I wake up in the morning and immediately grab for my phone: not to turn off the alarm but to check my messages. I sit down for lunch and scroll through Instagram. I Snapchat while walking to class, then scroll through Instagram again. I flip open my laptop with the intention to study but then a little Facebook notification pops up, I simply have to check what I was tagged in (is it a dog falling into a pool or a cat miscalculating a jump this time?).
No one likes to admit it but we are all, to an extent, addicted to social media. We no longer simply live through ourselves but rather through our social media accounts. In some ways they perpetuate an image of you as a person more than you yourself do; think about it, you wouldn’t post an Instagram in sweat pants even though that is what you live in 300 days of the year.
A few weeks ago I began feeling nauseated by my own behaviour. The instinctive reach for the phone as soon as a situation was uncomfortable or I was alone for 30 seconds. Really, I couldn’t simply exist for 30 seconds? I was struck by the thought that I was missing out on my own life since I was more focused on documenting it than living it. This is essentially what led me to a self-implemented social media detox.
No social media for a week, how hard could it be?
Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and YouTube were erased from my phone. I was still allowed to text and receive calls – a social media detox does not need to imply social isolation.
The habits were the hardest to break: the automated response to scroll through Instagram or click on the Snapchat icon as soon as I unlocked my phone.
I became more focused. I didn’t have likes on a new photo to obsessively worry about. My mind didn’t wander to looking up my crush on Facebook or to check what my friends back home were up to. I, for the first time in a long time, could focus on what was in front of me or around me or even above me: oh, look a blue sky!
I stopped comparing myself to perfect – and highly edited – ideals of beauty. I looked at normal people on the street and realised that hey, I’m just normal too. Surprisingly I began going to the gym more, I had so much time on my hands and felt free to the point where I actually wanted to go to the gym.
Procrastination was greatly diminished. There are only so many times you can clean your room – it is now sparkling thanks to this detox – leading you to get things done.
I actually listened to my friends. I have always considered myself a good listener but let’s face it, scrolling through Twitter while your friend is telling you a story is not truly listening. It now drives me crazy whenever someone picks up their phone at dinner, let’s just put them away and actually focus on each other. Make eye contact, laugh together and listen to your friend’s busy day rather than look at your new Instagram followers photos from 2014.
I only detoxed for a week, a manageable amount of time. It is probably the best thing I have done for myself ever, bold statement I know. I have become aware of my social media use and how it is unhealthy. I want to be present where I am whether that be a rainy day with the family or the beach with friends. I no longer feel an incessant need to pick up my phone as soon as I have time for a breather. I can now focus on myself and people I genuinely care about – it is truly life changing.
I dare you to try it, it’s only a week after all.