On surviving a social media detox

Issues surrounding social media have never been more of a talking point than they are right now. Very recently, Instagram have implemented features to help regulate how much time people spend on their app, the new IOS update can help to regulate your screen time and the (questionably) ever philosophical Kanye West announced his opinion about hiding the number of likes a photo may have (not sure how Kim and co would feel about that).

I don’t consider myself to have a particularly unhealthy relationship with any social media platform. I know my limits, I know not to go looking for content that may affect me negatively and I’m usually pretty accepting of when a post doesn’t do as well as I first expected. However, after a couple of bad mental health days I had been thinking about doing a detox for a while, just to allow myself time when I was alone to finally prioritise some self-care.

Perhaps this week I was cheating however, as the week I planned to do it was a pretty busy week including a couple of days at the shop and a shoot for a tv show (I can’t disclose which one, but it’s where celebrities go on dates, so interpret that as you will). But I agreed to 5 days social media free- bar the exception of a few things: emails, WhatsApp and iMessage.

Although I use social media for a few work-related things (which became very apparent to me) these three were all essential for my line of work. If I couldn’t work I would definitely go mad.

Two weeks later, I began my detox and decided to keep a diary of every time I felt tempted to venture into the online world…

Monday

Morning: Woke up initially at 7am when my boyfriend got up for work. Cleared my phone of notifications from the night before to keep it fresh for the week ahead. Fell back asleep for a bit.
At 9am, woke up to a voice message about arranging travel for the shoot the following day. Called back in an effort to reduce screen time. Booked trains via an app. I’ve pretty much dedicated the day ahead to admin stuff, so initially think avoiding relief in memes may be difficult. Receive a Facebook message from a mate in a crisis so tell him to text me instead. Probably doesn’t change anything apart from my activity status, but a crisis is a crisis and he can’t call as he’s at work.
I Ignore my Headspace notification to go and get my nails done. Catch myself about to open Instagram as I’m sat there but my technician shouts as me telling me I’ll smudge them and is my saving grace.

Afternoon: Go food shopping to keep myself busy. I shop at Aldi so any time spent queuing is spent mentally preparing to get my shopping in my bag as quick as possible — if I’m queuing anywhere else I am definitely going to be scrolling. After this, I take a quick break for lunch, answer some texts and catch myself about to open twitter. Distract myself with invoices, all very exciting. I ignore a snapchat notification because I never use it anymore anyway.
Get an email about a business opportunity and resist opening a sudden influx of Instagram notifications. Realise they’re from people from said business opportunity so politely follow back from my browser so I’m less likely to scroll.
Finally catch up with Headspace and then make time to read a book for half an hour.

“At this point I’m actually not missing my phone at all but my boyfriend does offer to stockpile me memes to review at the end of each day. “

Evening: Catch up with my boyfriend who’s just got home from work. I have to take a call about the shoot as we cook dinner but after that I leave my phone in the bedroom and we watch some Always Sunny. At this point I’m actually not missing my phone at all but he does offer to stockpile me memes to review at the end of each day.  We hit the gym and where I would usually flick through some Insta stories in between sets I notice I’m actually much more productive when that’s not an option. Afterwards, I pack for the following day and get ready for bed (I’d usually spend some time checking Instagram, Twitter and Facebook here, but the book I read earlier noted that screens before bed was bad for your sleep. Still had bad sleep. Is this withdrawal?)

 

Tuesday

I wake up and ignore my notifications as I have too much of a busy morning ahead. Get my train at 8am. I’d usually spend an entire train journey online if I had no work to do but I’d brought a book with me this time. Did spend some time on the news app catching up on some fashion week stuff. When we get to London we spend more time than it should have taken us trying to find burgundy socks, then head to the shoot location.

“Afternoon: a super busy shoot with a ‘no phones on set’ rule (ignored by pretty much everyone taking selfies with someone from this year’s Love Island).”

Evening: I crash on my hotel bed exhausted. I’m tempted to scroll as I unwind but remind myself about what I read. I’m not sure if it’s down to this, or being absolutely ruined by the shoot but I actually manage to sleep.

 

Wednesday

Morning of PR meetings and brand showcases — or so we thought. London traffic is terrible so what was meant to be a 20 minute journey turned into two hours. At this point I nearly break but I distract myself by asking the taxi driver about every single task. I ignore Headspace for the third time this week even though I probably shouldn’t have as I was stressed as hell.

“I have noticed I am spending a lot of time on the news app. Obviously I need something to fulfil my clickbait needs.”

Evening: I realise that I don’t struggle in the evenings at all. I unload details of the shoot to my boyfriend whilst we make dinner and then later take a bath and read a magazine. Struggle to sleep again so maybe it is a withdrawal…

 

Thursday

I wake up early and have loads of time in the morning before work. Usually I’d spend my mornings in the gym but it’s closed so I do a home workout. I end up being ready for work really early so I do get a bit twitchy and bored and instead try and do some writing. At this point I also have a fair few unanswered Facebook and Instagram messages which I’m a little anxious about as I hardly ever make people wait for an answer.

Afternoon: I’m working in the shop 12-4 so it’s pretty easy to ignore my phone.

Evening: I had an old photo reposted by a brand on Instagram, so thought it was only polite to acknowledge it but as soon as I have done, I manage to click straight off.

 

Friday

Morning: decide to try one of the other gyms in town but they all seem to be closed for refurb. This leaves me with loads of time in the morning and I must admit at this point I really do need something to do to keep my brain working. I finally have time to catch up on Headspace however, so I do this and then check out some of a fashion podcast. I also head to work a little early to browse round a few shops beforehand because I need visuals at this point.

Afternoon: same as yesterday, wild.

Evening: cook up a little feast with my boyfriend and watch the football with him. Think about how I’ve made it and being able to Instagram my new Yeezy’s when I pick them up tomorrow. Finally manage to get a decent night’s sleep in.

 

So what did I notice?

During my short stint offline, two major things occurred to me.The first was that I had learned to appreciate my own time, and in turn, others’ time.

I will admit that I am one of those people who will reply to people straight away, and I do often find that in doing so, I end up committing to things I don’t really have time for, or prioritising someone when I really should be looking after myself. Not being able to do this made me realise how much I actually value my own time, as I know people wouldn’t be able to see when I was last online, and then I wouldn’t have to feel guilty worrying about whether they thought I was ignoring them. This does however, work both ways, and I think I’ve come away from the week with the appreciation that, no matter if someone’s activity status is being shown or not, you are not entitled to someone’s immediate response.

The second thing was, whenever I told someone that I was taking a break from social media, their automatic reaction was ‘oh my god, are you okay?’ Everyone assumed that because I was doing it, there was something wrong, or that something on a social channel had caused me to do it.

But taking a break was actually surprisingly easy (although I’ll admit, that may be because I had a busy week).

Now, whilst I do appreciate that a lot of people do take a break for this reason, I think it’s really interesting that social media is so engrained in our day to day lives that people are shocked when you decide to give it up. Saying this however, when I re-entered the online world I was much more aware of things (and people) that were impacting me negatively, and I did have a little mute/unfollow spree.

I’d recommend a little detox to anyone and I do believe it helps create a much healthier relationship with both ourselves and the online world. I think it’s so easy to either get caught up in comparisons with other people’s lives, or twisted ideas of self-importance in your own. Giving up the ‘gram for even a short amount of time does definitely allow you to concentrate on yourself a little more.

“Realistically, no-one’s missing out on you posting your roast dinner, and you’re not missing out on seeing theirs either. If you need time for yourself, take it.”

 

Words by Georgie Gilbert. Illustration by Holly Eliza Temple.

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