I realised today that I hardly post anymore, and I don’t really go on social media either. The thought popped into my head while I was washing dishes, and until it floated to the surface, I hadn’t realised how far I’d gone down the detox track or how much I didn’t miss it. In fact, I felt much better and calmer without it.
I’ve always been very aware of how social media tugs on my energy levels, how it stunts my writing and affects how much I read. For me, social media gives us instant connection to people and information but at a price - living with a gnawing feeling or a need to touch our phones every 20 minutes to check if there’s a lovely notification flashing its little dopamine dance.
It’s far too easy to swipe open our phones and access our very own Pandora’s box. And every time I do that, I lose track of what I’m doing and feel like my concentration is dependent on whether my phone flashes or not. To bring it home, this is a typical social media experience I and a lot of us have –
We scroll aimlessly for 20 minutes while watching TV, in bed or on public transport. We might genuinely enjoy 1/15 things we see. Every time we get to the 15th video of a dancing animal, our dopamine hit starts to fade and we try to search for that one thing that we truly enjoy. And hey presto we’ve found a funny meme, so we get a top up which keep us scrolling for another 10 minutes – 30 minutes later and we look like rabbits stuck in our smartphone headlights.
If you think I’m exaggerating, look up from your own headlights when you next take public transport and don’t use or touch your phone for the entire journey. You’ll notice how you feel a little exposed but also freer, how much other people are using their phones and how little they are connecting to their surroundings. You’ll also feel that old timey feeling – boredom.
Bore me baby
Boredom is something we all try to avoid and is becoming a distant habit for our tech addled brains. But we should never forget the importance of boredom and how it helps some of our greatest ideas happen. Boredom basically helps your brain to breathe and dance about a bit, it gives your thoughts space to take shape because you are letting your brain think and breathe with zero dopamine. When you give your mind time and let go, some pretty interesting thoughts bubble up. It’s why a lot of experts say to listen to the thoughts you have right before going to sleep, you’re letting go so those caged thoughts get to run free.
I wrote an article a few months ago about the importance of spending time alone, a habit I learnt living in France. The point isn’t to become a self-reliant people avoider but to be comfortable with yourself and with boredom because it makes you calmer, helps you see who you are and gives you time to develop ideas.
The last drag
And so like many others, I’ve started to gradually use social media less without necessarily giving it up entirely. It wasn’t even an active ‘I’m going to do a tech detox’ thing. I just noticed how my mood and energy would change if I was on my phone too much. I also realised I was taking photos for Instagram and getting seriously bothered about how many likes I received.
So, I started to use it less just for those reasons. It felt a bit weird at first. I’d see Instagram perfect shots, take a picture and actively not put it on my account, or I’d put my phone in another room so I didn’t passive scroll while watching a film. And after a few weeks I just forgot to post, scroll through my feeds or even think about it as a digital detox. I started being active in the moment instead of thinking about showing other people my experience.
And I’m not the only one trying to find a healthier balance with social media. So many of my friends are either taking time out or logging out completely and ‘Tech detox’ articles are flooding the internet. It’s ironic really, the social media generation plugging out of the system. Or maybe it makes sense, the first in and the first out.
Flying the flag
Moving away from social media in 2018 wasn’t a coincidence. For me 2018 was the year of finding a healthier balance with things I liked but that weren’t good for me. The most drastic was finding out that I had a list of dietary no-nos and needed to give up gluten and coffee.
For anyone who knows me well, they will get how hard it was for me to even consider existence without the two. I felt like drinking very good coffee and not being a fussy eater defined who I was – my twitter description even has coffee in it and my favourite tote has the emblazoned ‘Coffee is everything’. It’s a bag I still wear but has become a ridiculously ironic slogan, because I couldn’t feel less connected to a phrase that used to define my mentality.
And I honestly don’t miss them in the slightest (except when I’m near naan bread, my personal kryptonite). The reason I don’t miss them is simple - I feel better without them. I was shocked how easy it was to give them up and how much I clung to them before like an identity anchor.
Giving those two things up acted as a catalyst for ticking things off my self-improvement list that I should’ve dealt with a long time ago. It might be because I’m soon hitting the 30 mark, but it feels like I’m shedding parts of the old and rehashing something new - a herbal tea drinking, social media light, gluten free and proud 2019 dancing queen.