Switching off from social media: part one – my detox diary

It’s probably not inaccurate to say that I am a social media addict. I’ve been Tweeting, Instagramming and Facebooking for as long as possible, and was Myspacing and Beboing long before then – which probably amounts to over ten years of sharing my life online on an almost daily basis.

Which, when I stop and think about it, is actually pretty terrifying.

With the ability to share even the shortest snippets of my life getting easier and easier (hello Instagram Stories, you cheeky thing), I’m almost constantly attached to my phone or laptop. I am forever reading what strangers have to say, considering how the things I do would look online, and trying to come up with punny captions for today’s photo of a cup of coffee or slice of cake.

My scrolling and sharing is becoming mindless and unhealthy; I can see it happening, but I just. can’t. stop. And I know I’m not the only one.

I find myself automatically reaching for my phone hundreds thousands of times a day. I dread to think how many hours of my life I have wasted on apps and social media sites. It’s basically muscle memory. I consume so much information… but the truth is, about 80% of the content I see adds nothing to my day. It’s definitely not doing my mental health any good, either.

I’ve always wanted to challenge myself and take time offline, and have read a few posts and articles by people who’ve done just that (see this post from the lovely Little Miss Katy). When I was preparing for five days at Home (with a capital H) recently, I felt it was the perfect time to take a break, wind down, and detox from the daily digital deluge.

I’ve decided to be a bit cheeky and am splitting this into two posts because it turns out I have a LOT to say on the matter, and nobody wants to read an essay about a twenty six year-old’s battle with weaning herself off Twitter.

This post is my diary; a day-to-day look at how my moods and thoughts changed over five days…then I’ll write about what I learned in another blog post. Lucky you!

So without further ado, here is my social media detox diary. Let’s see how I get on…

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My social media detox diary

Day 1: Thursday

I’m not sure yet if it’s blessing that I’ve been away from my usual routine at the start of this personal challenge – I think if I had been getting on with normal life, I might have less time to think about what I’m missing! I’ve definitely felt the need to reach for Twitter and Instagram today, but then acknowledged the thought and moved on to do something practical. I haven’t missed Facebook at all, which doesn’t surprise me. There have been moments when I thought ‘I’ll share that’, but by not being able to, I’ve realised how little it would have added to my day; it’s not high quality content at all, and nobody will miss it!

I do feel like I could be ‘missing out’ on news, but am finding out what’s going on in the world in the old-school way. The biggest thing today has been getting used to not ‘dual-screening’. I had a lazy day and watched two films. I usually ‘watch’ a film with my phone in hand, tweeting my thoughts on the story, or refreshing apps constantly. Today I sat and watched the movies we’d picked properly, with no distractions, and it was really nice. It felt like real downtime, and not just another activity. My brain definitely feels rested.

At the moment, it’s a strange mix of missing it, and enjoying a bit of a break. Let’s see how I get on tomorrow, with a day at home alone!

Day 2: Friday

I really felt it today. Like, I really missed scrolling. I spent most of the day on my own and it was hard.

The time not spent scrolling was put to good use transcribing an interview for a future blog post, undistracted. However, when I wasn’t so busy and spending time with other people, my mind wandered to what I thought I’d be missing out on. I realised my concentration levels – which once allowed me to read and read for hours on end – are now utterly abysmal.

In the evening I went out for a Mexican meal without checking my phone. I enjoyed delicious food and had a really lovely evening catching up with my sister.

And NEWS FLASH: Nobody missed my sad pictures of tacos and churros. Lesson learned: I really don’t have to take a photo of every meal and treat. The world doesn’t care and guess what; it still tastes just as good.

It might be nice to keep some things between me and my friends and family, in the moment. Just a thought.

I still miss Instagram though. Dammit.

Day 3: Saturday

I’m on day three of my detox and I’m still yo-yoing between the lovely relaxing freedom of it all and wanting to share some special moments with everyone.

Today was a busy one, spent out and about and at the theatre seeing the utterly splendid Funny Girl. The main challenge this time was not sharing my cultural experiences online, and I have to confess..I did break my self-imposed ban for a few minutes in order to share my pure love for the show.

Honestly, it had to be done and the cast HAD to know how much I enjoyed their performance. I gave myself special permission and posted what I had to say in a torrent of words, then logged straight back out again. I wasn’t allowed to look at my feed or notifications. It worked really well.

Since I was so busy, I didn’t miss scrolling once, and really felt I had made the most of the day; I focused on my time with my mum and my time at the theatre, and was able to soak up the post-show glow without getting distracted by what else was going on online. I really enjoyed the moment.

If anything, today has taught me that I should only be sharing the high-quality stuff. I don’t have to go online every minute, posting about my breakfast and commute and every single breath I take.  If I’m going online, it should be due to the fire in my belly, the passion I have for something, and the pure desire to share something brilliant or poignant or important with the world (or whoever will listen.)

Today was a good day, and I’m so glad I got to enjoy it offline.

Day 4: Sunday

I’ve replaced my incessant scrolling of Twitter with another feed that had been hiding on my phone until now.

I’ve discovered the News app; pre-installed on my phone and ready to keep me up-to-date on what the BBC is saying as well as mundane celebrity gossip from dubious online magazines.

This sneaky little app is now my go-to time filler, satisfying my apparent need to absorb information. I was doing so well, too. It seems my brain is determined to consume content not matter how dull. Today I’ve suddenly found myself reading articles on what the Beckhams wore to the 2001 MTV awards, and something called the Narwhal Frappacino (WHY?!).

This is probably because I am having a quiet Sunday at home, mooching about the house and watching a few more films. It’s nice; I’m making the most of home comforts before I go back to reality.

But four days offline are starting to take their toll and I have yet to find something easy to do to keep my easily-distracted mind occupied without being online. I’m shocked at how little reading and writing I am doing in place of scrolling, and my book – which I expected to finish while home – has sat untouched in my suitcase.

It’s odd. I miss the distraction and the act of posting and scrolling, but I don’t feel like I’ve missed anything important. I’m finding it hard to describe; which I suppose just about sums an addiction up!

I am looking forward to going back online, I won’t lie; I know I won’t have missed out on much when I go back online, and I certainly won’t have been missed, but it feels weird to be so disconnected from everything.

However, I had a swanky coffee today without photographing and sharing it. If that’s not progress, I don’t know what is.

Day 5: Monday

Today’s the day; at 5pm I went back online, and it was like I’d never left.

On my train journey I enjoyed actually reading a magazine front-to-back with a nice coffee and no distractions.

Once I went back online, I DID have an exciting 24 Facebook notifications…but over half involved Facebook alerting me that randomly-chosen friends had posted an update. Apparently it was worried about my sudden lack of interaction. So needy, Facebook…

That was a bit of an expected anticlimax. The same can be said for Instagram and Twitter; a few nice likes and notifications aside, life online had continued on nicely in my absence. By 5.20pm it was like I had never been away; I’d posted a witty comeback tweet, shared a photo of me and Darius on Facebook from the weekend (ha!) and sat waiting for the likes to come rolling in on my first Instagram photo in a while.

I found myself already scrolling mindlessly within the hour and instantly put my phone down and turned my attention to this blog post. It seems it’s an easy trap to fall back into. I intend to outsmart my own brain. Curse you, oxytocin, and my need for validation.

So that’s it. I’m back online. Did you miss me?

I’ll be posting soon about the lessons I learned from my time offline. Have you ever had a Digital Detox? How did you find it?


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