Back to the apps: One year after the app-free challenge

Contributing Writer Clair Sapilewski reflects on her experience with last year’s “App Free Challenge.”


Clair Sapilewski, Contributing Writer

It has been a year since a group of 13 freshmen participated in former Director of Student Life Denise Uhl’s app-free challenge. They had to delete all of their social media accounts and avoid using apps that weren’t for classes on their cellphones for a week. The goal was to minimize the time wasted on using our cellphones. I was one of the students.

Looking back at the experiment just over twelve months later, I found that the results have been somewhat diluted by all the time that has passed throughout the year.

Back in October 2018, it was exciting to find out what it would mean for my schedule to go for one week without social media. It does, at times, distract from work, so a week without it would be a bit more productive.

The effect was instantaneous. My classmates and I ended up cutting our cellphone usage in half.

Instagram was most certainly the hardest app to let go as I open and scroll through it many times daily.

During that week, there was an impact on the amount of free time I had available, but it was much smaller than predicted. I did find new ways to waste my new extra time though. Art projects and online shopping were among the things that filled my time which should have been devoted to my school work.

During car rides, I found the biggest difference in my usage of time. Instead of sitting in silence on Instagram, I took this time to get to know whoever was in the car with me better. This was the biggest impact the experiment had. It reminded me to take moments away from the cellphone and give it to the people and things that really do deserve my attention.

But now, I ask myself if it really did change anything in the long term. Looking back at its original goal, it seems as though the real outcome that was a habit change is undetectable a year later.

After the experiment, I signed up for a new social media account and everything, including my overall social media use, returned to what it was before.

A year later, I wouldn’t hesitate to say that the experiment did not make as big of a long term difference as I was hoping.

I don’t regret being a part of it. It was worth it to realize the impact that social media has on one’s life, big or small.

The app-free challenge that we participated in one year ago has not affected my life as much as I had hoped for, but rediscovering what social media takes from me on a daily basis made it all worth it.

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