A report from earlier this year, carried out by the BBC, found that over three billion people worldwide use online social media, and we are spending on average 2 hours a day scrolling down our screens checking out our friends latest feeds. Now, if you consider that there are 24 hours a day – and of that we should be sleeping for around 8 hours of it – we are spending at least an eighth of our day online.
Before we begin, this post isn’t here to bash social media and tell you how bad it is for you, and I promise I won’t suggest you throw your phone into the sea and never communicate with the online world again. I love social media, my boyfriend would even go as far to say that I’m a social media addict. I think there are huge benefits to connecting with others online. Instagram allows us to share special moments in an instant; Facebook allows us to keep connected to family and friends all over; Pinterest acts as a great tool for generating ideas and inspiration and blogs and videos allow us to share new and innovative concepts with one another at any time, anywhere. However, I do believe we spend too much of our day online and if we were honest with ourselves we’re not always using it intellectually; we’re mindlessly scrolling to pass time and avoid boredom.
Last week, I spent a seven days in the beautiful West of Scotland on a yoga retreat as my first half of my yoga teacher training- more on that in a future post. Yoga twice a day, classes on the a wide range of yoga topics including, energy systems, understanding ancient texts, eras of yoga ect. I was eating the most delicious home cooked, wholesome food, and surrounded by all the beautiful nature Scotland has to offer- and of course- there was no wifi. The thought of not being able to keep in touch with my friends and share what I was up to brought me out in a nervous sweat. However, I decided to use this as a mini experiment and see how I could live without social media for a week. I must admit, day one was hard, I was with new people and when you run out of chat what’s the first thing we do- turn to our phones to avoid further conversation. I couldn’t do that with limited signal and no internet connection. Thank god! Not having access to it allowed me to really get to know some really fun and interesting people! Genuinely hang out with a bunch of yogis for a week in the middle of nowhere and integrating back into normal society afterwards is so strange. Much to my surprise it got easier and I actually really enjoyed not being attached to my little rectangular device all day. It allowed me to think more creatively, have more meaningful conversations with others and I could feel my overall anxiety levels depleting day by day.
So, after reflecting my week of being social media free I’ve come up with a few tips on how you could live your life a little less digitally.
Turn off your notifications. This one is really easy to do. For the whole week I turned off every notification to all my social media channels and put all my apps in a folder together on my phone hidden away – I didn’t need any temptations. Then, when my detox was over I only turned on notifications for apps I know I need like my email and Messenger. By not having my phone lighting up every time something new happened I felt less inclined to check my device every five minutes and I find it liberating not being distracted by useless posts and updates all day.
If you don’t need your phone on you then keep it tucked away. My training was full on, I didn’t have time to get distracted by my social media apps. By putting it away in the morning until I got all my important work completed I worked far more effectively and efficiently. When you know you have a big deadline that needs your urgent attention put the phone in a different room on silent so it can’t draw you in and tempt you.
Question your behaviours. The less I was using my phone the more I noticed strange behaviours I had developed by overusing my device. For example, there was a lot of self development work throughout the week and whenever I was thinking about something uncomfortable or something I didn’t like, I instinctively went to my phone to try and check Facebook as a distraction technique. When the app wasn’t there I had to ask myself- why did you automatically do that rather than sit with your thoughts? I found this really interesting because it enabled me to question why something was unsettling me and I could explore other avenues for dealing with pain and discomfort. For example, I would go and call my family or my boyfriend for a chat to explain how I was feeling or I would take a walk and allow the fresh air to clear my head a little. Rather than suppressing stuff I didn’t like by going online I had to face up to it and move forward which I found really empowering.
Bedtime is for sleeping and switching off. I did notice that while I was away I often wanted to scroll online when I was lying in bed at night waiting to fall asleep. As we didn’t have an alarm clock we needed to use our phones but I do like the idea of removing my phone from my bedtime routine and switching my alarm for a physical alarm clock instead. Replying to a friend’s meme tag can always wait until morning!
So, there you have it, my experience of going social media free for a week. Don’t get me wrong I won’t be deleting all my online accounts anytime soon, but taking part in a social media detox has allowed me to become more mindful of the time I do spend online and how it could better serve me doing something more productive. If you have also carried out your own social media detox do let me know in the comments section below I would love to hear about your experiences too!
Until next time,
Lets be social!