Empowering Students Through Social Media Blackout Week

For seven days in mid March, 44 fearless students and faculty members participated in the second annual Social Media Blackout Week Challenge sponsored by the Greenhills Mindfulness Club. For all seven days, participants logged out of their social media accounts (i.e., Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, etc.) and tracked their daily participation in a shared Google Doc.

Why we created the challenge
In the words of our students, “Social media is a technology that is profoundly present in our lives. It is a tool used to connect with friends, share our lives, and discuss things that interest us. While social media often brings people together, it can sometimes become overwhelming.” As adults we, too, often feel overwhelmed by the many ways social media can shape the experiences and identities of our students and children.

As educators and Greenhills’ mindfulness program leaders, we know that taking even a brief break from screens can empower students to be more intentional about how they choose to spend their time and, ultimately, to be a little more present with the people right in front of them. We wanted to create an opportunity for students to experience that, so we challenged them, along with faculty, to join us in ditching social media for one week. The experience is purposefully designed so that students can participate alongside a supportive group of peers and teachers. Together, we were able to reflect on our relationships to our devices from a place of curiosity and discovery.

The experience
At the end of the week we celebrated with ice cream sundaes and a lively discussion about our successes and failures, along with our discoveries, observations, and experiences. Student leaders Alexis Huczek and Katie Suarez guided the discussion, asking questions like:

  • How did you feel during the social media blackout? Relaxed? Out of the loop? Bored?
  • Did you notice anything in your everyday life that you don’t normally notice (i.e., friends glued to their phones, while you no longer were?)
  • Did your “screen time” stats change?
  • Do you feel like the social media blackout changed your relationship to social media? Will your social media use change going forward?

Students candidly shared what was challenging (e.g., missing having something mindless to do during down time) and what surprised them (e.g., several students reported their average daily screen time declined by several hours). Students shared that they spent time trying new pastimes like drawing, redecorating, and FaceTiming friends. We discussed the social pressure to respond immediately that can sometimes accompany interactions on social media, especially Snapchat. At the conclusion of our discussion, some students were looking forward to returning to social media, while others were still deciding whether or not they wanted to redownload their apps. Everyone seemed to agree that the week without social media sparked a new awareness of our relationship to our devices, our peers, and the world around us.

Feeling inspired to complete a social media blackout? Check out the ideas generated by our students and faculty about what to do with time off of social media:

  • Read a book
  • Go for a walk outside
  • Make in-person plans with a friend
  • Play with your pets
  • Cook/bake a new recipe
  • Meditate – Try this one, or this one, or this one, or all three:)
  • Write (and send) a letter to a grandparent
  • Do your favorite kind of exercise
  • Make a bigger breakfast on school days
  • Play an instrument
  • Hang out with your family
  • Sleep! 🙂
  • Call or Facetime someone you haven’t talked to in awhile
  • Make a gratitude list, describe a unique moment from your day, write a “Dear Past Me” or “Dear Future Me” letter
  • Listen to a podcast
  • Make a cup of tea

Written by Liza Ruggiero, Director of Center for Mindful Wellbeing and Assistant Director College Counseling, and by Lauren Wolf, Associate Director of Admission

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