I noticed a little over a month ago how much I felt like I was addicted to my phone due to social media. It is something that most of us struggle with but don’t always realise the advantages of taking a little break out to work on. Before the challenge I was noticing that I fell into stress easily and could be a bit snappy around my family, I didn’t immediately blame it on social media but when I would use social media to try and unwind, I knew after a while that it didn’t actually make me feel all that more relaxed and happy. Scrolling is very much a good way to waste a bit of time but I decided it was worth a try to give my social media use a break. I had a read of some articles and blog posts about people who gave up their social media for a month and hearing about the things that they noticed made me really interested. So at the start of June, I set myself some rules for my own four week challenge.
For anyone who is interested in doing one of these challenges, you need to consider how you use these apps or even just your phone in general. I didn’t go about the challenge completely detoxifying myself from social media (which for those of you who decide to, its an amazing thing to try and I commend you), rather I highlighted apps that I spent a lot of my time passively watching/ wasting time on and worked from there. I found that:
- Whilst I use the messenger app as a main way to communicate with friends, I am a serial scroller on Facebook and at all hours of the day/ night.
- Instagram isn’t as bad as Facebook, but my only use of it is again just scrolling through my feed and occasionally liking friends posts, which is very antisocial.
- Snapchat is used for looking at stories, sending out some occasional snapchats to people and tends to be an app that I go on if there isn’t anything interesting on facebook or Youtube.
- Although youtube isn’t a social media, I spend a really long amount of time in the week watching videos/ vlogs and I really wanted to give my brain a break from it as well.
With these observations in mind I completely deleted the instagram and youtube apps (yes youtube isn’t a legit social media app but it was definitely tied with facebook as the most looked at app on my phone. Snapchat I logged out of as I knew it wasn’t going to be a major temptation. Facebook I left on my phone and I made myself the most important rule; that due to work communication being on there, I was allowed to check my notifications once a day and I was allowed to use the messenger app to message other people. There was to be absolutely no scrolling or searching anything. I felt as though four weeks would be a good amount of time to experience what it would be like to really cut down on screen time, and I was very curious to see any differences mentally emotionally and or physically.
Week one was definitely the biggest week of adjustment. I realised how much I would use Facebook and Youtube whenever I was bored or had spare time and that week was definitely about training myself out of the muscle memory of opening up the apps without even thinking. Scrolling really is such a mindless task and although it offers you temporary entertainment, there is also a lot of crap in social feeds which aren’t great to look at day in day out. The first week I started to feel a weird feeling in the fact that I wasn’t partaking in such a normal aspect of my routine where I would check apps in the morning of afternoon then go and do any activities or errands, finishing with another scrolling session. Even though I expected to feel these big symptoms of withdrawal, they never really came up, it was more about reminding myself not to accidentally click on those apps or type in youtube on google to have a look at the latest videos in my feed.
Unlike week one, week two was when the novelty of the challenge was wearing off. I definitely started to miss scrolling and watching stuff online. I found that I tended to make up for not having those things by watching a lot more tv and listening to a lot of music. I think I became much more creative with how I was spending my time. I definitely was more organised with tasks I had to do for the day like scheduling pilates classes that I wanted to go to or working out my uni timetable for next semester were things that I thought much more clearly about and was more productive doing. Something I really enjoyed was how much more dedicated to reading I became to keep me occupied, particularly at night. I was always guilty of checking facebook or instagram at night just before I went to bed if I wasn’t feeling very tired and was a little bored. By using reading as that late night activity I not only ended up finishing a book, I felt a lot more satisfied after each reading. It’s one of those things that centres you and keeps you focused as opposed to phone overload which can leave your brain a bit fried and overwhelmed. I found that I started to feel much more relaxed at night and was able to fall asleep better as I wasn’t exposing my eyes to a bright screen right before bed as well as a big amount of information.
The third week was probably the best week as mentally and emotionally I felt really clear. I hate to say it but not being on social media and even youtube where you are following vloggers or people doing really interesting things, you feel so much less paranoid and insecure about what you do. This is on all the news stories about how social media lowers self esteem but it’s genuinely true and not having that constant reminder of what other people are doing makes you much more calmer and happy to focus on your own stuff. For example I found myself brainstorming heaps of ideas about future blog posts and what I wanted to write about, which usually doesn’t happen as easily, but having a bit of time to really be doing nothing makes your brain want to come up with ideas and create things. I will also have to admit that this week was when I cheated a little and watched a youtube video with my family. They hadn’t seen James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke with Adele and I wanted to show them the video of the two singing in Corden’s car. Although I didn’t mean to mess up the challenge, at the time I made the excuse with myself that I was sharing something with my family and that it was a very social use of youtube, which is never usually the case in how I use it. Regardless, after my cheating incident I tried a lot harder to make sure that I didn’t slip up again as I still really wanted to finish up the challenge and see how I did.
Week four was similar to week three in that I often felt kind of relieved that I was having a break from social media and definitely made more of an effort to organise catch ups with friends. Although I did check notifications on facebook for work I never felt like I wanted to go scrolling for a really long time or facebook stalk, as I might have wanted to before this challenge. Watching tv shows in the lounge room as opposed to online was a great opportunity to spend a lot more time with my family. I definitely talked to them much more and was never multitasking by looking at something on my phone whilst carrying out a conversation, a habit that I would take up a lot now that I think about it.
I was really happy that I gave myself this challenge because I could definitely feel the benefits. I was more relaxed, had a clearer mind and was able to focus on what I was doing instead of what people that I’m not that close to were doing on social media. After the four weeks were up I didn’t really enter back into my old ways as much as I thought I would. There is a little bit of facebook scrolling but not nearly as much as there was and I have continued to keep the youtube app deleted off my phone as it stops me from falling down the random video rabbit holes. Instagram I never really used that much anyways so I have remained logged out of it (logging back in every now and then to see what’s going on) and snapchat I look only at one or two things that I follow and that’s about every couple of days.
Overall, this challenge taught me how much my own happiness and sense of self can really be brought down by social media and that you don’t need to know what every single person is currently doing or did over the weekend. I was more relaxed, more social and more aware of my surroundings and the people in them. Something I decided to do on facebook was unfollow certain people who I hadn’t spoken to in a while and didn’t really feel like I wanted to follow, just as I wasn’t interested in keeping up with them. This was great because it took away the frequent posters and makes facebook not that entertaining to scroll through really. For anyone who is curious to see how they would go with this challenge, I say please do it! Set yourself mini goals and don’t feel worried that you won’t be able to communicate with anyone anymore.
Even if you go one week and let everyone know that you won’t be posting on instagram for a while, you’ll notice that you feel and think differently. Sometimes we all need to do a bit of that 🙂