The Student Site of Castilleja School


The Student Site of Castilleja School


The Student Site of Castilleja School


Following Ananya Nukala’s “TikTok detox”

Lila Cole
Ananya Nukala ‘25 embarks on a challenge to cleanse herself from TikTok, once and for all.

In the spring of 2023, Ananya Nukala ‘25 was perhaps in the most consuming relationship of her life. The significant other? The infamous and oh-so-irresistible social media platform, TikTok.

As Nukala’s older sister, Arya Nukala ‘23, described the toxic relationship, “It was really, really bad.” According to Arya Nukala, the two sisters would return home from Gatorbotics around 10 p.m. and attempt to do their homework together. However, Ananya Nukala would scroll through her phone for over two hours before even beginning her homework. Her infatuation with TikTok led to habitual sleep deprivation, with her going to bed at two or three in the morning every day. On weekends, the problem was even graver. The statistics are unspeakable.

Ananya Nukala was always on her phone.

It was on a Friday evening that Nukala experienced a turning point. She explained that she returned home from school with intentions to be “super productive” and complete her school work and Model UN position paper. When her younger brother asked her if she wanted to watch the new episode of “Ted Lasso” with him, she declined, stating that she had too much work.

Nukala proceeded to go to her room and watch TikToks for three hours.

Besides the growing heap of procrastinated work, Nukala found herself “prioritizing TikTok over things [she] cared about, like ‘Ted Lasso’” (and probably spending quality time with her brother, although she did not explicitly confirm this).

As Nukala realized herself, “This was addiction.”

Day 0. On the evening of March 24, 2023, the unthinkable occurred: Ananya Nukala deleted TikTok.

Day 1. On her first day without TikTok, Nukala “didn’t know what to do with [her]self when [she] got home.” The absence of the neon music-note-shaped icon on her homescreen left her with a “sharp pang of panic.” It became evident that Nukala was experiencing the first symptoms of withdrawal.

Day 2. After waking up from what was likely to be the longest night of her life, Nukala “felt kind of lost” without a morning TikTok scroll session. She went back to bed and simply lay there for a while, contemplating the loss of her dearest companion.

Day 3. “I think I’m becoming addicted to Instagram.” Coming to terms with the fact that TikTok had left her life, Nukala found herself in a rebound relationship. She reflected that she had never scrolled through Instagram Reels as much as she had that day. However, Instagram proved to be an insufficient distraction, so she clicked through TikTok spam emails during English class.

Day 22. Over the following weeks, Instagram slowly filled the void in Nukala’s heart. Reels became seemingly more charming in Nukala’s eyes, and it soon received the same treatment that TikTok had a few weeks earlier. Sensing an oncoming addiction, Nukala confidently exiled Instagram from her phone.

Day 25. Only three days after deleting Instagram, Counterpoint editors caught Nukala digitally active on the app. “I PROMISE I DELETED IT RIGHT AFTER,” Nukala pleaded over text, presenting screenshot evidence that the app was indeed removed from her phone. Nonetheless, the mere act of redownloading Instagram suggested that Nukala was falling into Instagram relapse, one step closer to going back on TikTok.

Day 59. Digital abstinence can be incredibly challenging, especially when one is left without access to neither TikTok nor Instagram. So Nukala found a loophole: sneaking glances at others’ screens. According to Arya Nukala, Ananya Nukala would often run into Arya’s bedroom whenever she heard “Instagram Reel music,” exclaim, “YO! What are you watching?!” and proceed to scroll through Arya’s phone to satisfy her constant cravings. This led to quite the predicament in the Nukala household, as Nukala’s entire family (mother, father, sister, brother, dog) had to “force her to go outside, sit in the sun or go to the beach,” lest she be nosing her way into other peoples’ phones. This new hobby of Nukala’s was evidently not familially exclusive. Whilst in the company of friends, Nukala stole a phone from Priscilla Chan ‘25, exclaiming, “Ooh! TikTok!”

Day 73. Upon her sister’s high school graduation, Ananya Nukala felt that Arya Nukala deserved something noteworthy to commemorate her completion of seven years at Castilleja. Her brilliant idea? Redownload Instagram, of course! After congratulating her sister through a post, Nukala admitted that she did check some people’s stories and respond to a few comments. Yet, she refrained from going through Reels, her greatest point of weakness. Nukala dutifully deleted the app soon afterwards, indicating the possibility of a healthy Instananya relationship in the future. Nukala’s father, Murthy Nukala, believed otherwise, informing his daughter that “no, you are the same as you were” before. While TikTok remained deleted, perhaps he was referring to Nukala’s growing fondness for Snapchat fashion stories.

Day 109. Just after crossing the triple-digit marker of days without TikTok, Nukala was thirsty for content. “Officially addicted to Instagram Reels,” Nukala relayed over text, adding a disheartened emoji to the news. She confessed that she had downloaded Instagram “for real” and had not deleted the app in two weeks, despite the glimmer of hope from a few weeks prior. In a desperate attempt to save herself from falling victim to the seductiveness of Reels, Nukala looked to her phone’s Screen Time feature. Though she hoped to set restrictions on Instagram, she could not remember her password and, after seven failed password attempts, was left to the mercy of Instagram.

