Most people won’t acknowledge their unnecessary attachment to social media and the unhealthy obsessive habit it has created. For me, social media has been a huge part of my life; in 2007 I created my MSN account, 3 years later in 2010 I entered the world of Facebook, and now, well I can’t imagine a world without Instagram. Things were much different then, I would chat online to friends for a few hours in the evening before ‘logging off’, which is something completely unheard of these days.
It has now been over 10 years and messaging for a few hours on Facebook messenger is the least of our priorities. As technology advances, there are more and more ways to communicate; whether its a new app, more advanced mobile technology or new video conferencing capabilities; these advancements put the means to connect anywhere, at any time, on any device, in everyone’s hands. We don’t ‘log off’ anymore…there is no downtime, perhaps only when we sleep.
The reality is, we all want to stay connected somehow, whether its keeping in touch with friends and family, stalking old school friends, seeing what your old uni mates are up to, stalking an ex, or if you’re like me, literally trying to keep up with the Kardashians. I think we can all admit to these on some level. I’m certainly guilty. What I can’t understand is the amount of time I waste mindlessly scrolling or engaging with Instagram stories that add little value to my life.
We have adopted a habit where we have to share our every move. We photograph what we are eating at a restaurant. Tag who we are with. ‘Check in’ to places to show our location. But why? Do we need validation from others that badly? Are we trying to prove that our lives are great? Or are we tricking ourselves into believing this (which is much worse)?
As I spent more and more time on Instagram, especially during lockdown when boredom kicked in, I started to realise that the constant scrolling was affecting my mental health. But it wasn’t just Instagram, it was my phone in general that was frustrating me. It didn’t help that I created the The Climate Issue Instagram account during lockdown, so wanted to be active everyday to engage with similar accounts. I started observing how much time I spend online using the ‘Screen Time’ feature on the Iphone and I was utterly shocked. On average 3 hours of my day was spent on the Instagram app!
I made a pledge to have a 30-day social media detox in November and do what we never do…log off. I signed out of Instagram and Facebook and deleted the apps from my phone; I even made a bold decision to delete my Twitter account permanently. I never use Snapchat but I seem to always get notifications from ‘Team Snapchat’ so I logged out of that too.
Here are a few observations from my 30-day social media detox:
For the first week or so, when I woke up I would automatically pick up my phone to get onto Instagram (as I would do every morning), but obviously, the app wasn’t there! We don’t realise how much social media apps are integrated into our daily routines. I would usually wake up, scroll through my social media apps, not forgetting the BBC News app for Coronavirus updates, and then eventually get out of bed. It took me until at least day 10 to stop this habit.
I’m not going to lie, I had a couple of setbacks. At around day 15 I re-downloaded the Facebook app to check if any of my items for sale on Facebook Marketplace had sold. I know this sounds like a really bad excuse, but I’m telling this truth! I won’t deny that I had a quick scroll through the news feed before signing out. I am not a huge Facebook user, I barely go into the app unless I’m selling something.
I would often struggle to find time to read, even though I used to have an hour commute to work and we’ve been stuck at home half the year. Reading is peaceful and gives your eyes a rest from screen time. I find i’m quite a slow reader, so I didn’t finish a book in the 30 days but I did a lot of reading. I often find the books I read are quite scientific and related to climate change. Perhaps I should try reading some fiction books…
REDUCED SCREEN TIME
As the days went by, I noticed I wasn’t on my phone for long periods at a time. I obviously used my phone to text and call like normal etc…but I was using less apps, so my screen time went down a lot. In the last 2 weeks of November, my screen time did increase slightly because my sister made us all get the Ludo King app…yes another app to get addicted to!
OUT THE LOOP
At first I did feel a bit out of the loop, obviously I didn’t know what Kim Kardashian was up to or what Rochelle Hume’s was feeding her kids for dinner. But I have to say, this feeling wore off very quickly. Once you are out of the loop for a while, you lose interest completely. It no longer becomes enticing, which emphasises that its just a habit.
After completing 30 days without social media, I am definitely going to change the amount of time I spend on social media and try not to get into my old habits. As I mentioned earlier, you do lose interest once you’ve been out the game for a while. I do wonder if I would feel the same had I done this detox outside of lockdown and before the pandemic.
The biggest takeaway for me was that yes I think I am or perhaps I was addicted to social media on some level. These apps are designed to make addicts of all of us. Social media will continue to have a huge role in our lives, because we live in a digital revolution. You are probably reading this article because I shared it on Instagram…contradictory I know. If you are like me and feel like you are slightly addicted to social media, then I would consider your own 30-day detox and see if your perspective changes. Good luck.