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As someone who works in the digital tech, I’m conscious of the effect apps and social media can have on us. It’s been pretty well documented now and lots of news outlets have written about it.
Because of this, I like to think I have a pretty good relationship with my phone and social media. Certainly when I compare myself to friends and colleagues. And I feel I have enough understanding to know what’s happening when I am looking at them. However, I thought it would be a good test of myself to see if I could go without social media for a week. I’m particularly interested to see if my habits are worse than I realise.
I took inspiration from a few articles, but these stood out as fair, balanced accounts:
First, I deleted all my tweets. I didn’t need to do this, but what do I need them for? I thought it would give me a bit of a jolt and get me started. But it was pretty anticlimactic. I don’t miss them and I never spent time scrolling back over my own tweets anyway.
There were some really nice interactions with my peers, so it’s a little disappointing they’re gone. Although, I’m unlikely to look back on those. However, there are a couple of broken threads left, like one-sided conversations.
But, the main thing to do — I’ve deleted the Twitter and Instagram apps from my phone. I’ve also deleted the news app, so I don’t end up mindlessly scrolling through that, either.
It’s been a day without Twitter and Instagram on my phone. There’s been 3 occasions where I’ve grabbed my phone to look at those apps specifically. I’ve had a couple of moments where my chest has felt heavier . Maybe a desperation to see “what’s happening”? But after some thought I realised that I’m not missing anything.
I did stumble onto the Twitter website on my computer. I was trying to see if a celebrity had a website and went to their Twitter instead. I quickly closed it.
I spent 30 minutes of my evening reading my book, which was really relaxing.
Someone sent me a Whatsapp message which was an Instagram link. The temptation to just immediately click it without thinking almost overcame me at first. hat’s not necessarily a bad thing. But once I’m on Instagram, I know I would end up on the Search page, endlessly scrolling. I haven’t clicked it.
Also, I’ve signed up to a load of email newsletters — retro!
I’m definitely feeling more motivated to do other things. Like reading my book yesterday. And writing again — this is the first article I’ve written in some time.
If I ever pick up my phone because I have a message I do find myself straying into the app menu and looking for Instagram. For a split second, I wonder where it is.
When I think of something I want to look up, like another writer or designer, my first instinct is to reach for my phone. I want to see if they’re on Instagram or Twitter — how do they use it? What sort of things do they post? It’s annoying when I catch myself. But it’ll be interesting to see if this happens less over the week.
Now, when I find myself without anything to do, I try to just sit or stand. I don’t find it boring. It’s nice to take in the surroundings and spot things you wouldn’t normally. Things like birds, or the trees, or new buildings and shops.
If I want something else to do, I’ve got a number of articles saved on my phone. These are all links from the different newsletters. It’s nice to read long form, even on my phone, and to feel I’m learning something.
I’ve found I’m noticing how much other people are looking at their phones too.
I’m getting more used to not grabbing my phone to scroll endlessly. I did go for it a couple times, but stopped myself before I even unlocked it. I’ve found it easier to concentrate on long form articles and my book, as well.
Weirdly, I’ve sent more messages to friends on Whatsapp — not sure if that’s related or not. I’ve also noticed that I’m spending less time looking at online shops. Perhaps materiality is linked to Instagram? Perhaps because you’re seeing celebrities and friends with their best things and experiences. Then that makes you jealous, FOMO (fear of missing out), or you just want to do it yourself.
As well as that, I’m developing a love for the email newsletter. I get the day’s news in the morning, which is nice (at the moment) and I don’t feel the need to check the news so much after that. I’m also reading articles on a variety of topics and learning new things because of it.
Again, I’m noticing how much I don’t jump to look at my phone at any quiet moment. When I got home I got going around the house, rather than sitting on the sofa scrolling. Watching TV, I noticed I’m actually focusing on the show, rather than my eyes dropping to my phone. I’m particularly interested to see what happens over the weekend.
I feel, generally, I’m good at keeping off my phone over the weekend already. There’s usually enough chores or things to do to distract me from it. Even though I spent the first half of the day watching TV (I know, I know, but to be fair, it was season 3 of Stranger Things!) and didn’t look at my phone.
In the afternoon, while doing things in the garden I didn’t even have my phone on me. I’d left it upstairs, out of sight. This wasn’t a conscious action to avoid my phone. It was completely natural as I wasn’t even thinking about it.
There were a couple of times, just for a few minutes, where I thought ‘I wish I had something to look at’. It felt like an unnecessary punishment for myself. But I soon turned that around and took the opportunity to do nothing. To not look at my phone at all and just think. It felt good.
When I did need to search things on the fly I did it a lot quicker. Often, in the second it takes to open my phone, I’ve forgot what I want to search and opening Twitter. Now that isn’t the first thing to cross my mind.
It’s definitely easier now. Looking at Instagram and Twitter is no longer the first thing I think of when I hold my phone. And that’s a habit I didn’t realise I had.
Now I feel I’m consuming much better quality content by email newsletters. It’s easier to read emails — I’m not jumping around to different messages like tweets. I can then delete them and move on. If I do ignore the notification and go into my inbox later, I don’t get trapped in endless scrolling. It’s more immediate, in a good way.
Even though it’s only been a week I definitely feel like I’ve already changed my habits. Also my relationship with online content and my phone is different. I thought I had a pretty good control on this, so at first it was hard to admit to myself. But it’s good to know I can improve this more.
Oh, and my battery lasted longer!
I’d really recommend trying this experiment if you want to. It definitely helps you assess your habits, even if you don’t want to change them.