I spend too much time on social media. When my girlfriend got up and left the table one morning because I was too busy instagramming to hold a conversation with her, I knew there was something wrong. I never wanted to be one of those people that relied on their social media for a sense of security and connection, but I did. I ended up being one of those people and I hate myself for it.
Often I would try a “detox” and sign out of Facebook and Instagram for one day in a bid to prove I didn’t need to check in every hour. But that isn’t really a detox, is it? All I’m left with is a feeling of anxiety as I endlessly scroll through both accounts trying to catch up.
Why are we so invested in what everyone else is doing, and what did everyone do before social media? How did they find out what Phoebe ate for breakfast or how many drinks Hayley smashed on Saturday night?
These questions alone were enough for me to start my biggest detox yet - one month FREE from social media. No Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Pinterest or Messenger. Here’s how it went.
On the eve of day one, I sent out a post to Facebook letting friends and family know I was hopping offline for one month. Without hesitation, I began logging off social accounts on my laptop and deleting the apps off my phone, knowing that merely having them there would be temptation enough. The anxiety began to hit me already - did my post get any likes? Did anyone comment on it? I wouldn’t know for 30 days.
I was a little lost when I first woke up on day one; I wanted to check my Instagram and was instead left checking the weather and my e-mails. On the positive side, I had more time to get ready in the morning and actually got out the door quicker because there were fewer distractions.
At work, I clicked the home button on my iPhone a few times, hoping to see a notification only to see the time. I was looking for a distraction between work tasks to relax my mind. I found myself getting up more to refill my drink bottle. Certainly a positive for my wellbeing, however my mind wasn't at ease. Lunch was equally as difficult. I checked my e-mails, googled a few things and then spent the rest of the break wondering what to do with myself.
By day five I didn’t automatically reach for my phone to check Facebook or Instagram. I almost completely forgot about all social media throughout the day, choosing to spend my lunch break reading a book. After work I sat on the couch, unsure what to do with myself. I picked up my phone, unlocked it and locked it again. Nothing to see here I thought to myself. I got up, got dressed and went to a boxing class - something I do most afternoons, but this time I was quicker to get off the couch and get ready.
Later that week I went for some drinks at the local pub with a group of friends. As we sat down, everyone put their phones on the table, alert for notifications or messages. My phone stayed inside my bag. Everyone that I wanted to speak to was right in front of me.
What social media? By this stage my care factor for Facebook and Instagram were at an all-time low. I realised I hadn’t actually thought twice about it for two days. I had begun to text a few more friends to plan some IRL catch-ups. This seemed like a success.
My head was clearer as well. My eyesight wasn’t feeling as strained when I went to bed, and I seemed to be falling asleep easier without the need to play on my phone right before bedtime. Another bonus was that my iPhone was only using a measly 20-30% battery during the day. So, not only was I feeling slightly more energised from my social media hiatus, but my phone was too.
"My phone stayed inside my bag. Everyone that I wanted to speak to was right in front of me."
Week three seemed to be flying by with ease. I wasn’t interested in social media; I didn’t feel pangs of jealously as my friend’s shared hilarious memes with each other. I thought about the extra activities I did this month. Activities I always planned on doing, but probably wouldn’t have done if social media was there to distract me.
These 'things' included:
Attending two football games
Starting a veggie garden and herb wall
Sewing a dress and a skirt
Reading three books
Taking more time to enjoy a magazine with a cup of tea
Taking a lot of photos without worrying if they are “Instagram worthy"
All of these extra activities were fantastic, however halfway through week three, I realised I was beginning to feel very isolated. I crashed in a pile of tears one afternoon, after a stressful day at work and a buildup of emotions - I was reaaaalllly lonely. There were people I rarely saw in real life that I missed from Facebook and Instagram. I wanted to know what was happening - even if it was through an orchestrated social media post. After my mini-meltdown, I rang a few friends and booked in some coffee dates. Social media had allowed me to become exceptionally lazy in the friend department and it was time to change that.
Week three day 20, the hangover.
This day needed it’s very own sub-heading. Things we're looking really good for me, everything was coming up Millhouse…and then the hangover of all hangovers hit me. Too much dancing and drinking tequila the night before had left a terrible illness overshadow me.
As I sat on the couch at my friend’s house for what I knew would be a day of binge watching RuPaul’s Drag Race and eating food, I also knew my friends would spend their day endlessly scrolling through Facebook and Instagram. If social media is good for anything - it’s killing time when one is hungover.
Often providing a world of cleaner, healthier non-hungover people and a glimmer of hope to be like that again. I felt a sense of jealousy when Toby picked up his phone to check Facebook. I wanted a mindless distraction besides the TV. I didn't have much to choose from when I unlocked my phone. Text someone? Too much effort. Look at my photos? Boring. Check out the latest rental listings in my area? Are you fucking kidding me, not today. I was ready to crack, but I didn't.
By week four I knew my limits. Hungover without social media? Terrifyingly hard. At the pub with friends or at home on a Saturday afternoon? Easy. As week four passed, so did my feeling of FOMO. I didn’t feel like I needed to catch-up on anything and the initial anxiety I felt of “what if?” had passed. I realised if someone really wanted to contact me, they’d figure out a way to do it without social media. When I did see my friends and family, the conversations felt strong and enriching because without social media we hadn’t seen what was happening in each other’s lives.
30 days without social media proved to be easier than I expected. I learnt how to value my time a lot better and give my full attention to whatever I was doing. My sleep patterns improved, I did activities that I normally wouldn’t, and in general my head felt clearer.
I’m not ready to say goodbye to social media forever, but I’m happy to leave bad habits behind; like the constant need to refresh for new content, or being so distracted with Instagram that I forget that there are real people around me.
On day 31 I logged in to Facebook, read and replied to any messages or notifications I had and closed my browser. I signed in to Instagram, checkout out my notifications, looked at a few photos and closed the app. Instead of spending the next 40 minutes scrolling through feeds, I knew I had better things to do with my time; a true sign my detox was a success.
Dominique is a Novocastrian with a passion for writing, eating and patting dogs. When she's not working hard for the money in Marketing, she can be found hanging out with her two greyhounds, her girlfriend and most likely, drinking a beer. Now that she's back on social media, you can lurk her @domfoxx.