social media detox

I Deleted Social Media From My Phone For A Week & This Is What I Learned

It goes without saying that our lives would probably be better if we spent less time on social media.

Taking that time away could help us stop comparing ourselves to other people – and the idealised selves our family and friends put out online – and it might give us more time to do literally anything else, whether that’s a binge-watch or spending more quality time with the people we care about.

Social Media Twitter Gif By RealitytvGIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Speaking to Osher Günsberg earlier this month, he stressed just how helpful it’s been for him to not have platforms like Facebook and Instagram in his pocket at all times.

“It’s so good not having Instagram on my phone. I check it on my laptop, but that’s it. It’s so, so good. I was just losing hours and days in it. Unfortunately, being an addict, I just can’t get away from it, so… abstinence [laughs].”

Blocked Social Media GIF by NETFLIX - Find & Share on GIPHY

So I decided to test out the logic myself over Christmas with one whole week off the apps. I’d be writing for much of the week, but there’d also be days when I wanted to escape from all my Chrissy family stuff with a good scroll.

I might have to learn to sit with boredom and uncomfortable social interactions. Horrifying.

Would everyone think I was rude for not replying to Facebook “Merry Christmas!” messages? Maybe. Would I have the urge to Instagram my dog and not be able to immediately post? Guaranteed.

Matt Walsh Mike Mclintock GIF by Veep HBO - Find & Share on GIPHY

Let’s see how I coped with a week without social media on my phone.

Day 1

I delete Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Twitter and Instagram from my iPhone and iPad first thing in the morning. I go to exercise, free from social media temptation. After, when I’m working, I can always just have Facebook et al open on my computer browser instead.

I discover I need to find something else to do while walking around my house, and also while on the toilet. I swipe across my phone weirdly hoping that the apps might just reappear. I scroll through a news app instead. I had worried that without compulsively checking Facebook and Twitter every hour or so I wouldn’t know what was going on in the world, but instead I feel like I know ALL THE NEWS.

So far, so good, but how will it be when I want to mindlessly look at pics while watching TV later? Thank God for Tinder.

Day 2

My day is off to a far less wholesome start. I stayed up late watching an entire SBS show and swiping through Tinder, so I sleep in, careen out of bed to start work, and discover on my laptop I have very few notifications anyway. That’s depressing, possibly liberating. I am starting to panic about what tomorrow (Christmas) will look like, without my laptop which allows me to check my messages.

It has become very clear that the main way my friends and I communicate is through Facebook Messenger. When a friend sends ‘I’m outside!’, I read the message on my computer and then just walk into the road, because I apparently don’t have her real number in my contacts. Luckily she sees me.

By the end of this week, I may only be in contact with my flatmate and my mum. It’s OK though. I am now operating on a higher plane without distraction, reading only news articles and doing lunchtime yoga. This is extremely zen (I am already going mad???).

Day 3

I’m surprised by how easy it is to just talk to my family, go to church and play Celebrity Heads rather than hiding in the bathroom to scroll through my feeds. But by the end of the day I feel drained. I have no words left, no more extremely polite questions to ask extended relatives.

Please let me scroll through some pictures of dogs wearing elf ears. I am anxious that at the end of the week I’m going to feel depleted without the stream of cute pics in my feed – but I should probably blame the fact that the Christmas-NYE period is a non-stop booze-up.

I miss everyone’s pictures of themselves in their summery best, wearing paper hats and cocking a glass of champagne. I can’t resist taking one of my own and saving it for when I regain the ability to post on Instagram.

Day 4

I check Instagram on a laptop and find an expired story. I use a weird developer tool to upload a day late festive picture to my feed from my laptop. Later, I ask my brother to check my ‘Likes’ and he reminds me that Instagram don’t give you a number anymore. I check Facebook and discover a bunch of ‘Happy Christmas’ messages I never had the chance to reply to.

I need to get Messenger and Instagram back.

By the evening, more extended family stuff, more being forced to be entirely present, I ask a friend to text me an address because I can’t just check the Facebook event when I’m almost there. It is very clear that I am too reliant on technology. Instead of texting friends in Messenger when drunk, I’m reduced to shit banter on Tinder.

Day 5

I am comfortable being a person who is impossible to contact, living in a weird liminal space between the real and virtual worlds. I make no plans and watch You all day, feeling sick, and have to toggle between laptop tabs to talk to people. It’s fine, I can still chat on Tinder, which by this point feels like cheating. I want to be watching this and scrolling Twitter for takes at the same time though, because every episode I’m sitting there going, ‘Joe! Why! No!’.

Friday is simply another day where I think to myself, ‘But what do I read when I need to take a shit?’ My email inbox sits at zero.

Day 6

I try to use the free mental space to be hyper productive – life admin! writing! – in the morning. It almost works, although I can’t resist checking for notifications on my laptop and doing the weird developer thing on Instagram to check my DMs. Turns out I could have missed a V. IMPORTANT message.

I still think I could live without Facebook and Twitter on my phone – although it might make me less good at staying on top of current affairs. How do I know what people are talking about on Twitter if I’m not on Twitter? How do I look at what news organisations are posting to their social channels if I’m not using every free second to look at socials? Do I even exist anymore if I haven’t posted an Instagram Story of some festive boozing this week?

I was hoping this would make my mind clear and stop me from wasting so much time but I mostly feel out of touch. And, when I’m stopped at pedestrian crossings, I’m reading dense essays in Safari instead of liking people’s self-deprecating Twitter jokes.

Day 7

I think deleting social media from my phone has fixed my battery life. It lasts more than a day without needing charge, because now instead of scrolling through Facebook, I’m reading literal books as I wander around the house. I stop swiping at my phone hoping an app will reappear.

I still find it hard to make plans though. I use my laptop, but it’s not convenient. This could’ve been solved by me insisting people text me, but I don’t think I can make everyone migrate back to the humble iMessage.

Ultimately though, I think I can move into the world tomorrow without having to look at my phone in every free moment. Scrolling first thing in the morning as soon as my alarm chirps? Nope! I’m reading books! Maybe I’m more thoughtful now? Who knows.

But I will be downloading Instagram again, because I have some great dog shots to post.