I was fed up with social media. Facebook in particular. Last week I spent hours on my phone, scrolling through feeds, and not getting anything out it.
If you think of it, isn’t it weird that Facebook gets paid for you being unproductive? Can you remember the last thing you saw on Facebook? I can’t. There might be a video of a cute kitten that stays with me for a bit longer, but there’s literally nothing important that stuck with me last week. I downloaded an app that tracks how much time you spend on your phone, and what apps you use. Instagram I use most – mainly for maintaining @Kitchenoflion – followed by Facebook. On Thursday, I spent seven (seven!) whole hours on my smartphone, according to the app*. I decided to turn a new leaf and introduce smartphone-free weekends into my life, starting this weekend.
*This included listening to Spotify, during which I wasn’t actively using my smartphone. But still.
My social media detox rules
I made up some social media detox rules for myself, because I knew I had to be strict. I really think social media is addictive. I mean, it’s built to be addictive. More people on social media generates more income for Facebook, so of course they’re using tactics to make you stay longer on their app. Research suggests that there is some evidence to support the argument that the use of Facebook is linked with a Facebook addiction (1). Just to be clear, “Facebook addiction” isn’t formally recognised in the DSM-5, but Internet addiction is thought to share some key traits with substance use disorder, such as tolerance, withdrawal, and negative repercussions (2).
Anyway, my social media detox “rules” were as follows:
- I wasn’t allowed to use Instagram or Facebook, the two social media platforms I use most. I wasn’t too concerned about Twitter or YouTube cause I barely use it, but those weren’t allowed either.
- I was allowed to use my phone for texting, but only because I was meeting up with some friends—not for casual chit-chat.
- My phone had to be outside of the bedroom every night.
That’s it. Those were my rules. Doesn’t seem that tough, right? What made it easier was that I had plenty of stuff planned, like having brunch with Ron on Saturday, and writing an article about how to make your own sourdough starter. On Sunday I met up with the lovely Kate from allthingswomenshare.com which was so inspiring! And after that I was invited to come and eat burgers at Happy Friday Kitchen, so my Sunday afternoon and evening were busy enough to not even think about my social media.
How did the social media detox go?
On Friday night, I put in my Instagram stories that I was going to have a social media detox, and I told some of my friends and family about it so they wouldn’t worry about me. Then I put my phone on the kitchen table, went to bed and woke up the next day with a feeling like, “ah… No need to check social media.” Honestly, that felt good.
On Saturday it was easy enough not to think about social media and get stuff done, but in the evening I went to my allotment and found a smartphone lying on the ground. I brought it to the reception desk of the nearest building and put a note up in the Facebook group. It was quite the challenge to not check my Facebook notifications after that, but I managed to turn my phone off and focus on my garden. (The owner texted me later that evening to tell me she’d found her phone).
As I said, on Sunday I was pretty occupied so I barely thought of my phone, but while I was doing some work on this website during the morning, my hand automatically grabbed my phone while I was waiting for something to load, and I almost automatically opened Facebook! I literally felt a little shock go through my body: what was I doing? That was such a weird experience. Like eating out of boredom, I was trying to use my phone to kill a couple of seconds’ wait. If I’d gone through with it, I’d probably been on Facebook longer than a couple of seconds, basically wasting minutes with scrolling through my feed.
All in all, the social media detox left me feeling so much more relaxed. I didn’t feel FOMO (“fear of missing out”) at all, I felt more relaxed. It felt as if I had more space in my brain.
How was “the day after”?
I’m writing this now, on the actual “day after” my social media break. And even though I thought I’d be checking my social media immediately after I woke up, I didn’t. I didn’t really feel the need to, actually. This past weekend has been so relaxed. The social media detox made me realise that I’m not dependent on social media. I can easily go without. The nice thing about social media nowadays is that there are various ways to plan ahead if you have a website or business. You can easily use something like Hootsuite or Planoly to put some content online, so your loyal readers or customers don’t have to miss out, without you actually physically being there.
Would I recommend a social media detox? Absolutely. It’s so nice to spend actual quality time with people, instead of scrolling through your feed. Will Facebook be happy to hear this? Probably not. But honestly, I don’t care. This break has been so good for my mental health. I’ve realised that I can easily go without, and that’s what I’m planning to do. I’ve decided that from now on, on Friday nights I’ll turn off social media for the weekend. I’ve also learned that I feel less stressed if my phone isn’t in the bedroom when going to bed—it really helps putting it in the kitchen. So no more late-night scrolling through Instagram, no waking up just to grab my phone and check who has texted me. I’m officially taking a break from my own social media addiction.
Some tips for doing a social media detox:
- Put your phone on flight mode when charging. Not only will this speed up the charging process, but it also prevents you from using web WhatsApp on your computer.
- Plan in some real life social events. You’ll be distracted and the quality time spent with your family and friends will be worth it.
- Ask someone you trust to hide your phone for a certain amount of time. This person could be your partner, your flatmate, or maybe one of your siblings. It can be quite difficult to do a social media detox if your phone is in plain sight.
- Talk about it. Tell people that you’re going on a social media break, so they know what’s going on. They will probably encourage you, and you might even inspire them to do the same!