Last week, in a moment of madness, I decided I would spend three days in a social media free zone. An easy task for some, a challenge for me. I thought I would reflect on the experience, sharing my honest thoughts on the digital detox and how I feel about being back online.
Day 1 of being cold turkey. It was the Bank Holiday weekend here in the UK and I had made plans with friends and family to keep me busy. I would usually wake up and check Instagram, followed by Facebook and Twitter, but this particular morning was different. Instead, I woke up and avoided my phone. I allowed myself to watch Television and YouTube, all other social media apps were banned, so I caught up with the Real Housewives and drank tea.
So far, so good.
I spent my afternoon visiting family before heading off to Bristol to spend the rest of the weekend with friends. This was the challenge – hanging out with one of my best friends who always has her phone in her hand. After refusing to join me in the no social media rule, I found not having my phone in sight would work best. Out of sight, out of mind. We watched the Britain’s Got Talent final, ate Fajitas and drank prosecco and cocktails – the perfect Saturday night in.
I wasn’t even tempted to pick my phone up. Maybe this social media detox wouldn’t be so difficult after all…
I usually sleep with my phone next to my bed, but this time I left it on the other side of the room on Do Not Disturb mode. As I drunk my tea quite happily, phone-free, I caught Sarah scrolling and I had a sudden pang of FOMO.
What was happening on Facebook? Did they post any photos of the wedding? Did my client reach 6k followers on Twitter?
With so many people sharing their lives on social media, it’s easy to get caught up in it all. Thinking that by not posting a picture of your day, means that you did nothing. Or what you did wasn’t good enough to share. Crazy, huh? Until I spent time offline, I hadn’t thought about my online self as a different person. A digital version of my life that is filtered on occasion to create a better ‘theme’.
I told my brain to concentrate on the moment. To focus on drinking my tea and making conversation with my friends who I hadn’t spent time with for ages. I felt more eager to get dressed and leave the house, whereas usually I’d be quite happy sat there in my PJ’s reading how people are spending their Sunday, as opposed to being interested in how I was spending my Sunday.
I didn’t think twice about Snapchatting our sushi or shopping, instead I enjoyed being in the moment without having to capture the moment.
Two days down, I could see light at the end of the tunnel. An Instagram-worthy brunch couldn’t even tempt me to turn to the dark side! Maybe dark side is a little extreme, but it helped me to focus on the end goal. Even a trip to HomeSense didn’t sway me. I allowed myself to use WordPress to upload a blog post in the evening, and any posts on social media were automatic as opposed to me physically using the apps.
Honestly? I didn’t miss it as much as I thought I would.
If it wasn’t for my job being social media, I think I could have spent a lot longer offline. Even as I type this, I feel guilty for being on my laptop this late in the evening. So much time is wasted scrolling and longing for ‘likes’ and ‘followers’, it’s easy to forget that social media isn’t reality. It’s a version of reality that makes us feel better or worse about something in our life. The power of social media is how you spend your time using it.
You could spend a day and gain nothing, or spend half an hour making a difference.
For the month of June, I’m challenging myself to spend no more than 90 minutes each day on social media (outside of work). This may not seem particularly difficult, but you’ll be surprised how quickly time flies… and how many YouTube videos you can find yourself watching!
All in all, I’m proud of myself. As a self-confessed social media addict, hopefully I’ve proved that it can be done. And there is life offline – and trust me, it’s even better than the digital version.