30 Days ago I created a Social Media folder entitled “NO!” (imaginative, right?) on my phone and went through the painstaking task of turning off all notification settings (which was actually waaay more complicated than it sounds) for the following apps: Facebook, Facebook messenger, Twitter, Tumblr, Whatsapp and Instagram. 30 days later, I’m pleased to say that I am still alive and breathing and that NOTHING BAD HAPPENED.
Here’s a quick overview of my thoughts on it (if you want more details you can go back and read my various blog posts over the month) and why I think everyone should give it a go.
I’m not going to lie, there was a sense of WHAT AM I DOING?! the evening before I turned everything off. I remember it quite well. I’d worked until 10pm and there was a thought of “right I have 2 hours to do everything I want to do until it must go off”. And at midnight, it did. My favourite parting message sent a few moments before ‘the big switch off’ (oooh, it’s like Christmas lights) is below:
I quickly learnt (as in within the first hour of being awake) that distraction was going to be the main tool in getting me through the first few days. And it was, whether that was work or excessive house cleaning it was really all I had. I’d pick up my phone and it simply had nothing to offer me (or so I thought). I also spent the first few days with an unusual interest in listening to the radio, which is not usually my thing unless on a car journey. I think there was a need to break a habit, and the habit was, to fill every second doing ‘something’. Even if that something was scrolling, or checking or refreshing a feed. After a few days, the interest in radio went, and perhaps that was when I realised that it was OK to eat breakfast and not do something else at the same time.
A great distraction tool has been this blog. I have kept a blog for a while now but you’ll notice its use has been few and far between over the years. Infact I’ve posted more this March than I did in 2013, 2014 and 2016 (2015 must have been a good blogging year for me!). Even better is that I’m reasonably happy with the content. Blogging is something I’d love to continue and I hope you stick around once this is over to see what happens next. I’ve never been so productive in writing and writing is something I really enjoy.
Spend some time with just yourself and your thoughts and nothing to do. How else will you learn who you are?
Lauren Graham “Talking As Fast As I Can”
Moving on from the first week and things shifted quite quickly. I posted that I wasn’t sure how long it takes to break a habit ( I can’t find the post now, but it’s there somewhere), but I think the habit of checking and scrolling was probably completely broken by the end of the first week. However that didn’t stop for the next 2 weeks there being times when I thought “I’d share this on social media”, whether it was a funny thought, or going to see a film. But the feeling quickly passed and I just moved on with my day. As I’ve said elsewhere, the stuff that I really wanted to share I’ve shared with the ‘right’ people and because I’m telling just that one person, I’m getting a better response.
After 3 weeks I ‘re-joined’ some of the fringes of my Social Media – Instagram, Tumblr, Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger. These apps aren’t a big time zap for me, the former 2 I rarely opened prior to the social media break and the latter 2 are literally messaging services. Plus, they’ll undoubtedly help my phone bill (cos you know, you have to pay extra for photo messages, and sometimes you need photos to explain your point thoroughly). You can say that’s cheating if you like, but as I said at the beginning of the process this wasn’t about keeping to rules, for me it was about changing a habit that I wasn’t sure I liked and having proven to myself I could do it I was content to return to these apps.
There’s a lot of thought that social media has a negative impact on our lives. That we compare ourselves through the snippets we see from others highlights on social media feeds. I’d love to round up this post by saying that this experience has changed me and made me realise how much I was comparing myself to others and now I’m much more self-confident as a result. The reality of it is, that I never have found that as a problem with social media for myself personally. I’m fairly content with what I’m doing and it’s nice to see when other people are doing well. And we all know that social media shows us only what they want to share, and not all the everyday stuff in between that we all have. The reality for me is that I can see that I don’t need social media, I’m opting to have it. And when I return tomorrow it’ll be with a few changed settings to try and stop myself from being drawn back in to it in quite the same way. It’ll be with a smaller amount of people I’m following on Twitter, because I’ve accumulated so many people over the years.
I suppose one thing I thought of yesterday was “What’s it going to be like to go back?” “Did anyone notice I was gone?” But I quickly talked myself out of that mindset and realised that it doesn’t really matter if they did or they didn’t, because those that mattered stayed in touch anyway. I’m just trying not to get a serious case of ‘notification angst’ over that little red number that will pop up when I first sign in. Because things like that shouldn’t matter. I’d rather appear on Facebook and Twitter to 2 notifications that mean something (like someone actually wrote a nice messge on my wall) that 2000 notifications of someone who’s uploaded a photo that I don’t really care about (no offence, I’m sure your photos are great).
I’d encourage anyone to do a social media detox, even if it’s just for a weekend to see just how much time your spending on the sites. I understand there’s apps that can limit your time on them too (I might give those a go) if you think you’re over doing it. But all in all, I will see you all tomorrow behind my little profile picture. Thank you to those that have stayed in touch, this could have been a very different challenge if you’d all abandoned me. Thank you for reading this blog and for the emails, letters, texts they all mean the world to me! #soppy (gotta get my # practice in again)
See you tomorrow!