name a few)!
    Please allow me to share a little background and a family tradition with you that you might enjoy. FYI – although it might not come as a surprise to some/all of you. For the last several weeks – I’ve been more than a little perturbed with the direction as I perceived it here on Byron’s blog.

    I should start by telling you – that if you all were here in my home first thing in the morning, you would be congregating around the breakfast table waiting for food. Stamitz is playing gently in the background. I would enter the room (with a flourish, needless to say) and bend over and kiss each one of you on the top of your well-groomed head. I would thank you for being here and tell you I love you. After making the breakfast table rounds, I would thank you all again and add that ‘You Bless My Life!’

    And then – there’s no doubt in my mind – one of the mischievous ones among you (I’m thinking David?) would break the silence/mood. He or she would announce – Hey did everyone know that after reading Byron’s posts recently, Grandma was so upset that first – she took the golf cart on a wild ride to calm her nerves and hit a speed bump too fast and got – shall we say – ‘grounded’. To add insult to injury, while she was recovering at home (no irreparable injuries, Thank God!), she was Officially Notified by the neighborhood that she’s NOT ALLOWED TO PREPARE FISH for a minimum of 6 months (the pervasive smell)!

    And the sound of Stamitz hasn’t stopped since.

    Why does the word comeuppance come to mind for some reason?!?)

    Now – OMG family – what shall we talk about next?
    What are you thinking about; please share!

    I’m all (embarrassment and) ears!

    Thank you for listening everyone! Please stop laughing while I DON’T MAKE FISH FOR BREAKFAST!

    Let’s talk some more and soon,

    And once more – if any of you have some sunshine to spare — please route it to Colorado!

    Best Regards,

  9. And – just a quick final personal note because someone just asked me —

    The reason I ‘sign’ my blogs as JanB (rather than Janetgl although each name is accurate) is that doing so is more respectful to an adored deceased husband.


  10. We waited until our eldest was in 8th grade to give her a phone and even then it was a “dumb phone” for calls to us only. She does text some people but we have strict rules in place. The phone is in our room overnight and she only has it 7-7. Our kids are not on any social media of any kind. I gave up Facebook almost two years ago – I log on daily to screen shot my memories from the past 15 years because after this calendar year I will deactivate for good, but I used the platform as a digital diary of sorts instead of an analog one for anecdotes of the kids from birth to age 13. I want to have them in physical form offline before I leave for good. Most people on there have forgotten about me. No messages or posts on my wall, and that’s ok. Further proof that the relationships are surface level. I’m still on Instagram but that’s because I love photos and once again I have used it as a digital photo album since 2012. Currently working on getting all of those downloaded for print and USB for video too. So many beautiful memories. My IG is private, limited to real life family and friends, and not at all curated – still, we are sick of feeling plugged in all the time. I have limits set to my own phone and almost no apps. I use my desktop for almost everything now. It’s true what’s being said about kids’ mental health. Our kids are pretty well adjusted and still go to therapy because it’s important to keep tabs on their mental health just as much as their physical. We keep them busy with music lessons, outside play, volunteering, travel, and family game nights, etc. They help make decisions. We show them that they are valued and respected and have a voice. I still worry about them every day but my point is they aren’t beholden to technology like many of their peers. I have made it clear to the district that I disagree with the nearly full dependence on technology for students to learn through but that sadly won’t change. It’s my job to make sure our kids learn that tech is a tool that they need to be literate in but it is not the ONLY thing.

    1. You’ve written a beautiful post and I am in awe! The lifestyle you’ve designed and maintain for your children must certainly be challenging and demanding for you as well! But the future you are providing for your children is now and will continue to be the powerful and proud effort of all of you!

      Thank you for sharing!

      Well done, Sass!


      1. Why thank you JanB. I enjoy your comments!

        Raising kids is a tricky business and we all have our own values and philosophies surrounding parenting. I try not to judge. However sometimes I can’t help it. 🤣 Our kids still watch tv and play video games, but again they have to have all other stuff done first. (Music stuff, reading, playing outside, daily chores, etc.) It’s so easy to veer off course and before you know it your kids are adults and in the world inflicting their lack of home training on others. We are trying to raise two humans who will contribute and participate in society in meaningful, thoughtful ways.

      2. Thank you for your note; it’s lovely to hear from you.

        You have truly touched my heart with your words.

        You’ve brightened my morning already and – at last – it’s sunny outside!!!! Life is good!

        I pray it is for you and your family wherever you are as well!

        Thanks again!

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