What happened when I took a break from social media

The last time I read a book for an hour at a stretch was on 11th of April, before I started spending more than one hour on social media everyday. There were books that I wanted to read, movies that I wanted to watch, Spanish lessons that I wanted to take and recipes that I wanted to try, but, I was getting only 30% of the things done. I was spending way too much time on social media. I was watching irrelevant stories and posts of people. I was beating myself up for not having a life like that of a particular social media influencer and I was comparing my life with irrelevant people. The worst of it all, I was constantly under this queer pressure of putting every detail of my life out there for my social media followers to see. I had to post about the book I was reading, the Bible verse I liked, the food I was cooking, and the podcast I was listening to, it felt as if I am a part of a reality show like the Kardashians, only I wasn’t getting paid. The constant pressure of putting the perfect pictures of the imperfect moments led to stress and anxiety. As much as I hated to admit it, I was addicted to social media and I needed to do something about it. So, I uninstalled the social media apps.

Whenever I try something new I like to keep myself abreast with the consequences and benefits of it, so I read a couple of articles and watched a few videos on social media detox. Every article and video promised great results filling me with much needed enthusiasm. Deleting the apps were easy but the real struggle was resisting the urge of reinstalling them the next morning. Things got easier when I stopped counting hours before I could again use my social media apps. I decided to make most out of this detox. I had high expectations from the detox and I would be lying if I said there weren’t great results. If you’re reading this and somewhere you feel like you could be addicted to social media, I strongly suggest you go on a social media fast.

The benefits of the detox are:

Better mental health – Several studies have shown that spending too much time on social media can lead to depression. We tend to see seemingly perfect pictures of other people and we compare ourselves with them, consciously or unconsciously. Social media can make us less grateful for what we already have. We tend to drool over other people’s belongings and relationships. This detox made me realise what a wonderful life I was missing out on, it made me realise that I should be grateful for what I have. I don’t need a Gucci bag or a super trendy outfit or a perfectly curated instagram profile to feel happy. I don’t need a certain number of likes or followers to feel accomplished. After some time, you will realize that there’s much more to life than just being online, posting and liking posts. You’ll reach a higher state of consciousness, where you won’t be bothered by the small, insignificant things in life. Social media is a virtual world and most of it is peripheral. A perfectly clicked and edited picture of my face gets more likes than a poem of W.H. Auden, a perfect example of social media’s irrelevance!

Socializing in real world – Sadly, people who spend a lot of time on social media sites report feeling lonely and isolated in real life. I realised that I always texted people online when I needed to speak to them and it made my friendships and relationships shallow. Social media can be great to keep in touch with people who are miles away or with old friends from school whose phone number you don’t have, but using it to communicate with people whom you can call or meet anytime doesn’t really make sense. Once I stopped using social media I was socializing more with people around me. Few days ago I engaged in a conversation with a girl during my train journey instead of texting people or sharing my train journey on social media. I also spoke with an elderly woman instead of plugging in my headphones and scrolling through my phone. It is easy to be behind a screen and talk to people, but it takes a lot of courage having a conversation with someone sitting beside you in public transport. Yesterday as I was waiting in the ferry station, I didn’t take out my phone, instead I noticed the things around me. I enjoyed the Ganges breeze, I noticed boats ferrying people and small boats with fishermen, and I overheard the most interesting conversation on Ganges’ tides. I was living in the moment. Once you detach yourself from continuous social media use you’d connect more with the real world and you’d notice little things that you never noticed before. You’d realise that things happening in real world are way more fascinating than the things happening in the virtual world.

Plenty of free time – We are always struggling after saving time and acquiring free time. Well, the best way to save time and get free time is to stop using social media at all times. You need to stop reaching for your mobile phone every time you take a break. If you were to record the statistics of how much time you spend online in a single day, you’ll be a little amazed. Studies show that people on an average spend 2 hours scrolling and texting on social media and at least 1 hour posting pictures and videos on social media every day. If you are a brand promoting something, then it is reasonable, but if you’re trying to star in your own reality show without any payment and at the cost of your mental health, then it is sheer foolishness. In the past few days I have been writing a lot and I have completed the remaining half of a book I had been trying to read for days and even started with a new one. I have started with my Spanish lessons and I have been doing my devotional every day. I have been cooking without turning off the stove to take a picture of the food and spending 10 minutes editing. Earlier when I took 30 minutes to read a book, I used to spend half of it trying to click and edit a perfect picture of me reading the book. Stupidity! In the last few days I have taken a breather, I have put on classical music and I have enjoyed my Chamomile tea, I have read a book while seeing the sun set. I have given myself a much needed break.

Living in the moment – Do you post about the family gathering or the outing with your friends while the actual event is still happening? Do you think about getting perfect pictures to post on social media instead of enjoying what is happening around you? Sadly these habits are quite common. People miss out on wonderful things while their minds are worried about getting their social media feed better than so and so person. Last Friday I went out with two of my friends and I had such a lovely time with them. Not for once did I look at my phone or worry about getting perfect pictures for my social media. We did a lot of fun stuff but we didn’t document any of it on our social media account, we were in the moment spending quality time with each other. In this world of fake friends, I think we need to appreciate the good friends we have by putting our mobile phones down and enjoy their company.

Getting over FOMO – FOMO means the fear of missing out. Studies reveal that social media is made to make you feel like you always have to check on all of the notifications so you don’t miss anything. Trust me, if you don’t know what Beyoncé wore to one event or what Jennifer Lopez ate for lunch, you won’t be considered dumb and your world won’t shatter. My sister once told me not to fill up my head with junk pieces of information and during the detox I understood what she meant. I was having severe FOMO and then I remembered that knowing which trail Channing Tatum was hiking was an insignificant piece of information to keep stored in my hippocampus. If you don’t read books and magazines, if you don’t have up-to date knowledge of the news, maybe then you should have FOMO. Take some time off social media and feed your intellect.

Now that I am back on social media, I have turned off my notifications and have limited my social media time to 30 minutes per day (instagram has a feature where you can set a daily timer after which the app would notify you to stop using the app). Surprisingly, I have stopped reaching for my phone all the time and I am not even using social media for more than 20 minutes per day. I have unfollowed people who post things that don’t vibe with me and pages that post depressing and negative things. I have promised myself not to always post heavily edited pictures and not to document my every move on social media. I decided against posting on social media that I was going off for a few days because I didn’t want to post about my every move on social media. I did come online once to text one of my friend (whose phone number I didn’t have) about something important, but other than that I have been completely off from it.

Scientists have pointed out that social media is engineered to be as addictive as crack cocaine and this isn’t just hyperbole. It is a perfect reason why you should take a break from social media. The break doesn’t have to be for 100 days to be effective, a break for seven days can be effective too. After the break you would feel more insightful and in control. So, if you think you’re spending too much time on social media, delete the apps and take a breather. Instead of scrolling through your instagram in the morning, read the newspaper or listen to an uplifting podcast. When you take a break, watch an episode of your favourite serial, read a book, talk to your friends and family or take a walk outside. Get ahead of your class, read the next chapter and research on the topic you’re studying. Instead of talking irrelevant things with a person you don’t even like, call your old aunt with whom you haven’t spoken in months. To be better, you first need to accept that you have a problem and then you need to work on it. Social media detox won’t be easy in the first few days but you will have to trust in the process. It will get easier when you stop anticipating the day it would end. When you’ll come back to social media after the detox you’d feel like a new person and you’d notice that your addiction is gone. Don’t let your days just pass you by, live every moment of it. Don’t waste time on irrelevant things and people, feed your mind, soul and intellect. Appreciate the real world and take a break from the pretentious virtual world.

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