At the end of December, I decided to stop using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube which are all of the social media platforms I’m registered on. There were a lot of reasons why I thought I needed this detox and it was a long time coming decision. About three weeks ago, I finally came around and decided to do it. When Christmas was around the corner, I knew that there would not be a better time for me to forget about social media than this. So I opened my phone, deleted all of the apps, and – I think I expected some immediate results because when there was no applause and no one to congratulate me for taking a step toward a better self, I asked “Okay… so what now?”.
It – ironically – all started with videos on YouTube. I started to watch videos of creatives like Matt D’Avella, Sorelle Amore, Thomas Frank, and I realized that the self-improvement part of YouTube was clearly stating that our reliance on social media is not benefiting us. I got interested and even intrigued, but I still didn’t think of doing it myself. “That’s great! Good for you!”- I thought, while jumping from video to video, feeling great about myself, because after all, I was just using social media to learn, I was “in control” and I didn’t need that kind of detox.
But after realizing that “some people might have that problem”, I would become more and more aware of the amount of time I could waste mindlessly scrolling through my phone. I would sometimes find myself spending 2 hours watching YouTube, only because I decided to watch something while I was eating. Mind you, eating takes me about 15 minutes. So gradually I would accept the fact that I am no longer in the driving seat and I cannot find a healthy balance myself. When I watched the Netflix documentary “Social dilemma”, which has taken the world by storm, I started to be disgusted by some of the social media platforms and unfollowed hundreds of accounts on Instagram, to make it less interesting and less enjoyable. Eventually, I would even have the app uninstalled for most of the day, but then I would just switch to using other ones. I realized that I am just not capable of spending a healthy amount of time on social media. I never had enough and I knew that I needed to take a break.
This brings us to the end of 2020, when I uninstalled all of my social media apps for an indefinite period of time, bought some puzzles, and made sure I had plenty of books to read. I was aware that I liked to scroll through my phone because it was relaxing, so I needed to make sure that I had other ways to entertain or unwind. I decided to swap one habit for another.
This post is not about the benefits of a social media detox and how it changed my life, as the experience is not over yet. However, I will write about my observations, as well as the tips and tricks that help me to make sure I don’t feel the need to fail at my goal.
What has changed so far?
The biggest and most obvious change I observed is the amount of time I can spend on other things. I think it goes without saying that we spend A LOT of time on social media which we can otherwise spend on improving our relationships, working toward our goals, or simply on sleeping.
I also feel less irritated, less anxious and I find my thoughts more – as what I can only describe as – wholesome. I’m no longer sitting in a state of total dejectedness, surrounded by my toxic thoughts, created by the constant comparison which is using social media.
So far these are the two biggest changes I observed, however, in the next part, I will write far more about the effects of this little experiment.
How do I make sure I don’t fail?
First of all, I asked myself why I use social media. For me, the reason is entertainment, relaxation, inspiration, and education. Therefore, I knew that if I wanted to quit social media, I had to find other sources of the benefits I would get from using them. I realized that most of these benefits could be found in reading books, and I decided that every time I would have the urge to reach for my phone, I grabbed a book instead. Of course, reading is not as stimulating as using social media, thus I made sure I had other sources of entertainment like podcasts, puzzles, talking to friends, exercise, cooking, as well as reading various genres of books – both fiction and nonfiction. I don’t watch many movies and series and I didn’t feel the need to take a break from these, so watching movies with my friends was still an option for a dose of entertainment.
It is also important to make sure there is no temptation. I deleted all social media apps from my phone as well as my computer and tried to forget that they even exist. I started to leave my phone in the other room so I wouldn’t look at it and remember that something is missing. I have to say, not sleeping with your phone feels great and I can’t believe that before this detox, I wouldn’t be able to go to bed without it at times.
With all of their faults, social media is a way to connect with others – especially in the time of a pandemic – so I made sure I had plenty of contact with my friends and family. Since my family is together at all times because of quarantine, it is easier to have someone to talk with, arrange board game nights, or eat meals together. I also remember to regularly call or video-chat with my friends to catch up with what they’re currently up to.
In a nutshell, if you want to quit social media, you need to make sure that you have other sources of all the reasons why you were using them in the first place. Is it for inspiration, for the news, to stay in touch with friends, or to share your amazing life with others? Whatever it is, don’t underestimate it and make sure you can deal with these urges in other ways.
So far I’m confident that I will succeed and keep going for at least a month. I am as surprised as I am happy to say that, up to this point, I haven’t yet experienced many temptations. Sure, there were times when I would be curious about what is going on in the world, but then I would just ask my sister or friends to update me on the current affairs. Interestingly enough, after I heard about them, I was usually glad I wasn’t there to read them myself.
To read about my conclusions, stay tuned for the next part, where I will write about all the ways this social media detox has influenced my life.