Digital Detox

I don’t like social media. It annoys me, it stresses me out, it makes me feel worthless, and it wastes countless hours of my time. I used to think it was a great way of staying in touch with friends and family when they are far away, that I could keep up to date with everything where previously I would be in the dark, but it doesn’t really work out like that, not for me anyway. I’m not sure if it’s just the way I am, but I actually feel further away from these people than I ever was before. Liking a picture, or commenting on a status has replaced real communication. No need to phone or email to find out how everything is going now, I just saw that status update, and ‘liked’ it. Job done.

I’ve decided to have a digital detox. It started a few months ago with me getting rid of my shiny iPhone 6s, a device it seems which exists only to waste time, and make you buy things. I became convinced that everything needs to have an app now, simply going to the website isn’t enough anymore. So I sold it and replaced it with a Blackberry Passport – certainly not the phone for everyone. It’s massive, with a square screen, actual keyboard and most importantly for me, less apps! Now if I had strong willpower then I would simply delete the extra apps, or not download them in the first place, but I’m not that strong (yet) so I needed to take it that step further and take the choice away entirely. A few years ago I tried switching back to a ‘dumbphone’, but this didn’t last me too long, there were just too many things that I was losing out on, from music and podcasts (which i LOVE!), to travel information and maps I lasted about 4 days before making the switch back. But this I can do. I still have all of those things, but I’m getting rid of the distractions. No more games, and a serious adjustment to the social media platforms that I use.

First up, Facebook- with nearly 2bn users every person I know is on it (except my dad who staunchly refuses to step into the digital world wherever possible, though mainly because he doesn’t understand any of it), which makes for some serious FOMO – the main weapon these sites have in the battle against our free time. I made the decision to ‘unfriend’ anyone who isn’t a very close friend, current colleague (because that would be awkward), or family member. If I wouldn’t go for a drink with them, then they were gone. Lots of very nice people, but when going through the list I realized that many of them I hadn’t spoken to in years, and some I hadn’t had any interaction with at all, since we became FB friends. Some were easier than others, but eventually the list was complete and I now have a much smaller list. At the same time I also turned off all the notifications (except birthdays). The little nudges throughout the day, designed to keep your mind tied in, even when you’re not using it. Now, I go on there once a day, and have a quick scroll through and see what my nearest and dearest have been up to, and so far I’m feeling a lot less need or desire to constantly go on there.

Next, Twitter, which is probably my favourite social media platform. Like religion it seems to bring out both the best and worst in people. So many accounts on there exist purely to be spiteful and negative to anyone (everyone) else, but there are also a lot of really great accounts on there too, providing a daily dose of interesting thoughts, inspiring quotes, new words and bitesize current affairs. I swept through my ‘following’ list and got rid of any that no longer add value to me. Gone are the mindless celebs, timewasters like Buzzfeed and entertainment news. Now my timeline feels like it really enriches my life, rather than just something to read through when I’m bored and can’t think of anything else to do.

Last up, I had Instagram and Snapchat accounts, though didn’t really use them much anyway. I disabled my accounts for both (because it’s practically impossible to actually delete a social media account) and haven’t missed them at all since I’ve been without them. Instagram I enjoyed for a while when I first got it, and initially it encouraged me to take more photos, but I soon realised it made me a lazy photographer, using filters to cover up poor shots.

It would be great to hear from you about your experiences with social media. Do you feel overloaded by it all? Which platforms do you use, and which ones do you find can add value to your life?

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6 thoughts on “Digital Detox

  1. To have not-so-smart phone is one of the smartest things I’ve done 🙂 You can’t let Internet become that annoying friend who follows you everywhere. At least for me that worked well. After two years without any social media and almost no e-mails (I wrote longhand letters to my best friend, sometimes sent sms, called parents, but first of all met everyone in person as much as I could), now I’m back a bit. But I still have an old school CAT phone, I still write real letter on paper to those that I love the most, I’m still not on FB because I don’t see why I would want to return. And I tried out Twitter recently and just can’t believe how dizzy I became there 🙂 Wish you all the joy to return to the tactile world!

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  2. + One of the joys I had (and still have) when I left FB (&other medias), was not knowing all the things about other lives. I mean – when I met someone, I asked with full attention and wide opened ears – “How are you?” – because I didn’t know what they’ve done, where they’ve been, and I had all the joy of real and intimite conversation, that I didn’t know I had lost somewhere between 20xx and 2014 🙂

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    • That’s really good, and thanks for commenting. I think that keeping up with our loved ones lives online can get confused with genuine connection, so people then lose that connection in real life. We don’t have time or interest any more in the small details, we just want the highlights.

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  3. Wow, congrats on your digital detox, James! I really enjoyed reading this post, as I definitely feel overloaded by social media (and I’m only on two platforms!). You are inspiring me to think even more seriously about my social media use, which is something I have been doing gradually but have not really jumped into wholeheartedly as it seems like a somewhat onerous task. It will take me some time to go through things and really do a proper unlike and unfollow session, but I know that it is a small amount of time and deliberation invested for a huge sense of relief and freedom.

    I use Facebook and IG, and do find some value in them. I have unfriended most people I had on Facebook, and meanwhile I have joined a minimalist and a zero waste group on there and find (most of) the content on them very useful and motivating. Instagram I enjoy a bit, but I am losing motivation to keep posting things…

    Thanks for sharing, James! 🙂

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    • Sounds like you’re taking steps in the right direction Lisa. It’s not a particularly enjoyable task, but like you say, once you have taken the time to sort it all out then you will feel much better about it. We have conditioned ourselves to believe that a ‘friend’ online is the same offline but it shouldn’t be that way. I’m trying to think of social media more as a tool now rather than a way of replacing genuine connection with those closest to me, but I’m sure this will take a while to do. Good luck with your own digital detox Lisa, I hope it makes you feel better when you do it.

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