She isn’t scrolling through Instagram. She’s not mimicking the newest dance on TikTok. She’s not using the latest filter on Snapchat.
Riley Cox might be a unicorn.
She’s 15 years old and deleted her social media six weeks ago.
“I looked at my phone and I was like, ‘You know what? Let’s be impulsive and let’s delete it,’” laughed the Cathedral Catholic High School sophomore.
Riley is clearly not your average teenager. She used to be.
“I had TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram,” she said.
Riley had 60,000 followers on TikTok. She ghosted all of them in January.
“Finding out the new, biggest TikTok dance really isn’t life-changing,” said Riley. “It was pretty unhealthy. I think I was spending upwards of 10 hours a day on my phone."
"I kind of took a step back and realized where I was emotionally and how I was in a really dark place and in that moment, I was like, ‘I need to do something about this.’”
“She just did it,” smiled her dad Steve Cox. “She just cut it, came down, and goes, ‘By the way, I’ve cut out all my social media.’”
He wasn’t optimistic.
“Bluntly, my first reaction was, ‘OK, we’ll see how that goes in a couple days,” he laughed.
“I think maybe the first couple of days, people were like, ‘Oh my gosh! How is it? Are you dying?’ And I’m like, ‘No,’” laughed Riley. “My life has honestly gotten so much better.”
“The change started I would say like a week later and it’s been amazing,” said Steve.
“I am unbelievably proud of her."
The American Academy of Pediatrics is split on social media. The AAP’s website said it does have some benefits, like exposure to new ideas, increased opportunities for social contact, and new opportunities to access messages and information.
But it has it's risks too, the AAP says, like negative health effects on weight and sleep, exposure to inaccurate, inappropriate, or unsafe content and contacts, and compromised privacy and confidentiality.
It has been six weeks since Riley purged her phone of social media apps. She said she now values quality over quantity. Riley still texts and Facetimes friends, but she said those conversations have meaning beyond likes and shares.
“I find out the people that really care about me by being off social media. I can find meaningful conversations instead of just extended small talk,” smiled the teenager.
Riley even penned an Op-Ed for the San Diego Union Tribune, imploring everyone to consider shutting their phones down and opening up to the world beyond the screen.
“I cannot express how much happier this has made me feel,” concluded Riley.