How The Luddite Teens Of New York Changed My Perspective On Social Media


Natalie DeVille, Journalist

I gained access to social media around age 9 or 10. Social media and the internet have always been there. It feels natural. I hadn’t ever questioned what it would be like if I stopped using social media altogether.

I was aware of the negative effects of Instagram, but I thought I could handle it; that I was above it. After a year of using TikTok, I started thinking more critically about my media consumption. Why is it so compelling to spend hours looking at a screen when half the time I’m not paying attention or following investing, meaningful content? Social media is designed to draw you in and keep your eyes glued to the screen. If you’ve ever told yourself you will stop “after the next video,” and somehow have watched 10 more after the fact, then the creators of the site have done their job. Recognizing the pattern of going onto Instagram or TikTok to distract myself or kill time, I needed to get away from it. 

Ironically sensing my inclinations, following their highly attuned algorithms, “off the grid” and “deleting social media” videos flooded my timelines. The gateway to ridding myself of social media started with watching videos about the concept on social media. Videos and people on social media often influence us to go against the grain and do things that are the exact opposite of what social media is trying to enforce; even to the end of getting off social media. 

I started trying to watch longer videos and movies, listen to music, and read more instead of compulsively scrolling, and always talked with my friends about “escaping the rabbit hole” that is social media. I noticed the change in my attention span and soon that wasn’t enough. I desperately wanted to delete my social media but felt its pull. I knew I would miss out on friends’ and artists’ posts. Stuck between deleting it and keeping it, I stumbled upon a New York Times article about the “Luddites.”

The Luddite Club community is an NYC-based club of teenagers who reject social norms by “self-liberating” themselves from social media and phones. Their catchphrase is “Don’t be a phoney.” The original “Luddites” were a British workers movement named after, and possibly led by, Ned Ludd, a man whose existence is still questioned. There isn’t any evidence of his influence except for members of the movement claiming their orders came from “General Ludd.” Allegedly, Ludd started the movement by breaking textile machines during the rise of industrialization, which disrupted his purported trade skill of weaving, and the traditional merchant organization of English village life. Afraid of becoming obsolete, many more artisans joined in. Not only to protect their professions, but also to protect their traditional lives, which might be overturned through having to sell their labor to industrialists.

The most invested members of today’s anti-tech New York community have exchanged their smartphones for flip phones. Despite not wanting a phone at all, the founder owns a flip phone for safety. The group meets weekly in a New York public library or park to spend time together reading, drawing, writing, talking, meditating, listening to music, etc. without their phones. All are welcome to join even if they still have a smartphone. The club’s goal is not just to free themselves from phones but from the internet as a whole, especially social media. Inspired by their commitment to being creative and spending their time on things they enjoy, not tethered to technology, I deleted Instagram and TikTok.

At first, I had trouble recognizing the effects of deleting social media. It was only after I redownloaded it, a month later, that I realized how much this one decision changed me. Surprisingly, immediately after deleting Instagram and TikTok, I was relieved. Since my attention span grew and I wasn’t using these apps, I had time for more enriching activities. According to a study done by Professor Andrew Oswald of University of Warwick, the more a country spends on advertising in a year, the more unsatisfied the citizens become one to two years later: The more advertising one is bombarded with, the more unhappy they become. This was one major and unexpected change I found during my experiment. I didn’t feel the need to consume more material objects because I wasn’t exposed to videos telling me about a new exciting product every five minutes. 

It was exciting to see all the content I had missed out on at first. I got to catch up with friends and even had a childhood friend who I had lost contact with reach out to me. Despite the negative side of social media, it does undoubtedly connect people. It expands our net of communication. Although I experienced those positive effects, I quickly realized how much better it was to be without social media. I started out not using the apps almost at all because I was used to not having them but in a short time, following their alluring design, I became more dependent on Instagram and TikTok. Habits, such as reading, were replaced with checking my social media once again. Once again, the irony is that once I had social media back, I wanted to delete it again. Having social media again reminded me of why I deleted it in the first place.

One thing that should be considered is how these systems don’t let you control the extent to which you use them by being designed to be highly addictive. If a social media site, or truly any modern digital company, had their way, they would completely control how you spent your time and money. Some may protest that the Luddites are not sound in their philosophy because many people need access to the internet for their safety/health and connection to both work and school. The personal dissociation they are advocating for doesn’t really bring social systems any closer to protecting individuals happiness, health, safety, or connection in the face of an ever more oppressively digital world. However, part of the Luddite’s main appeal, and why they have such a strong pull, is because they leave the choice up to you. When you decide, independently, with effort, to make a change in the way you interact with our modern world, you take ownership of the changes it brings. Simultaneously, you can get the benefit of a social media detox while denying the power of the controlling systems of social media at their most basic level. The personal, everyday level, in those moments where you would otherwise have time for activity or time for true, rejuvenating rest.

In the end, I decided to delete my social media again. I don’t know how long this will last but I am enjoying spending my time doing things other than looking at Instagram and TikTok. I learned a lot about myself from this short experiment and hope that after reading this, others will be inspired to reflect on their media habits and consumption. While the “Luddites” beliefs in getting away from the internet and technology in general are hardcore, an accessible way to foster change is to focus specifically on spending time away from your smartphone. The best part is, this path of self discovery is open to anyone.


Vadukul, Alex. “These ‘Luddite’ Teens Are Abstaining From Social Media.” The New York Times, 15 Dec. 2022,

Woo, Erin. “Teenage Girls Say Instagram’s Mental Health Impacts Are No Surprise.” The New York Times, 5 Oct. 2021,

“Who Were the Luddites?” History, 26 June 2019, Accessed 22 Feb. 2023.

Meet a Teen Who Gave up Her Smartphone. 16 Sept. 2022,