I often like to think of myself as lucky, growing up without a smart phone attached to me as if it were a 5th limb, entertaining my young self with things like marbles and Frisbees rather than Instagram and snapchat. As lucky as I was as a youth, I did not escape the wrath of social media, and I sit here now with a problem. Admission is the first step of recovery, and it pains a stubborn girl like me to announce, after months, or even years of denial…
“Hi I’m Allie, and I’m a social media-holic”
“Real-life” on the back burner as I constantly scroll my way through the day, flipping from Facebook, to Instagram, back to Facebook and then back to Instagram. For what? No reason! But my friend’s, cousin’s, boyfriend’s, sister, who I met once three years ago, just got a new hair cut and judging/admiring her locks is way more interesting than the trees I walk past every day to work. That is the reality of an addict. We are an era of over-stimulated young adults, who need more than just real life experiences to get us through the day. The realisation of my addiction and dissatisfaction with the simple pleasures in life frustrates me, so here I am on day two of a week-long social media detox, craving a scroll more than a cigarette (a big call considering I am a heavy smoker), determined to calm my addiction, providing fellow addicts with some inspiration to follow in my footsteps.
Having gone cold turkey on Facebook, messenger, Instagram, snapchat and tinder, I had literally been twiddling my thumbs the past 24 hours wondering how everyone born before 1990 got through their twenties without dying from boredom. I wallowed in self pity, fantasising about what I could possibly be missing on “da gram”, until I realised that most of those pre-1990 babies were still well and truly alive, and survived their twenties without the presence of social media! I have quite the addictive personality, and this is not my first rodeo. Numerous attempts at quitting cigarettes and chocolate, has lead me to discover that the first three days of quitting an addiction seems to be the most difficult.
So… how do I get through these first couple of days without my social media safety blanket?
Distraction, distraction, distraction. Why not get started on that assignment that is due in a couple of weeks? Or watch that lecture you missed last Thursday? Or use that gym membership you spend half your weekly wages on? There is also a thing called a “park”, people used to use these mystical areas for entertainment and life pondering purposes back in the olden days.
After researching a little bit about AA’s 12 steps to recovery, I noticed a big part of the recovery process is believing in a “higher power”, and deciding to turn control over to that “higher power” to get you through the stormy patch. Now, this does not necessarily mean God, just whatever resonates with you. Personally, I don’t know much about religion, but my gym does yoga and meditation, so I’ve decided to entertain the suppressed hippy inside me, and attend daily yoga/mediation classes to calm my over-stimulated mind. NAMASTE!
As suspected… I was correct, the first three days of my social-media free life were the hardest. The constant temptation of logging onto my Facebook page became almost non-existent by day 4, the subconscious phone checks for notifications also diminished, and by day 5, I could focus on an entire movie from start to finish, with this sense of focus, a new concept to me.
Since the beginning of my adult life I always pronounced that I had “self-diagnosed ADD”. Focusing on anything for longer than 5 seconds was a skill I knew not of, and the easy way out, was passing it off as ADD/ADHD. ADD or “attention deficit disorder”, is a mental disorder most common in children, however, can continue into the adult life, and is characterised by the extreme inability to focus. The realisation of my ability to calm the mind and develop focus when social media as a distraction is removed, reminded me of a study by psychologist Victoria Dunckley, an expert on the effects of screen time on the developing nervous system. The study, quoted in Psychology Today, explains that children and teens exposed to excessive amounts of interactive electronic use, often display symptoms mimicking mental disorders such as ADHD, caused by the abnormally high state of mental arousal. Children are then diagnosed and treated with medication for ADHD, without eliminating all potential causes, such as interactive electronic use. Perhaps this idea is not only relevant to developing brains, and my inability to focus is also due to the constant use electronics. Dunckley suggests eliminating all electronic use for several weeks to allow the nervous system to reset if your child is presenting signs of ADHD, so my week long social media detox is a step in the right direction.
Check out Dunckley’s article here.
Another issue I encountered throughout the entirety of my detox, is the struggle I faced being content alone whilst waiting for friends in the public arena. I am an avid “bruncher” and enjoy the not-so-odd “smashed avo” in my spare time. To accommodate my love for brunch, I organize a coffee date a day with a friend, and it is at this point I miss the presence of the little blue F symbol the most. Excited for my avo, I always arrive early for my brunch dates, which would usually mean 10 minutes of a good ol’ scroll whilst waiting for my tardy friend, however with that little blue icon missing, I sat there dazed, confused, and almost embarrassed to be alone without my social media safety blanket. This issue also presents itself whilst waiting for the tram, a coffee, or anything else that takes longer than a minute, forcing me to stand alone awkwardly. To combat this little layer of embarrassment I was feeling, I found myself scrolling through old photos on my phone, or going through old emails just so I didn’t look “silly”, sitting alone. This itself is “silly”! As mentioned, we are a generation of over stimulated young adults who bore easily, and whenever we have a “break”, we divert our attention to our phones. This being the norm, means we feel “un-normal” when we don’t whip out our phones, and I am not ashamed to admit that I feel a little bit “uncool” sitting alone without being on my phone or having no one to talk to. I have struggled to shake that little bit of embarrassment I felt during these times, however this only forces me to become more comfortable and confident within myself… another gold star to the social media detox!
Now, I sit here having completed my detox, genuinely feeling as if I have been on holiday; refreshed, refocused, and energised. Although my detox is over, I am not ready for this new-found clarity to fade, so I am going to find a way to let myself, and social media, live harmoniously.
As young adults living in the 2017, it is difficult to permanently cut out the use of social media from our lives, as it would mean disconnecting from friends that live overseas, being out of the loop for university group assignments, and missing out on invites to events. However, deactivating Facebook does not mean you have to deactivate the messenger app, which may solve a lot of these issues. By doing this, it means you are able to keep in contact with friends, and be added to group conversations for things like university assignments. The other common distraction of Instagram can be combatted by deleting the app on your phone, so it is not as easily accessible, which can also be done with Facebook if you aren’t quite ready to make the full deactivation leap. I myself have decided to deactivate Facebook, keeping the messenger app, and deleting the Instagram app on my phone to continue my new-found clarity throughout semester one!