Most of us are addicted without realising it.
We scroll through Instagram and double tap on pictures we secretly envy, or read a detailed personal account on Facebook thinking we’re learning something.
I acknowledge that social media can be a great tool either for learning or networking.
But might it be too much?
I questioned myself this ever since the start of the year when I realised that I kept procrastinating work in favour of looking through other people’s more interesting lives.
And it’s not like I follow celebrities who have nothing intelligent to say.
I follow real influencers putting out real value to the world.
They put out creative infographics and thoughtful captions about how being vegan reduces impact on climate change or how saying no to fast fashion helps the underpaid workers.
I thought I was learning.
I justified my social media time as gathering inspiration for work or “building engagement”.
Excuses Upon Excuses…
You see, having worked at a digital marketing agency and making it my business to be an active presence online, social media has become a significant part of my life.
I’d need to observe and keep up with trends to understand an audience so that I could add value to my copywriting work. I’d need to see how other brands are doing their posts so that I could learn a thing or two and apply to my client’s social media marketing.
And because I’m also my own brand, I’d need to be present online so that people may know of my services.
If I don’t post regularly, my message will be drowned out.
If I don’t show up, potential clients wouldn’t trust me.
And if I don’t comment or send a message, it’s difficult to build a relationship online.
This has become a source of anxiety.
Social media was controlling my mind rather than me controlling it.
OFFLINE48: Screenless On Weekends
The idea of digital detoxing isn’t brand new, but it’s not very old either as this digital era has only materialized in the past decade.
But it has been an issue that has compelled many people to take the initiative to sever their addiction.
I was inspired most of all by Venetia and Max La Manna to start this digital detox journey. They switch off their phones every weekend from Friday night to Monday morning. Hence, Offline48.
During this pandemic however, they have allowed their phones to be switched on but only for calls and messages to keep in touch with family and friends.
Because the lockdown prevented me to go out and therefore depend less on my phone, I thought I’d give it a shot.
Instead of 48 hours, I decided to start slightly smaller.
My No Social Media Sunday
I’ve utilised this downtime feature on my iPhone to set times when I’m allowed to enter an app.
When it’s restricted, the app dims and when I tap onto it, it shows a message that I’ve used up all my time on this app.
I could choose to ignore it for 15 minutes or a day.
But oftentimes, the dimness of the app would already remind me that I’m taking this seriously.
So I set my downtime to be the whole day on Sunday, making sure that the social media apps are essentially switched off for 24 hours.
I’d only allow calls and messages so WhatsApp would still be available.
This is to ease me into this whole digital detox thing.
What I Feel After The Social Media Detox
I remember the first few weeks of not going on social media at all for a full day felt so refreshing!
I felt pumped on Monday, ready to take on my to-do list.
Clarity of mind. Realignment of plans. Rejuvenation of thoughts.
This is the effect I got from not having so much information bombarded into my head.
Our minds are capable of only so much input that when we take in too much, we go into overdrive.
In other words, we get stressed and anxious and not able to do even the activities we once enjoyed doing.
We need to take control of what we consume so that we can keep our minds healthy.
And now I’m keen on diving a little deeper…
Next Challenge: DOPAMINE DETOX
I’m pretty sure we’ve all heard of this phrase at some point in time.
But I took it seriously when I came across Andrew Kirby the self-proclaimed Time Theorist.
YouTube suggested me his video around the same time I started my Sunday Detox. They might have been listening to me or taking note of my search words. Regardless, I’m grateful.
I watched his whole Dopamine Detox series and find so much value in them.
The 3 Stages Of Dopamine Detox
BEGINNER — where you switch off screens or overly stimulating activities so no phone, no computer, no gaming, no porn/masturbation, no drugs, no stimulating food.
INTERMEDIATE — adding on from the beginner stage, you’d also avoid coffee/tea, talking with people, reading books and music.
TIME THEORIST — in addition to the above, you’d also avoid eating, journaling, walking and exercising. Essentially, you’re just with your mind for a day, kind of like the 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat.
The idea of becoming a time theorist is to have full control of your time and actions instead of the other way around.
It’s being mindful of what you do.
Ring a bell?
The reason I resonate so much with this is that it relates so much to the concept of Minimalism or Conscious Consumption.
In other words, being intentional with our resources.
Andrew Kirby is also an advocate of Stoicism, which is:
“…accepting the moment as it presents itself, by not allowing oneself to be controlled by the desire for pleasure or fear of pain, by using one’s mind to understand the world and to do one’s part in nature’s plan, and by working together and treating others fairly and justly.”
It seems that I’m on this path without really thinking about it.
I’ve trained myself to “be in the moment” and to live one day at a time. However, I think I’m still somewhat controlled by the desire for pleasure. This is why I’m not fully on board with Stoicism because I still acknowledge my nature of wanting gratification — instant or otherwise.
And as a society, we certainly need to do a lot more work in terms of “treating others fairly and justly”.
That’s why I advocate for small changes that would make a huge impact.
How Can You Start?
Everyone’s path is different so I’m by no means giving you a definite answer. However, what I can give is a guideline on what may work for you.
If you’re keen on doing the 24-hour social media detox as I have, here’s how you can start:
- Ask yourself whyIs it to cut your social media addiction? Is it to have better control of your time and be productive? Whatever it is, have a clear reason that will guide you on this journey especially when it gets tough.
- Decide a day of the week that you can commit for the next four weeksI believe in the long-term game. If you don’t do this regularly, it won’t work. For me, I find Sunday to be the best day as I wouldn’t expect client queries and the energy overall is always chill. The point is to commit to a day each week and be consistent.
- Block or delete your distracting appsWhat has worked for me is setting the downtime for most of my apps. Some people would delete the app or move the app in a folder on the third page so that it’s not too obvious. The point is to prevent you from going on the app. Do what works for you.
- Fill your day with plansHow do you fill your time that would otherwise be spent on scrolling? You decide. This is a good time to start on that book you’ve been thinking about, practice your guitar or even go on a hike. And if you choose to relax at home, I’d recommend reading a book, journaling or meditating. The point is to have something else to do whenever you feel the itch to go on social media.
Remember, slow down and take one step at a time.