Why I have gave up social media for a week
Last week I gave up Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp for 7 days. There is loads of evidence out there for why and how phones and social media are hurting us and pretty much everyone I know wants to cut down their phone usage. We all have our own reasons but here is my own personal motivation (you might notice a theme towards the end):
- Presence. I am not present in the moment when I am looking at my phone. I am checked out. I am looking with longing (or often with numbness) at a stranger’s holiday pictures, or cute dog, or hashtag autumn leaves.
- Work. A lot of my work is done through social media making it difficult to create boundaries between work and play.
- Physically my phone makes me ache. On days when I do a lot of social media posting / planning / batching I get sore thumbs, sore neck, sore shoulders and sore jaw - how telling!
- Wasted time - how often have I picked up my phone for one reason and finally looked up 30 mins later and can’t even remember what I’ve been doing or why.
- Anxiety. I worry my posts aren’t attracting new customers / aren’t informative enough / aren’t as pretty, attractive or glossy as others. My yoga posts don’t look like that yogi in a bikini on top of a mountain at sunrise. I don’t post enough. I post too much and so on.
- Anxiety. When I am somewhere beautiful or see something that blows my mind , I first think - wow look at that. Then I think, I should take a picture to use for my social media feed.
- Anxiety. When no one likes a post I spiral into thinking my business is going to shut down and doubting my own worth.
- Anxiety brought on by guilt for continuing to use my phone even though I can tell it’s messing with my life (see all of the above).
My set of reasons may be different from yours (assuming you also want to change your relationship with your phone) but I’m sure you’ll find one or 2 similarities.
Note: I specifically haven't mentioned sleep here but that's a biggie for many - a few years ago I set limits on my phone so that I couldn't use it between 9.30 and 7am and I generally stick to this. I try not to look at my phone after 8pm. On the days I do look at my phone before bed, I notice a significant difference in my ability to fall asleep and sleep well
Note 2: I haven't mentioned emails here as I actually deleted the email app from my phone a while ago which was a huge relief for me - I now focus on emails at specific times when I'm at my desk. That won't work for everyone but it made a huge difference to me.
You've probably heard that phones and social media are largely regarded as highly addictive. I was amazed how, even without social media apps on the phone, I'd automatically pick it up several times a day,. Without the social media there to follow through I would stand looking at the phone wondering why it was in my hand at all.
I felt less anxious straight away and over the course of the week. I was able to switch off from work completely in a way that I don't normally. I felt I had more time. I didn't miss endless scrolling but I dd miss using it as an easy way to stay in touch with friends.
When I downloaded the apps again I was amazed how quickly I fell back into high usage - one week of cold turkey wasn't actually effective in changing how I used my phone. I immediately picked up the same habits (dare I say I actually binged more than normal).
It became clear that for me the phone isn't the only issue. I don't want to belittle the addictive nature of social media and smart phones, but I also came to realise that my own lack of mindfulness and awareness around my phone usage, is an area I can make positive changes. Actually my phone doesn't need to be a ball and chain - it's a tool and it can serve me.
Why I still love my phone
Life is about balance, so I decided to make a list of the reasons I love my phone and to remind myself why I have it and how it serves me.
- Connecting - my phone makes it easier to stay in touch, to drop in with friends, to share a picture or a memory, or something that makes us smile. . I know group chats are a nightmare sometimes - but they have helped through everything from breastfeeding at 3am, so many parenting queries, organising birthday presents and Christmas nights out, and of course reminding me when it's a non school uniform day.
- Work. Do you remember making posters to advertise your work? Printing and sending booking forms? Photocopying. Distributing. Taking out an advert. Taking bookings and enquiries via snail mail. It's a different world of course, but in general I can do most of this with so much less effort.
- General usefulness - ok so this isn’t social media but the following apps - you just make my life easier. Spotify / music streaming… seriously, taking a stack of CDs to classes… the thought! Maps! Maps you have saved me from being lost time and again. Camera - I use you too much, but I have captured moments and memories that I never would have otherwise. Podcasts & audible - you enlighten and entertain and challenge my thinking.
