I quit social media (for almost 2 weeks)

I quit social media (for almost 2 weeks)

When I decided to quit social media I thought it would be for good. Then I remembered I am a journalist who needs to live and breathe news and have my finger on the pulse of the entity that is the Internet.

I was sure I was going to change my life and break my addiction to my mobile.

Now, not so much.

I’ll be the first to admit, I need my phone. I need it just as much as I need to know the latest on Scott Disick and Kourtney Kardashian.

They say the average person looks at their phone 1500 times a day. If you work it out, that’s 90 minutes a day, 23 days a year and 3.9 years of your life. It’s beyond insane.

My decision to quit social media came after a discussion with a friend about how technology has changed everything that our parents once knew; dating, the way we communicate, or rather the way we don’t communicate. And the irony of documenting a night out with friends to portray it on Instagram as ‘the best night ever’, rather than actually enjoying the moment.

Personally, I find nothing more annoying than trying to have a conversation with someone who is looking at their phone. I am a firm believer that no one is more important than the person you are with.

It was only when I read an article about ‘phubbing’ (phone snubbing) ruining relationships that I realised I was a phubber in my own relationship. I also saw photos where the photographer removed the phone from the image to show how bazaar our addiction to our phones is. I decided then and there it was time to quit social media.

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Phubbing. By Eric Pickersgill
Everyone was doing it, Essena O’Neill I’m looking at you, so I thought I’d give it a go. How hard could it be?

Answer: hard.

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Essena quit social media (and then begged for her rent money)

On the first day, I found myself reaching for my phone when I sat down to eat my lunch, to take a quick snap for my friends. Or reaching for my phone at traffic lights – a habit that is just as much illegal as it is extremely sad.

I found myself with spare time, a foreign concept for someone used to filling every minute with news feeds and pretty Insta pictures. On my first day, I wrote not one, but two blogs. If you follow my blog, you’ll know that is very unusual for me.

I recently read an article that explained that boredom is the last privilege of a free mind. These days, when we are bored our first instinct is to pick up our smartphones, or engage with some sort of screen. But guess what, actually using your brain to think is the best antidote to boredom.

Without Facebook giving me the news I should be interested in, I actually had to search news pages for the latest events. An unfamiliar notion to me, the aspiring journalist. Ah, the irony.

We are the first generation that doesn’t need to search for our information; rather it is delivered to us via social media algorithms that determines what we should be interested in, then BAM it appears in our news feed. I am guilty of the morning scroll; waking up and reaching for my mobile is just as part of my morning routine as brushing my teeth.

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Soul sucking screens
On day two, I picked up my smartphone, fingers hovering over the place my Facebook icon once sat. But instead, I put my phone down and just thought. For a technology dependent Gen Y, it is a weird process. No screens, no distractions, just me and my brain.

After the first week I was cured of FOMO. Research recently found that Facebook is as addictive as poker machines, with FOMO being the cause. I’ve never liked gambling, but this was something I can relate too. Without Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook I was able to work a whole weekend without being reminded what I was missing out on. My wallet was very thankful.

Day ten, I caved. Yes I was aiming for two weeks, but I am proud of my ten days disconnected.

I realise now that social media isn’t the problem, the way I interact with it is the problem. The compulsive checking had become a burden to my life (and my data) instead of a way to keep in touch with my friends. Like anyone, I want to live a present life which means not obsessing on how other people are living theirs.

It’s definitely a work in progress. Quitting (or at least decreasing) social media is much easier said than done. But I’m trying and I hope that by me making a concious effort to put my phone away, it will make others do the same. Because nothing is more important than the people you are with and the moment you are in.