Do you have trouble concentrating? Like when you are trying to read a book and making no progress, because you keep stopping to check your phone every 5 minutes? Or when you are trying to write a school paper in a hurry, but Facebook is calling your name, so you end up spending hours and hours on a task that should have taken maybe an hour?
'Do I want coffee? Where should I eat? What should I wear? Uhhhhh...I can't decide!!'
Does that sound like you? Do you feel like you have been extra indecisive lately? That even simple decisions take forever to make?
Do you have trouble sleeping? Or getting up from bed in the morning? Does your morning routine take hours instead of minutes, because you spend 90 percent of that time checking your social accounts?
Does your food taste less vibrant to you? Do you feel like you are not satisfied enough with your eating routine?
If you answered any of those questions with a 'yes' then you, my friend, are in need of a digital detox. More specifically - social media digital detox, or for short SMDD (it's not a thing, I just made that up, because I like shortcuts).
A period of time during which a person refrains from using electronic devices such as smartphones or computers, regarded as an opportunity to reduce stress or focus on social interaction in the physical world.
I have seen a lot of articles about Digital Detox where people go out in the woods for a couple of days, give up their phone for hours or days, or go on group retreats to communicate and socialize in person. While all of those are great methods to digitally detoxify, I want to talk about taking less grand measures, but still getting that much needed 'social media break'.
You may ask 'why do I even need a digital detox? I am fine with having my nose up in my phone all the time'. That might be true, but if you answered 'yes' to any of those questions - truth is - you are not fine.
There are a lot of articles about how internet and media affect your brain's ability to concentrate (I am not going to push any of them at you, but just google 'internet and concentration' or something of sorts, if you wish to learn more). Bottom line is - it makes you brain-scattered. Why? Your brain has to keep up with all of your multitasking internet surfing, scrolling, swiping and douple-tapping, and it's not an easy task. So when the time comes for easy things - such as concentrating on a single task, or trying to decide on a single food, or article of clothing - your brain has trouble making the switch. So you find yourself unable to decide on coffee flavors (vanilla or hazelnut? Hazelnut or vanilla? hmmmmmmm). Frustrating, eh?
Explaining why your food tastes less vibrant, or why you don't have much appetite is even easier. First of all - we don't focus on the food anymore. We browse our phones just to do something while we are eating, which in turn takes joy out of eating. Or we don't dare to take a single bite of the steamy and hot dinner until we take a picture of it. Then write a description for a picture, post a picture...And the food is cold now. And not at all that appetizing.
Or we order something at a restaurant not because we want to eat it, but because it looks good, and we think that it's 'instagram-worthy'.
I, personally, was sick and tired of being 'controlled' by social media. By my constant need to check all of my outlets million times a day. To keep scrolling till my fingers hurt, and not really seeing pictures, but just scrolling for the sake of it. To waking up, and instead of enjoying my day, laying in bed and double-tapping my phone screen. To feeling envious of all the pictures of food I was looking at while eating my salad, instead of enjoying my salad.
If you feel the same way then I want to invite you to a SMDD (here I am using my shortcut again :). It's not an actual thing, it's not really a 'challenge' (although it is very challenging!) and it's not a cult. It's a way to get yourself free, to realize how much time we actually have in a day, when we are not spending it mindlessly glued to our phones, and to learn to enjoy that time.
Ever heard of a phase 'it takes 21 days to form a habit'? Well now researchers are saying that it takes 66 days to form a habit. Bottom line is - pick an amount of time that it takes YOU to form a habit. I randomly chose 27 days. In that chosen time make a promise to yourself to only check ALL of your social media accounts ONCE a day. And by once a day I mean do it all in one sitting. Check your e-mail, your Facebook, your Instagram, your Pinterest - whatever that you have and use. Check it once and then you are done for the day. Simple right? Wrong! For some reason it is so stinking hard! Obviously, if your work requires you to check your home e-mail multiple times, then do that. But if you are checking your email it does not mean that you have to check your Facebook, your Twitter...
Out of those 27 days I probably failed really hard about 7 of them. A whole week of failures. But that's fine. We are all human and addiction is hard. Yes, social media is an addiction, and refraining from it will show you just how big of addiction it is.
Sometimes I would pick my phone and open an app - then quickly close it and put my phone away. Then I would pick my phone again, and again...And I would have to remind myself to put it down. The hardest were the days when I had an appointment, or had to wait for something. My hands were literally itching for my phone. I tried to bring a book I was reading everywhere, but if I forgot... Well, then I was stuck just staring around. And you know what I saw? People on their phones!!!
I wrote 27 days out on a piece of paper and put a checkmark next to each day that I succeeded (it helped me a lot to keep myself in check). By the end of my 27 days I was skipping some days altogether.
If you already only check your phone once a day (kudos!) then maybe implement a 'no social media on the weekend rule'. Or 'no phone in the bedroom'.
What I learned during my Digital Detox:
- How much more time I have. An average person spends about 5 hours on their phone. 5 hours! That is a lot of time! And I am not talking about time spent researching recipes, or time spent doing important research, or time spent reading educational articles. I am talking about time spent mindlessly checking all of the social outlets, because of habit. What can you do with extra 5 hours a day? Sleep? Read more? Learn to cook? Cuddle your dog? Have more sex with your spouse? Play with your children before they grow up and leave you?
- How beautiful my surroundings are. When I couldn't stick my face into my phone I had to find other outlets to focus my attention to. So I started to look around. And I finally saw things. Things that were always there but I always took for granted. Walks with my dog became more adventurous. Driving around became exploring. I saw things, places. I saw nature and beauty. I saw people.
- I feel less scatter brainy. I am the most indecisive person ever (and with added internet addiction I really was a mess). Sometimes I would be hungry for hours because I couldn't decide on where to go for lunch. I am not saying that my indecisiveness is totally cured, but I am better at making decisions. Small and bigger ones. Even big ones, sometimes.
- I enjoy my food more. When I take time to prepare my food and then take time to eat it - I enjoy it so much more. The flavor, the texture, the colors... Yum.
- I am more attentive and I am more socialized. When there is no phone to bury my nose into, I had to socialize with people around me (and it is hard when you are as introverted as I am). Or so I thought. Turns out it's much easier when there is no distraction. When you have a real, important conversations and when you give your undivided attention to somebody.
- I have learned a lot during Digital Detox, but the most important thing that I stopped doing since 'detoxing' was to stop comparing. Social Media has a tendency to make people compare. To make people jealous of a 'perfect picture' or a 'perfect life'. It makes you want things that you don't need. When you distance yourself from all of that you realize that what you have is enough. That you are enough. That all the 'needs' and 'wants' were childish and silly, and what you already have will make you happy, if you just notice it.
- Distancing myself from Social Media has also led to a lifestyle change. Without the constant need to have things that other people have, without ads telling me what I should buy, or what I should wear, or what I should eat I was able to adopt a more minimal, simple and mindful lifestyle. I am by no means a minimalist, but I feel lighter, less cluttered and less stressed (digital clutter is a big factor of stressing out).
Do I still have days when I slip up and waste hours looking through my phone for no reason? Of course. If it ever gets too bad, or out of control again, I just repeat the process of my once-a-day for 27 days digital detoxing. Hey, I' not perfect. Are you?