- My phone is not the enemy.
- Mindful use of phone is the answer for me. And yes I do definitely need to cut down.
Social media is addictive and it's essential (for me) to have a mindful awareness of my relationship with social media and boundaries in place.
My phone highlights areas in my life I need to do some work - creating meaningful boundaries between work and play, and also my own sense of worthiness and deep insecurities. Instead of cutting out the phone, can I also work on these areas?
How to use your phone more mindfully
- Stop and notice. When do you pick up your phone? Is it when you’re bored? When you’re overwhelmed with work? When you’re lonely? Try to notice what happens exactly before you go on social media - are you struggling with something and it’s a way of escaping? Are you avoid an emotion - sadness, anger, frustration. For me personally it's often when I am struggling or bored with a difficult admin task.
Be honest. If you're calling it work, is it actually work or is it just selfies and scrolling?
- How do you feel after you’ve scrolled? Do you feel inspired? Joyful? Or do you feel anxious? Sad?
There is no right or wrong answer - the exercise is all about noticing and honestly looking at YOUR relationships with your phone. If your social media content inspires and fills you with joy, celebrate it! Share that post, interact. But if it leaves you feeling that you're not good enough - question if you should be following that account.
- Be ruthless in choosing the content you consume.
Unfollow any accounts that regularly make you feel anxious or not good enough.
Social media can challenge and bring about change for good. Evaluate any content that challenges or triggers you... does it motivate you to make positive change, learn or have difficult conversations? Or does it just leave you feeling that you're failing, or that things are helpless.
- Take a phone inventory - list all the ways your phone serves you!
Podcast, chats, timer, alarm clock, camera, finding out what’s on, staying in touch with that friend who only communicates by FB messenger, school reminders, fitness apps, booking apps, recipe apps, mindfulness and meditation, audible… go through it all. Some of it you'll want to keep, and some of it is just taking up space.
Which of these serve you - truly bring something in to your life. What can be replaced or deleted? Which can be relocated e.g. emails / recipe apps / buying a watch!
- Set time limits
Taking into account all the ways your phone serves you, how much time realistically do you think you need / want to be on your phone each day. This will vary greatly for everyone - especially for those who use their phone for work. Again there is no right answer!
Use this to set your time limits. I've previously fallen into the trap of setting unrealistic time limits which I failed to stick to. Following this exercise I'm being really specific about time on specific apps, and keeping my evenings and mornings phone free. It's definitely worth carving out phone free time on a daily basis. A quick google search will show you how to set these limits.
There is loads of evidence out there about how screens effect our sleep so do try to avoid your phone an hour before you want to go to sleep and if possible don't have it in your bedroom at all.
- Out of sight, out of mind
I often accidentally on purpose leave my phone in the car or in the studio, in a jacket pocket or even in another room. When it's out of sight I tend to forget about it, and the effort of going to find it is enough to prevent me aimlessly scrolling. Of course this isn't convenient or preferable for everyone but adding a barrier by not having your phone in direct sight or on your person, will automatically help you cut down on usage.
- Take time off
Although a complete 7 day detox didn't solve my problems, it was so lovely to have a break from it, and I'd absolutely do it again. Plan in advance so that people who need to can still contact you. Be specific - is it your phone or a specific app you need a break from. Is it something you could do 1 day a week, or 1 weekend a month? Be realistic and decide what works for you.
- Address what's at the heart of the issue - not just the phone
If you're using your phone to escape certain emotions - can you deal with the emotions instead? If social media makes you question your worth, can you work on that as well rather than just cutting out the social media? Be honest with yourself.
- Be compassionate with yourself
Go easy on yourself. Your phone usage is not something to beat yourself up about. It is not another way you are failing at life. In many ways we are the guinea pigs. We have been given this technology, this convenience, this incredible technology but we are all still struggling to find the balance. It will take time, it will take mindful awareness, and it will take patience. But it will be worth it.
Thanks for reading! If you found anything useful please give it a go, or share with a friend. It's really a very varied and personal topic so don't just take my word for it! Let me know your experience of digital detox / phone use / setting limits! What's worked for you? xxx