I clutched my phone and took a deep breath. It was time. I tapped the Facebook icon on my phone and held it down until a little cross appeared on the side, wiggling as if it was begging me not to do what I was about to. In one motion, Facebook was deleted. Instagram and Snapchat followed right after. Instantly, my phone felt lighter.
And with that, I had embarked on the big, 3-week long Social Media Detox – right after my 25th Gatsby-themed birthday party (which took me 6 months to plan), right when all the pictures should’ve been posted and when less-than-flattering ones of me should’ve been monitored – but oh well.
Before I have you believe that I have some sort of social media addiction – let me clarify that I don’t. I’m just as active on the various social media platforms as the next girl; scrolling through Facebook in bed with barely one eye open – check. Opening Instagram every single time I receive a notification – check. Snapchatting every interesting meal of my life – guilty as charged.
This devil of an experiment couldn’t have come at a worse time.
So why was I doing it? Can I say a journalistic spirit of enquiry? Or because my Editor-in-Chief asked me to? Either way, I had to prove to my detractors that life could go on without my posting about it. Here’s my parting status on Facebook:
I would have said, “Yes everybody, Snapchat too”, except I couldn’t.
Week 1: This Shouldn’t Be So Hard. Why Is This So Hard?
For starters, let me acquaint you with some of the withdrawal symptoms to expect if you ever decide to quit social media cold turkey. Your fingers seem to have a life of their own, you’ll find that your mind is always drifting off to what your crush might have posted today (though you know it’s going to be about football) and you’re always reaching for your phone when you see anything borderline funny or interesting.
Speaking of, here are all the things I missed Snapchatting on just the first day: my colleague dashing across the road screaming “Whoooo!” because he thought he’d be hit by a bus (he wasn’t), a kid with resting bitch face on the Metro (I kid you not), a beautiful, regal Siberian Husky that was being walked, and a cool beauty shoot at the office.
Which made me wonder: what is up with my generation being so visually obsessed? I did a little reading and here’s what I found: statistically, there are 2.5 billion camera phones that are currently in use globally and 10% of images photographed by all of humankind have been taken in the last twelve months. Turns out that your brain can process visuals 60,000 times faster than text, which explains why images are such a huge part of the media and advertising. This other piece counted entertainment, simplicity and functionality as reasons for the popularity of video platforms among millennials. There’s some truth to that – presented with a couple of lemon tarts the other day, I thought about how cute it would look on Instagram before I wondered what it might taste like.
Here’s the tarty picture with some Snapchat editing (POST detox, of course).
Sure, I didn’t know what my weekend plans were because I couldn’t RSVP to any Facebook events, but there was a positive aspect to this detox – my phone now had more space to house the apps that I’d always wanted to try – hello, Studio Design!
And no, I didn’t post this to my Studio Design profile immediately – you thought you got me there, didn’t you? P.S. That’s me in the background.
Week 2: What Is This Whole Damn Daniel Thing About?
By Week 2, I’d stopped reaching for my phone as soon as I woke up or every time I wanted to post an #ootd. For the first time in about a month, I picked up a book and read it till I fell asleep (How To Be Single by Liz Tuccillo – it’s good!).
However, I discovered a couple of loopholes in this social-media-is-killing-your-brain-cells theory everyone seems to be on about: I couldn’t share a poem I wrote on Facebook Notes and that wasn’t great because art is shared pleasure, if you ask me. Not having Snapchat as a ready mirror to check for lipstick on your teeth was still okay, but a hindrance to creative expression? Not so good.
There was more time to read, more time to listen to podcasts that I was meaning to, more time to just Netflix and chill on the couch, and I was quite content with myself – until one day someone went “Daaaamn Daniel”, and everyone in the room seemed to think it was the funniest thing ever – everyone but me, that is.
“You don’t know what ‘Damn Daniel’ is? Put that on the list of stuff you missed out on this detox,” my sister said condescendingly. This was the thing I absolutely didn’t enjoy: being out of the loop.
“Haven’t you seen the engagement ring? I sent you Snaps!,” said my newly hitched best friend.
“Didn’t you see the Sophia Webster stilettos I posted on Insta? It got over 500 likes!,” said my fashion blogger friend.
“You didn’t know?,” said my friends when I discovered a classmate from college got married recently.
No guys, I didn’t.
Week 3: This Isn’t So Bad After All. Or Is It?
I was finally on the last leg of this oddity, and to be honest, I was cool with it by now. Most times. It bothered me a bit when I couldn’t post my engaged friend faking an orgasm at her bachelorette party on a dare, and it bothered me a lot when I couldn’t Snap the Sephora launch in the city. I didn’t know Kendall and Gigi swapped hair colours at Paris Fashion Week, I had no idea what it was that Taylor tweeted about Kanye that everyone was on about.
But what I did know was that I was probably better off not knowing about every friend getting married while I’m #foreveralone, and that if I’d Snapped my colleague having a fit while crossing the road, it would’ve probably been me under that bus.
All was well.
Post Detox: It’s Been A Long Day Without You My Friends
I was reunited with my three old friends Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram, and turns out they’d been at work themselves. Facebook had gotten new reaction buttons, which somehow made me feel a bit like I’d been cheated, a total of 4 friends were married or engaged, Kim Kardashian was breaking Snapchat now and oh, how I’d missed those yummy little recipe videos! But I was also back to rolling my eyes at that friend who posts twice a day – I hadn’t missed that.
The big Social Media Detox started off being hard, and then I eased into it. When it was finally time to get back online, I wasn’t jumping the couch like I imagined I would. It was great to catch up on everything, but it wasn’t life changing. And it felt nice to finally know we could live without it if we tried. Or I can, at least. Can you?