BYU students challenge teens, young adults with Summer Off Socials

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BYU student-run organization Ignite is challenging others to spend the summer away from social media. The challenge began June 1 and will continue throughout the summer. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

BYU seniors Kristen Schumann Hansen and Macy Dial are inviting people to join their challenge, Summer Off Socials, to delete at least one social media platform during the summer and replace it with “deeper connections and organic experiences.” The challenge began June 1 but individuals can join throughout the summer.

Hansen and Dial co-founded Ignite, an organization dedicated to transforming the way young people connect, with a focus on how social media has affected younger generations. 

“We’re just exposed to a lot of extremity and I think that’s bad for us,” Hansen said. “I think it’s made us less bold or less likely to talk to strangers, or less likely to give someone our number in person, or we’re less likely to go outside when we’re bored.”

During the challenge, Ignite sends participants a text with an activity for them to do that week.

Hansen said she believes social media hinders four relationships in our lives: our relationship with ourselves, God, the people we love and the world. The weekly activities focus on strengthening one of those relationships, such as by going on a walk for 30 minutes without a phone.

Hansen and Dial said they noticed many young people struggle to leave social media, even if they want to, because of the fear of missing out.

“I think I just want people to realize that that’s an option for them,” Dial said. “I want to provide them with a community to do it with so that they don’t feel alone and feel a sense of solidarity.”

Dial herself struggled to leave social media after using it throughout all of her adolescent years, she said. Eventually she decided to deactivate her accounts and has not looked back since.

“I’ve always told myself I don’t have time for reading but then it turns out I actually do when I cut social media out,” Dial said.

Pearl Hulbert decided to join the challenge because she noticed how much time she was wasting on social media. Whenever she was anxious or bored and needed something to numb her mind she would turn to Instagram reels, she said.

“I think that I need to have a different way to deal with being anxious or bored than just scrolling on reels,” she said.

Since starting the challenge, Hulbert said she has noticed just how reluctant she was to get off of social media. However, Hulbert said she plans to use the time she would have normally spent watching reels taking “actual breaks,” such as by going outside, taking a walk or reading a book.

When you leave social media you have to find a replacement for the time you usually spend on it, Hansen said. Otherwise, the likelihood of going back is much higher because of its addictive algorithms. Both Hansen and Dial have found that reading, and calling and texting their friends have been great replacements.

“When I have my phone and I feel an urge to be connected I try to call people or send people voice memos, because those to me feel like a lot more quality forms of connection,” Hansen said.

Along with the Summer Off Socials challenge, Ignite also sends out a weekly newsletter. The newsletter focuses on different topics related to young people, like mental health and digital wellness.

Ignite is also working on an app called Talk that would help those who have left social media still maintain a relationship with their friends and family who they do not see as often.

The Ignite team is not sure what the future will look like for the company, but Hansen and Dial said they both “just want to keep learning and being apart of the conversation.”

“The algorithms, I hope they change. I hope the way they’re made to be addictive changes in coming years, but right now it’s not,” Hansen said. “So I want to empower people to change their relationship with it and kind of build their personal structure, their personal framework so they are using it in a way that’s healthy and not in a way that’s almost impulsive and out of their control, because that’s what it’s designed to do.” 

More information about the challenge and other resources is available on the Ignite website.

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