Monday, July 10, 2017

I Quit Social Media For a Week


I finally did it.

Over the last few months, I started to notice how dependent I'd become towards social media. How it was the first thing I'd reach for in the morning, and the last thing I'd fiddle with at night. How I'd enjoy breakfast while scrolling through Tumblr, or spend hours on my bed, aimlessly going through Instagram. There's a lot of talk about how we're "getting addicted to social media", to which I'd usually answer, well yeah, but we can't just live without it.

Or can we?

The thought came like an epiphany. I began to think back and wonder what (or who) in this world ever suggested to me, and everyone out there, that we desperately need social media. Do we really? Is it really that crucial for us to have a social media presence, or to constantly be in touch with it day by day?

I decided to challenge the idea. I admitted that even though I don't obsessively spend every waking minute on social media, my relationship with it was borderline addiction. So finally, I made a commitment to go off all my social media sites for a whole week.

Why the sudden change?
  • Social media has the terrifying power to permanently reduce the brain's ability to focus on one thing for a long period of time. To make it simple: It shortens your attention span. I learned about this through this Ted talk by Dr. Cal Newport; one of the key reasons as to why I finally decided to quit. It made sense, because none of us spends 5 whole minutes looking at an Instagram photo. Our habit is to scroll at a quick pace. Stories give us a chance to look at three-second photos, but even then we still tend to tap through just to get to the next photo quicker. These apps are designed to be addictive and fast, and that's why we can't just let it go. Once I knew it was damaging, I fully wanted to sign off.
  • We live in a world where people are drawn to gadgets more than they're drawn to other people. How phones have intervened into real life situations among us, began to scare me. Cafe meet-ups turn to Instagram-worthy photo sessions. Hanging out with friends only involve a group of people enjoying each other's phones; together. Birthday surprises with one person holding the cake, one blowing out candles, and the rest of the group recording it on their phones is just not authentic. Is it really that necessary to record everything that's happening around us? If we don't post it online, does that mean it never really happened? I wanted to start living, not for the sake of likes or comments, but for the sake of being there.
  • If there's one system that contains every person's highlight reel, every peak of their lives, every good and special moments only, it's social media. It's not a secret that what we see isn't always real. Everyone will seem like they have better lives if you look at them through the eyes of Instagram. Comparison is toxic, and social media is one of the tools that make it much worse. At the end of the day, it's not healthy to think "I wish I looked like her" or "I wish my life was as good as theirs" every day for the rest of your life. 

When I mention to people that I'm quitting social media, they look at me like I just saved a child from a burning building. As I was announcing to everyone that I'll be off of social media for a week (so they can reach me through my phone number instead), multiple people were quite surprised. They messaged me and asked me for the reasons behind this "big decision".

Part of me found it hilarious (I mean, gosh, I'm just deleting my apps for 7 days, not getting married), but a part of me also found the reaction quite reasonable. It clearly defies the We Can't Live Without Social Media implication. By "detoxifying" myself from social media, I've committed to detaching myself from the endless, constant stream of information and communication that ties our society together. 

Well, hey, someone has to try, right?

For someone like me, who would post and share quite frequently, this social media detox was actually very much needed. Going into this, I thought that I'd totally regret it. Can I really do this? What's gonna happen while I'm away? What if I miss out on things? What was I supposed to do with myself?? Live??

And live I did.

The most common question I got asked was, "So how will you spend all that time?"

After deleting all my apps (Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Tumblr, Line, and Pinterest) on Sunday night, it felt bizarre to wake up on Monday morning and find my phone- well, empty. Because of this blog, I'd spent a lot of time on those many sites networking, and building ways to share links and self-promote. I'd always try to maintain a good presence throughout all of these sites solely for that reason. Now, with all of them gone, I felt like I needed to find another purpose; another way to fill the void of my days. Something that didn't require scrolling, tweeting, posting, commenting, or double tapping anything. 

Not gonna lie, I felt like a BuzzFeed experiment.

As I woke up and finished my morning devotionals (distraction-free this time), I stood up and headed for breakfast. Standing there, I realized my hands were empty. Usually, I'd already have my phone on hand, my eyes fixed on the many things I'd missed among the 7 or 8 hours I was off sleeping. With that out of the way, I opted for a book instead. A book that's been sitting on my table for far too long (accompanied by 2 to 3 other books). I then learned that starting the day with a book was ten times better than catching up on any latest news online.


So how did my week go?

Strangely, it was one of the best weeks of my whole summer. Social media is one of the main reasons I procrastinate so much. Without it, I instinctively became more productive. Other than that, it also gave me a lot of peace. I genuinely enjoyed how my days went. After being so hung up on social media all this time, finally granting myself that solitude felt like pure bliss.

As my sister was staying at my home, a week off of social media gave me the time and chance to spend a lot more time with her. I spent mornings and afternoons playing with my little nephew. We went out to the mall and not once did I get so hung up with my phone that it runs out of battery, like what usually happens if I go out. In short, it improved the quality of our quality time. 

