What’s the first thing you do when you wake up? Earlier this summer, I would get up, do your usual, rub my eyes with my hands, flick off the disgusting eye boogers. Then, sit up to reach for the skies. I roll over and I’m met by the warm embrace of…my phone. I’ll peruse my notifications. “I wonder what’s new on Tik Tok?” Opening the app, I’m greeted with the most encaptivating content. “This creator is a riot!” Scroll. “Oh man, I can’t believe that guy drew that. I mean, look at all the details.” Scroll! “ Man, this is the 1000th time I’ve heard ‘Running Up That Hill.” SCROLL!! Every second of every minute of every hour of every day. Just scrolling on my phone. “Aye, what time is it?” I felt a pain like daggers. Piercing the back of my eyes, trying to push them out of their sockets. I should’ve worn my Bluelight glasses. “ 3 AM!! Ah, geez.” Well, there’s always tomorrow to be productive, right?
Now, I would never be on social media for hours in one sitting. That’s just ludacris. Back in June, my phone was like a stalker. Wherever I was, it was there too. “Anak!” That’s “my son” in Tagalog. “Can you go do the laundry and grab some meat from the freezer?” My mom asked.
“Sure thing Mama!” I said as I snagged my phone and immediately started scrolling through Tik Tok while rushing down into the basement. I throw everything that needs to be in the washer and into the dryer. “Ok, everything looks good. Lemme head up the stairs.” Still on my phone I mosey into the bathroom now, but just sitting there. “Anak?” My mom calls out.
“ Yes, mama?” I respond respectfully.
“Where’s the meat?”
“Oh…” I say with a shocked but guilty look.
This went on for a few weeks. My mom was frequently getting disappointed in me. Myself included. Soon after, I started feeling an unusual fuzzy sensation which encapsulated my brain. Subsequently, when putting my phone down I was met with what felt like Tv Static; from the old Box Tvs tickling the inside of my brain. It was difficult to think at times and I can’t recall much that happened during then. I called the fuzzy feeling a ‘cap’. It prevented my thoughts from flourishing. My mom had her theories. This was a result of my Brain constantly being entertained. A plethora of ‘content’ was going INTO my head, however my brain had no time to produce something of itself. It’s like trying to hop off the bus or the subway during rush hour. Everyone is trying to get on and it becomes impossible for a passenger to wedge their way out of the train. Hopefully, my analogy made sense to you.
My relationship with social media transformed into something far more atrocious than before. My mom was right as I couldn’t come up with any ideas for the life of me. Drawing, practically my life, was harder as I had no idea what to draw.’ Writing too, reverting to early 7th grade where I had no clue what I was going to write and how I was going to write it. My Brain started cramping whenever I tried to think. It began to be squeezed for something, anything. That’s when the fuzzy feeling I referred to earlier really came into play. We all know the phrase, “you are what you eat.” I fed my brain garbage by watching nonsense on my phone. In return, my brain regurgitated what was put into it. Utter garbage.
I tried stopping this unhealthy lifestyle. ”But it’s too hard to stop,” I whined to myself. I want to, but I just can’t bring myself to do so. I guess it doesn’t matter. I can stop watching when I want to.” I’m disappointed in myself that I actually considered saying these words. Phrases often heard by those on drugs and alcohol. I became an addict, an addict for entertainment.
My mental health started to gradually decline. Some days I found myself in the bathroom, pulling at my hair. Clawing at my face, contorting myself. I was burning in fury with subtle tears streaking down my face. My heart was displaced into my throat and there was a firm but tight grip on it. I also had an empty, sunken feeling in my gut. I looked into the mirror to see this THING! A doppelgänger. Who is he? Why does he look like that? Looking at it angered me even more as that doppelgänger was actually me. I KNOW THIS IS BAD FOR ME! WHY AM I WASTING MY LIFE AWAY?! WHY- CAN’T- I- STOP?!!
I was worried about what would happen if I kept this up. What would High School look like? I was doing so well when I was in school. Yet now, saying ‘not so much,’ would be considered an understatement. I thought to myself that I may risk the chance of failing. I had enough. Rather than wallowing in these hypotheticals, I decided to own up to the mistakes that I’ve made and take initiative. I can lament all I want, but nothing is still going to happen if I do nothing.
Ironically, It was a Tik Tok video that gave me the inspiration to take action. My takeaway was that the best way to overcome an addiction was to distance yourself far away from it. So, that’s what I did, I deleted Tik Tok, YouTube, Reddit, Google News; which I only used to look at the headlines, and Pinterest. Yes, I used Pinterest, It’s a great source of drawing references and ideas. I’m proud to say that I haven’t redownloaded any of these apps and I don’t plan on doing so any time soon.
If I knew what the consequences of unmonitored use of social media would lead to, my early summer could’ve been more eventful. I’d get up, look at my phone for a second and that was the end of that. My only screen time for that day. Then, I’d download Duolingo and start learning some Spanish to prepare for Spanish 1 for High School.. I’d spend the rest of the day reading my summer reading books and get them all out of the way so that I could have more time to do other things.
To my future self, I eagerly advise you to learn from your mistakes. I’m aware that this sounds redundant. I’ve addressed a mistake that I’ve made and shown that I’m actively rebuilding myself. However, we have a tendency to fall back into bad habits. Hopefully, you’re at a point in life where this does not prove to be an issue. I know that with dedication and hard work, we can remain efficient. Be the young man that will continue to make your parent’s, family and yourself proud.
Eugene Terrell – Fenwick High School – Class of DMSF 2026
Image: Eugene Terrell