The Beautiful Release: Why I Removed Social Media From My Phone
The idea of removing social media from your phone isn’t a new one. I’m not the first to have thought of it, and I’m certainly not the first to have written about it.
This seemingly simple act of having removed social media from your phone requires a surprising amount of willpower and willingness to be supposedly cut off from the world. Even temporarily, this idea is uncomfortable. Especially for a person who incorporated an online social life into daily living for the better part of 10 years. Effectively, as a millennial, I’ve spent my teen and adult life constantly connected digitally.
The interesting thing is, this change is not a complete rejection of social media altogether. But instead, a rejection of the constant stress and anxiety it has given me within easy access in my pocket.
Why I removed social media apps from my phone
Wake up, scroll through Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter. Reply, comment, like and share. Repeat whenever boredom strikes (10-15 times a day). Open up Instagram stories, document my thoughts, what I’m drinking or eating, ask questions, ‘engage’. Right before bed, check social one last time and fall asleep.
All of this probably sounds familiar to you and let me be clear. My social media habits only gave me stress and anxiety and not a lot in return. They had to change.
While scrolling I would compare, idealise and adjust my digital persona to match others. This was entirely unconscious. Just like you amend your personality, likes and values to match your friends’, I did the same with the people I was following on social media. The sheer number of people I was connected to, meant that I was constantly pulled in 100 different directions. I took on, piece by piece, bits of personality that weren’t mine.
My phone became my best friend and my worst enemy. I would pull it out to pacify boredom. Constantly refreshing to gain approval from online friends and strangers, and ignoring its control over my free time and enjoyment of life.
How I did it
Let’s get a little more specific. I don’t like making any ‘big’ decision without a plan. So I set out the following parameters:
- All social media apps would be deleted from my phone, all except WhatsApp (if you count it as social media), so I could still send messages to select friends
- I would add an app to my phone which stops me from seeing new emails at specific times. This is so that during out of office hours, I am 100% out of office
- I would only check social media on my laptop or desktop computer
In addition to these three, I also:
- Significantly reduced my ‘friends’ list on Facebook to only people I was willing to show my front garden to (a random parameter I set for myself)
- Significantly reduced my Instagram following list down to people who I wanted to see updates from
- Deleted Twitter (it wasn’t for me)
What happened next
The first few days were difficult. Not because I missed social media, actually, I felt free for the first time in years. It was difficult because I had developed habits of pacifying my boredom with my phone for years. As a result, if I was reading a book, my brain struggled to concentrate on the words, and instead, I found myself glancing towards my phone, even though there was nothing on it to look at.
Once my pacifiers were gone, I found myself with hours of spare time to fill. I was conscious that if I didn’t fill this time with something meaningful, then I would simply swap my phone for hours of Netflix, video gaming or mindless podcasts.
Instead, I set myself short projects to complete. I fixed a hole in our bathroom wall, a hook to a door, support on a bed and paid more attention to the things and people around me. I picked up reading again, planned for the future and finally started to hear my brain working on important thoughts, instead of what I should post on Instagram next.
Without the apps on my phone, I’m only able to access social media when on my computer or laptop. This means that my time on social media is brief and I consume intentionally, instead of constantly.
For the first time in years, I finally feel in control of my attention.
As for the people in my life. Trust me when I say that nobody notices if I don’t reply instantly. They don’t mind if I take a day to leave a comment and they certainly don’t care if I don’t share my espresso in the morning.
We’re lead to believe that without being constantly connected, we’ll miss out on life. But it’s only by being disconnected that we truly live it. It’s only when we’re disconnected (even for a short while), do we truly understand who we are.
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Featured image by iabzd