On July 3rd, I decided I was taking a break from social media. I deleted Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat from my iPhone, iPad and removed any links to them in my browser (I didn’t delete my profiles). A full month seemed like a good amount of time to detox from all of these and see what would change in my life without them.
The first couple of days I was certainly fidgety, kept looking down at my phone and not knowing what to do with it. Call people? Nah… I decided I was going to replace a lot of the screen time I had with reading books.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not a book reader. I haven’t read a fiction book since required reading my senior year of high school, 90% of the books I own are related to computer science. Normally it takes me a couple of months to read through the smallest of books, just reading a few pages here and there, then eventually being distracted. I’ve always struggled with focusing while reading, my mind would drift off very easily to the point where I thought I had ADD (My therapist assures me I don’t) or I would have the constant urge to check my phone and see what’s going on in the world. With my phone basically striped of it’s main purposes for me, I set out and bought my first fiction book, “The Martian” by Andy Weir. I figured it was a good starting point since the movie was coming out and everyone I had talked to said it was an easy read. For the first time in probably almost 20 years I found myself actually being immersed in a book where imagery was being created as I read over each word and the reading of another chapter didn’t feel like a chore. In the last 30 days I’ve read 5 books and finishing up a 6th.
- “The Martian“
- “10% Happier“
- “Ready Player One“
- “Gone Girl“
- Pines (Wayward Pines #1)
- “The Goldfinch” (still reading)
This was easily the most amount of reading I’ve ever done in such a short time span. For the first time in my life , I got to be one of those people who said “The book was better”, after reading “Gone Girl”. It’s been a great detox from being in front of a computer screen all day (these were all paperback books). Could I have done all this without going through the whole social media blackout and a little bit of self discipline? Probably, but with the temptation completely removed it made it a lot more easy to immerse myself in a book and not have any thoughts in the back of my mind.
Another big change I noticed in my life was that I was completely disconnected from the news of the world. I hardly ever watch the news on TV and only occasionally check the headlines on cnn.com. I was days late on major news stories, and I’m sure I’m still very out of the loop on others. With twitter we’re so used to finding out things as they happen, often getting a distorted truth of something as it unfolds. I realized how much I depended on it for just knowing what was going on in the world and in my industry. I still got emails for links that were shared at least 5 times in my timeline thanks to my friend Will McCutchen’s Thresholder bot but that was all I heard from twitter in the past 30 days.
Without the constant need to check my phone I also found myself being more “in the moment”. Going to a museum and truly enjoying the art instead of worrying about taking a photo of it and sharing it via Instagram or a Snapchat story. Even just going from point A to point B forced me to be more in the moment since I wasn’t reading something on my phone. Being out with friends and not thinking about taking a photo and sharing it with the world but actually spending time with the people around me was refreshing. At work I felt more focused without checking social media in-between tasks. It wasn’t until I removed all the apps did I realize how often I was on them while doing other things. I couldn’t watch a TV show without taking out my phone to check something. Waiting for an elevator and riding in one suddenly felt like a chore without reading through my twitter stream (don’t worry I still just faced forward and refused to acknowledge anyone else in the elevator).
If I wanted to know what was going on in my friends lives over the last 30 days I actually had to talk to them instead of seeing a tweet/status/photo. At my 10 year HS reunion a couple of years ago, it was amazing how much I felt like I could just pick up a convo with so many people I hadn’t seen in years, just because I had been keeping up with all their posts on Facebook. Who knows how many engagements and babies I’ve missed out on in the last 30 days.
Going forward I’m definitely not going to go back to checking social media the same amount as I did before. Waking up in the morning and reading through all the posts from last night before even getting out of bed. I’ll probably limit myself to checking apps a couple of times a day and not be so concerned with missing out on any posts in my streams. Now I need to finish editing this post and go share it on social media, otherwise, no one would ever see this.