Here’s what happened when I went a week without social media

I have embraced electronic communications since I was really young. Staying connected is just one of those things that makes the world more interesting. In 1995, twenty years before Facebook, I had a pager connected to my email so that I could get “instant messages” including email and news updates anywhere. Yes, a pager. But in those days, we were willing to look ridiculous to stay connected!

The alphanumeric pager – Social media of the 1990s.

The only disadvantage of an alphanumeric pager was that it was only one-way. You had to wait to find a payphone to call someone back. Or was that actually an advantage?

So, why would an early-adopter technology nerd like me want to ditch social media for a week?

In the past few years, I’ve seen some pretty scary studies linking social media with stress and mental health problems. Some researchers condemn social media as “grist for the modern day anxiety epidemic” and recommend a digital detox.

Detox? I’m not a social network addict. I’m not even a heavy social network user. I use Twitter and Facebook to post stress-related science articles and to keep my clients in the loop about the relaxation centre, and I’m on Instagram and a few other networks for personal and family connections. But I rarely post more than once a day. So I don’t consider myself a social media addict by any means. Still, could I go a week without?

There’s another reason why I wanted to try a week-long vacation from social media. I was going on holidays for a week, and wondered what it would be like, rather than posting pictures all day, to really unplug. Not as in off-the-grid; I’d still have email and phone availability, but would it make my vacation different if I unplugged from the social networks while I was in England and Switzerland?

Taking the plunge

I decided to go commando and I actually deleted the apps off my phone. Of course, prior to doing this I did post a note to let everyone know I was taking a break from social media for a week.

And that was it. I was free. Sort of.

The first two or three days required a bit of a mental shift. Usually going away on holidays means I post more – not less. There’s just so much great stuff to share! So I started to wonder whether I should take pictures of everything to send later, or just let it go.

And what I found was that after the first couple of days, I started taking pictures of the things that I really wanted to take pictures of. I wound up – and this is a first – not taking a single picture of a meal the whole time. Does anyone care about the tarte-flambée I ate a week ago?

I really did start to feel that what I was doing, I was doing for me, and not for followers or even friends and family. I was really on vacation. And it felt pretty good!

Instagram wasn’t happy

Four days after going cold turkey I got an email from Instagram. Apparently I was missing out. They literally emailed me a dozen or so posts I had “missed”. I didn’t take the bait and deleted it without opening it. Nice try, guys! No #FOMO for me. It was more like #FOMO for Instagram.

A week goes by

At the end of the week, I had zero guilt about my digital detox, and really enjoyed the feeling of being more in control, and definitely less glued to the screen.

Once back in Canada, and after reinstalling the apps to my phone, I started to find myself much more mindful of what I’m posting and how often. I’m also more selective about how much time I spend posting and reading posts.

What I learned

Was this digital detox a life-changer? Did I decide to ditch social media for good? Nope. But I did decide to make one permanent change.

I set my notifications for direct messages only. My phone no longer nudges me every time someone posts. I have to manually check it, and I’ve found I’m only checking three or four times a day.

Going a week without social media also helped me examine and reset my relationship with the for-profit corporations that turn our lives into a money machine for their investors.

All in all, I’m glad I did it. I’m not against social media. It’s a great tool to stay connected and share what matters. And a week away from it gave me a good opportunity to step back and get a fresh perspective.

What do you think? Would you go (or have you gone) a week without social media?

 

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Author: Colin Stone

Professional Relaxation Therapist (MASC, BSYA) and founder of the Relaxation Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Using guided imagery, therapeutic music and aromatherapy to relieve stress in the most relaxing room on earth!