When I get restless at night, instead of jumping into hours of scrolling through social media as an escape, I simply continued my book. When I still wasn't tired, I listened to podcasts and wrote notes about it in my journal. Just because I can. 

So last week, I went to a dinner gathering without documenting anything.
I celebrated both my sister's and my good friend's birthday and did it without holding down a Snapchat button; I'd learned to be present in social situations.
I finished my small book and am now reading two other books.
I started taking walks and running in the morning again.
I resumed my internship after summer break.
I dealt with moments of anxiety better than I ever had.
I finally got back to learning Dutch, this time while taking actual notes (8 filled pages and counting).
I finished digitally coloring a drawing that I'd started the week before.
I somehow managed to consistently practice my piano everyday.
I finally decluttered my bedside table (a small step towards decluttering my whole room).
And I'm having the time of my life, by making the most of it.

---

This post will be published on a Monday; my first day back into social media. I'll probably need to catch up on some things, but this time, I won't let it overwhelm me, or take up too much of my time. I don't necessarily think social media is a problem (it's actually very useful and beneficial in our modern society), but I think it all comes down to how much we let it control our actions. I might even quit again soon, just because of how liberating it felt.

If you're thinking about doing this, I totally suggest that you try. 
It won't change your life to the point where everything becomes perfect overnight, but it could make you feel like a different person. And if you try, it'll give you room to discover and learn new things, and to pursue a life that you'll be proud of.

See you around.




26 comments :

  1. This is so interesting! I can definitely see how you would be more productive and feeling at peace without social media constantly buzzing here and there. This sounds great and I should totally try this!

    Hannah | Stories Of A Telescope

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  2. Joanne, this is a fantastic blog, one of few recently I've taken the time to savour and read all the way through! 'I wanted to start living, not for the sake of likes or comments, but for the sake of being there.' I feel like this so frequently; I go through ups and downs of loving and hating social media (it's my job as well, which doesn't help!) and I've always thought about a detox but been too scared to try it. Sad I know.

    Now that you've done it, will you continue? Has it made you re-evaluate how you spend your time? Any tips for people wanting to ease themselves out of the addiction?!

    Just a great, great post! x

    Laura | laretour.com

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    1. Hi Laura, thanks for stopping by! And for your lovely comments. <3
      I definitely will quit again some day soon, but now there's just too much going on that I need to keep up with. Once things get sorted out, I'll totally continue this, and perhaps for an even longer period of time!
      It totally makes you re-evaluate; it just forces you to go for activities outside of social media, activities that can form better habits and make you a better, more productive person.
      As for "easing" out of the addiction, I assume you mean a different approach than just deleting it all at once (a more abrupt approach that happens overnight). One of the things I'd recommend is to set tiny time windows without social media; for example, committing to not bring your phone to the dining table, or the kitchen, etc. Another (perhaps slightly weirder) approach is to set a timer everytime you pick up your phone. So for example, if I want to check Instagram, Snapchat, etc, before I open the apps, I'd set a timer on my phone for 10 or 15 mins first. So you're free to do whatever on it until the timer runs out! This helps by making sure I don't end up spending a whole hour on Instagram (which is very likely to happen otherwise).
      I hope this helps! Thanks again for your comment <3 have a good week.

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  3. This was a really interesting post to read! I really admire you for taking a week off from social media - it's always been something I'd like to try but haven't had the push to yet. I have a love hate relationship with it too and I find it so useful for keeping up to date with people but as you say it is a major source of procrastination. All that mindless scrolling contributing to shortening our attention spans.. it's quite scary to think that's what it adds up to. We definitely should be savouring the moments we experience more. I've tried not to instinctively reach for my phone as soon as there's something I think is 'worth capturing'. Your example of the birthday surprise rings so true - having all the phones and out and snapping away really takes away from the meaning. The fact that taking a break has boosted your productivity in so many wonderful ways is some encouragement for me to be more mindful of the time I spend on my phone and laptop so thank you!

    New reader here by the way - loving the blog and looking forward to reading more from you!
    -Beverley
    word drift

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    1. The attention span thing was the thing that struck me the most. Quitting became my form of survival! And I struggle with the "worth capturing" moments/things as well, especially since I just love taking photos of everything. Very glad to hear that you enjoyed this, Beverley!
      Thank you so much for reading and leaving such a wonderful comment! It's lovely to meet you, and see you around! xx

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  4. I agree on so many points.
    I commend you for completing an entire week!
    My daughter did the same, although not by choice, as we were on a cruise, but she actually enjoyed it!
    It is freeing, isn't it?
    Living mindfully is difficult, but you encourage me to give at least one day a week a try!

