At the beginning of April, I set a goal for myself: with a couple exceptions, I wouldn’t be checking social media for a month.
I expected it to be challenging. Up until then, I’d been using social media as a distraction and an excuse for not reading or writing (or, more importantly, making face-to-face connections with people) when I got home from work. Social media had grown to be a part of my everyday life, and I assumed going without would be like cutting off a limb.
I was wrong. I was so eager to start that I deleted it the morning of March 31, rather than April 1. And you know what? I didn’t miss it. At all. Yes, there was a period of time – the first four days or so – where I opened my phone to flip through Instagram, but finding it gone, I set my phone down again. After that, I didn’t even think about it. It was as though it had never existed in my life before that moment.
With my new freedom, I did all the things I said I wanted to do with my time: I wrote poetry, I read infinitely more than I had in the last three months combined, and I spent quality time with friends. I cooked more, I organized areas of my home that had been messes for months, and I was more aware of my surroundings, and by extension, the people in them. I no longer walked through a cloud, my mind always half-controlled by my phone, wondering when I would look at it next.
And I felt calmer than I had in almost a year. Sure, some of my peace of mind could have coincided with my job slowing down, or the fact that I took both reiki and meditation level one courses during this time, but the fact that I wasn’t stressing over all the messages I wasn’t answering, and that I was able to focus on what was in front of me rather than what was in my phone, certainly did some good.
During my month away, I actually had time to research things that interest me. One of which, of course, was how social media affects us. Other than the fact that it promotes addictive behaviour (complete with withdrawal when we stop using it), overuse is also linked to lower overall well-being and can lead to increased jealousy of peers (because FOMO).
Now, five weeks later, I have no desire to get back on Instagram or snapchat, and when the time comes to leave the jobs I currently hold (and no longer need to receive work updates), I’ll likely delete Facebook and gmail off my phone as well. If I didn’t use Facebook messenger as my primary communication, I’d delete that too.
Of course, as with everything, this experiment was highly subjective to who I am and what I value. If I had it my way, I’d communicate through written letters and carrier pigeons. (You think I’m joking? I promise I’m not.) I realize not everyone feels the same. If you find value in social media, keep using it. How I feel about it has nothing to do with whether you use it or not.
I’m no luddite; I love the fact that, with my phone, I can look up vacation rentals in the south of France or jobs in New Zealand in a millisecond. What I don’t like is the fact that, with technology and social media, I’m technically accessible at all times. But that’s a me problem – I have the ability to turn off notifications, remove apps, or delete my accounts all together. Up until the detox, I felt guilty about shutting people out for a day or two. But now, I realize it’s not about selfishness, but self-preservation. For my sanity, I’m choosing to stay away from social media and constant connectivity with the outside world. And I don’t feel bad about it.