Lately, I have had a lot of ample time on my hands. I am working on my thesis for my masters but other than that I don’t at the moment have many responsibilities. Sometimes it drives me a bit crazy. I like to be busy and driven but it is hard when you are cooped up inside all day researching or procrastinating for this matter. I am a great procrastinator and started to spend a lot of my free time on social media. Especially Instagram. I really like Instagram. I like how it gives me a platform to share one of my passions of photography but also how I can see what my friends are up to through their stories and posts. Nonetheless, it started to consume me. I would spend hours and hours on it just scrolling and consuming pointless content. It also made me a little anxious as I was not being my own productive self. After I watched Yes Theory’s video about a 30-day social media detox and following the TED talk by Dr Cal Newport about quitting social media, I was intrigued. I was curious about what would happen if I did the same. The question was, what would happen within 30 days with no social media. So, I looked at my usage first. Most of my time was spend on Instagram and YouTube. So, I decided to get rid of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube on all my devices. YouTube was fairly hard to remove but I managed. Nonetheless, I decided to keep Facebook messenger and WhatsApp as they are social media tools, but I use them only as communication, not as a timewaster in the sense. Nevertheless, the Facebook messenger has been muted on my phone for a while and I did not change that. So as this is a process, I figured I put down some of my thoughts.
The first 10 days
So over 10 days have passed, and some things have already changed. The first day I deleted everything I felt very empowered. I felt like I was regaining some sort of freedom. Nonetheless, within an hour or so I found myself going on my phone looking for Instagram. It was not there anymore, and it felt strange finding nothing to do on my phone, so I put it away. I started looking for alternative things to do with my free time and it felt weird. The first couple of days and still now I have been much more productive. I wake up and get of bed fairly quickly rather than hanging on my phone for an hour looking through social media. This change especially has been great. I have reduced my screen time on my phone by half and instead of spending an hour on average on Instagram I now spend that time, still on my phone, but learning a new language which has already shown some drastic improvements. I have made huge progress on my thesis and have been overall much more relaxed. I don’t compare myself much anymore or don’t feel like I have to take pictures at random times for my story. It has been empowering to say the least. I am getting shit done while feeling so much better. It has been more positive than inconvenient so far. I will continue this in 10 days to check in. Also, I am wondering what I want to change in the future to not fall back into old patterns.
20 days later
Today, I am 20 days in, and the findings have not much changed in the last 10 days. I went travelling a little the other day and noticed that I took fewer pictures. I felt more in the moment as I did not feel forced to document everything for social media. Also, I had a few friends contact me as they were surprised to see that I have been so “quiet”. They have all been very positive about it and encouraging which is nice. Further, I was thinking the other day what I will do when the 30 days are over. It is a bit of a dilemma. I really like the detachment of it and that I feel so much better about myself, but I also miss seeing what my friends are up to. Due to me over the years living in so many countries, I have friends all over the world. Seeing their posts and stories makes me feel like I can still see what they are up to which now I miss somewhat. Nonetheless, it has also encouraged me to contact some of them to stay in touch actively rather than passively which has been very rewarding. So back to my dilemma. I am not sure yet where to take it from here. If I just go right back to my old usage patterns, I feel like I did not learn anything from this experience but if I completely sever my ties with it, I feel like I will be missing it. Not sure I trust myself being better with controlling it. So, so far, I have come up with a few ideas either always setting a strict time frame when I use it with a timer maybe or just install it when I want to check up on things and then delete it again. Another thing I was thinking about it to see if I can put like a parental control on myself for especially Instagram. Not so sure what I will do or choose yet. This might be even trial and error, but I still have some time to think about it. At the end of this, I want to show myself the changes I have done, reflect on them and find a better solution for the future. Let’s see how that goes on day 30.
30 Days later
To start this off, some numbers and facts I think would be a good beginning. My phone has the option to show me how much I have used my phone daily but also over the last seven days and a lot has changed that is for sure. I used to spend 24% of my time on my phone now I am down to 8%, about an hour and a half a day. Previously that was over five hours a day. That is huge. Weekly that means I now spend 14 hours and used to spend over 40 hours on my phone. I think 14 hours sounds a lot, but 40 hours is just crazy. I could spend it on a full-time job. Now the most used app is my language app and it used to be Instagram. I am surprised by this change. Other things I have realised have also changed. I took way fewer pictures and also I sometimes just forgot my phone at home and it was completely fine. This experience has been so freeing and made me feel so much better. I don’t even know how I will go back to using social media. So far, I have decided to get back Snapchat as I don’t really use it to spend time just to send snaps to one or two people. Instagram, on the other hand, is a different topic. I am not quite sure how to deal with that yet. Tomorrow the 30 days are officially over and I am not as excited about that as I thought. More the opposite, I am a little worried.
Of course, I have still had productive and less productive days. Sometimes I wonder what some of my friends are up to. At the same time, I have also noticed that I just ended up messaging those friends and everyone has been positive about my detox. The question that is left, what will I do next? I am thinking so far to just install Instagram for short periods of time and then remove it again until I want to post something. Even then I think I will set a timer to limit my time on it. Maybe I will use it again and it will have lost its charm not quite sure what will happen. We will see after tomorrow, I guess. Nonetheless, this has been a great experience and when I was bored instead of being on Instagram, I am learning a new language on my phone and making big steps in the right direction with that. Well, let’s see what the future will bring. Even though I have not found an answer yet what to do, I would highly recommend anyone to do this. It was a great learning experience. I feel like it has shown me a lot about my unhealthy usage and how much time I was wasting without even realising. I feel like this reflection is not quite complete as I am still unsure what lies in the future so I think I will keep this for another week to reflect on what happened after the detox is over.
Day one back on social media
So, today I installed Snapchat and Instagram again. I don’t see the need to install Facebook or YouTube. Snapchat, I use to send pictures to a few friends, and I got back on it I had one missed Snap and that was it. I send one or two and have not since touched it. I am not that concerned about it. Instagram is a different story. So, I installed it and logged in. I had one missed direct message, a few comments and likes. At first, I went straight back to old habits and checking the stories, but about two in I got very bored. So, I stopped. I looked at my direct message and the comments and again kind of boring. Then I looked through who I am following. I said I missed seeing what my friends are up to, but I followed over 500 people. These were not all my friends. So, I went through and unfollowed about 300 people and 20 minutes later I put my phone away. I think I was following many people that are either brands, influencer or random people. This did not seem appropriate for the need of wanting to see what my friends are up to and staying in touch, so they had to go. Also, my account is private now and I hope that these are some of the first steps to making me not crave spending hours on Instagram anymore. We will see in a couple of days if anything has changed. So far it is back on my phone and I have not touched it again. Will it stay that way?
A week after the end of the detox
So, it has been a week and I am here to check in one last time. I have used Instagram a few times but because I just follow my friends now, there is not that much content. It is great that way. I used the app for an hour the past week. That is less than I used to use it on a daily occurrence. It has lost its addictiveness for me and I am glad I took a step back. I feel more in the moment and I intentionally post or consume content and that is how it should be. Also, I have realised that I am much happier and more content with my life not constantly comparing myself to the unrealistic standards of social media. I would do the detox again and I am glad I did. I can just recommend anyone who notices themselves wasting time on their phone too, to really look at what the cause is and take some time off. Time away from the screen is so much more precious than in front of it. I actually read that Millennials (my generation) are the ones spending the most time in front of a screen so far. Live is outside of that square so we need to leave it behind and explore more outside of it. I am curious to hear if anyone has ever done something similar before and what you learned. So please leave a comment below and let me know.