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  5. This is a very interesting post, Joanne! I feel like I couldn't go a week without social media, which sounds really bad and is probably the reason I NEED to go on a social media cleanse pronto. I am going on a week-long cruise soon so the lack of internet should help with that. I love the fact that you picked up a book you have been neglecting. What a great way to spend your time! Btw, it does sound like a Buzzfeed experiment lol.

    with love, Jordyn | jordynpamela.com

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    1. Ahh yeah, sometimes, in this thought process, I've found that places with lack of internet can be a blessing (or reminder) in disguise. :) But anyway, have fun on the cruise, Jordyn! Thanks for reading. x

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  6. It's so great hearing about your experience. It's actually quite funny because I tried doing this but didn't last the entire week. I somehow convinced myself that I had to go back and redownload all my apps. It's so valuable to hear how you made it through the week without social media and the benefits you saw from disconnecting. Reading this has really motivated me to give this challenge another go. :D

    -Helen
    Sweet Helen Grace

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    1. Thanks for reading! I totally recommend you give it another go :) Maybe just for several days if a week still seems quite difficult. Have a lovely week!

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  7. What a great thing to do! And so interesting to hear about your experience. I love social media because it can be a fun and creative way to express yourself. But it can also create a feeling of jealousy and depression when all we do is portray a happy life, which is completely unreal. I think everything is about balance in life and finding the right way to juggle an internet life as well as real life.

    Nathalie
    www.nathalie-alexandra.blogspot.com

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    1. Jealousy and depression is an accurate way of putting it. Sounds quite sad and shameful, but apparently it's true. You're right, though, it just all comes down to balance. :)
      Thanks for stopping by, Nathalie!

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  8. It's so freeing isn't it? I think I ended up doing nearly two weeks away from social media and my days actually felt somehow longer than before! I've become a little addicted to it again but you have motivated me to check in with my social media habits! I'm glad it was a positive experience for you! xx

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  9. You should be proud of yourself! I also thought about quitting all of the social medias I have and I actually quit one. Even if it's not a big change, I get to spend more time on other things. Btw I'm glad you actually did it! x

    Dabin / https://dabindb.blogspot.kr/

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    1. That's great! Thank you so much for stopping by xx

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  10. Really interesting topic! I couldn't agree anymore doll! Such a great experience!
    Kisses, Paola.
    Expressyourself

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  11. Such an online/internet-detox is such a great idea.
    Nice post, I definetly want to test this out too.
    But one week is quiet Long.

    with love your AMELY ROSE

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  12. Your post is really well-timed I think. I have a few friends that are on their phones often rather than engaging in life!
    I have a few rules - that may or may not be healthy/good, but they keep me from becoming a phone obsessed bore:
    * Only post to Instagram once a day, about 6am the same time everyday + one story in the afternoon. I'll catch up on my feed after I've posted and for no longer than 15 minutes (still quite awhile!)
    * If I'm out with friends, I'll take a few snaps of what we're up to but wont post until later - so you can enjoy each others company without everyone stuck on their phones.
    * I don't snapchat! Facebook is boring so that's about 5 mins a day ;-) I almost always forget about pinterest...
    I know it's harder for full time bloggers but ultimately you have to think of your time as money and budget accordingly, as well as your own sanity!
    Thanks for posting - I think we can all afford to detox from social media every once and awhile

    http://shoe-fiend.blogspot.co.nz

    http://shoe-fiend.blogspot.co.nz

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    1. Aw, well thanks for stopping by, Paula. I loved hearing what you have to say about this. Actually, I've kind of been neglecting Snapchat ever since this detox as well! Funny how you just wake up and realize some things are just not worth your time. Your second point is a good one too, it's something I'm trying to form into a habit as well. That way, you can have the memory, but you don't feel the need to post it RIGHT at that minute.
      Have a lovely week xo

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  13. Such a Great idea. Your Fab
    http://carrieslifestyle.com

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  14. Awwww I wish I could do the same as well. But i think I cannot resist it LOL

    Daniel x

    The Daniel Originals | Instagram: danielpoonvignez

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  15. Taking a whole week off social media is a healthy thing to do. I do this almost every year when I go to youth camp. It's amazing, how much we can do and how we can invest in real moments with other people without social media! What I do so that I would limit my social media usage would be that I make sure I do not install much apps on my phone. No facebook, no twitter. These 2 were my top most used social media accounts, so I definitely had to uninstall these. People don't have to be updated with what we do all the time, and there is so much that happens in life wherein it's better to be genuinely present. Thanks for writing, Joanne! :)

    http://helloannajo.blogspot.com

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    1. Ahh it's cool that youth camp is your time of the year to do that. :) I'm thinking of committing to it monthly (or at least once every 2 months) but I think that'll take some dedication. Thanks for commenting! <3

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  16. This is such an interesting post to read especially on how you quit social media for a week and your experience as a young person who grew up in the age of social media and the internet! it's so easy to loose touch of yourself because we are so invested with social media!
    Love your post keep it up!!
    xo
    Erika Jane | Blissful Wonder

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  17. I love this post. Thank you for sharing your experience.
    I've been also thinking for the past months that social media, like you said, is the primary factor why we procrastinate so much. A bit of free time = scrolling Instagram, instead of a lot of other productive things we could do.
    I'm so amazed by the things you've done productively during your week off, and I'm really considering to do that as well.

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    1. Yes, you're right! Thank you for leaving such a lovely comment and for stopping by <3

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