Day 120. Nukala’s self-guilt won, and she deleted Instagram. Again.

Day 128. Nukala overcame her conscience and redownloaded Instagram. Again. She excused her actions, saying that she only allowed herself to download the app because she was in the presence of her friend, Katherine “Poppy” Lye ‘25, who could keep her in check.

Day 144. Nukala confessed that though it was “lowkey embarrassing,” she had deleted and downloaded Instagram around six times since Day 128. She additionally found it necessary to delete Snapchat, but she still redownloaded it twice afterwards. Nukala’s mindset of “how much harm could it do?” repeatedly authorized her to download Instagram and Snapchat when she got bored, only to waste time and subsequently delete the apps. Only one platform was exempt from her rationalization; her self-restraint held together firmly enough for Nukala to remember that she could not trust herself with TikTok. Nukala said that TikTok is “way more addicting,” and Instagram posts allow her to interact with friends and won’t lead to addiction.

In reality, Arya Nukala speculated, retelling this repeated lie only made it even easier “to get sucked into” the cycle. Arya believes her sister had an extremely difficult time with TikTok because one can “scroll for hours” without realizing it since each individual clip is quite short. When used as a method of procrastination, Arya said she feels that social media only increases stress levels. “In the moment,” she said, “you aren’t thinking about it, so you escape for a little bit, but two hours later, you have even more stress” because you wasted time and you still have work left to do.

Day 145. Nukala’s cousin, a faithful TikTok user, tried to convince Nukala to redownload TikTok. Nukala firmly declined, saying, “I have been doing so good. I deleted it for a reason.” To her cousin, Nukala’s answer was simply aggravating cousin behavior. But to those who know Nukala’s history (and the effects of peer pressure), it can be agreed upon that her self-control in that moment was quite monumental.

Day 147. While showing genuine signs of improvement, Nukala went through a severe case of “phone withdrawal.” Having completely removed herself from social media, she would often “just stare at [her] phone and scroll through random screens.”

Arya Nukala, who says she has a “pretty healthy relationship with social media,” expressed that although it was “entertaining to see Ananya come down from that level of addiction,” it hurt for her to see her sister trapped in the pointless joys of social media. “All the things you see on social media [give you] quick serotonin: basically just entertainment that you can get anywhere else,” Nukala said.

When asked if she had anything to say to Ananya Nukala, Arya Nukala shared a heartfelt message for her sister:

Dear Ananya, When you were on your phone and on the throne of addiction, it felt like I lost a sister because you weren’t there. Instead of doing stupid things with me, you were on your phone losing yourself to this mindless void of social media. It was heartbreaking to watch you fall into this pit of endless scrolling and watch you lose the excitement you had to do other things.

Nukala’s father, Murthy Nukala, said he enjoyed seeing his younger daughter emerge from what Arya Nukala described as “the really dark side.” He found the results remarkable. She is “much nicer after,” he said, explaining how she now goes on coffee dates with him rather than spend time buried in her phone. “Two thumbs up for everyone deleting TikTok!” he said.

Now able to get through a day without Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok, Nukala reported, “I don’t need my phone anymore. I just text, and it’s really nice.”

Overall, Nukala said “deleting TikTok was a really great experience for me. It was interfering with my everyday life, and I wasn’t sleeping enough.” Nukala said she was “relieved not to have to check social media,” not realizing previously that she “had that pressure.” She later added that she might reinstall Snapchat and Instagram to post occasionally, but says she is confident that she would have the self-control to delete them right after.

Even though Instagram and Snapchat became small dependencies in their own right, she did not think she could have abstained from TikTok without them. They were the stepping stones toward complete deletion. They were the rebound relationships to, well, rebound.

When asked about recent conversations pertaining to the impending ban of TikTok, Nukala responded that the ban “played no role” in her decision. Though her parents were glad she was off of the app and her information would not be stolen, Nukala said she deleted TikTok “not because of stealing information, but because I wanted to.” After TikTok “disrupted” her everyday life, Nukala is pleased with her new lifestyle and “doesn’t see [herself] redownloading again in the near future.” She is still unsure how to use the new, unoccupied time that has now been made free; she finds herself not much more productive yet, but as Arya Nukala notes, at least she is not “rotting her brain.”

Ananya Nukala has been TikTok-free for 168 days and has officially survived her TikTok detox.

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About the Contributors
Caitlyn Lee
Caitlyn Lee, Managing Editor
Caitlyn Lee '25 is a Managing Editor for Counterpoint. This year, Caitlyn is excited to uncover all of the different stories on campus, from quirky to inspiring, and she looks forward to collaborating with the staff to share them with the community. When she isn't writing, you can find her swimming, playing BuzzFeed quizzes or munching on Trader Joe's snacks.
Abigail Kim
Abigail Kim, Editor of Special Projects & Editor of Arts & Entertainment
Abigail Kim '25 is the Special Projects Editor and Editor of Arts & Entertainment for Counterpoint. She has been writing for Counterpoint since she was a freshman, and this is her second year working as a section editor. In her free time, Abigail loves dancing and watching TV.

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  • P

    poppy | Sep 8, 2023 at 11:46 am

    i’m just so proud of ananya

    • A

      arya | Sep 8, 2023 at 2:14 pm

      i am too, it’s so nice to have her back