Last week I took a break from checking my emails and social media. This coincided with our first overseas family holiday to the Gold Coast in Australia. It wasn’t a pure digital detox as I still used my phone to look up tourist information, utilized maps for directions to places, took photos and a made a few phone calls. However, my mission was to not check my emails, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other social media for a whole seven days.
This blog post is about how I went. It chronicles the good, bad and the downright ugly of a self-imposed email and social media blackout.
Sure, there were some amazing benefits from my time away from the online world. I truly observed the smiles on my children’s faces. The creative muse visited and I scribbled down some great ideas for a new children’s picture book. And I thoroughly enjoyed ploughing my way through a whole book – a luxury I want to do more of.
But all the while, in the background, Facebook was beckoning me.
Here are three troubling observations from a one-week social media detox…
1) Social Media Detox Troubling Observation 1 – It Seemed Hard
The thought of turning off emails and social media for a week seemed really hard. Way harder than it really should be. After all, it’s just a matter of turning off any notifications and not pressing the app buttons. Why one earth would that feel like I am white-knuckling through an ordeal?
I actually had to psych myself up for it, tell myself it was for the best and I could do it. I also told friends and family my social media detox plans to keep myself accountable. In other words, I used tools from my book, Super Sexy Goal Setting to stick to this mini-goal.
2) Social Media Detox Troubling Observation 2 – It Was Hard
We had an idyllic vacation under clear blue skies with busy days filled with spotting baby koalas and riding rollercoasters and watching dolphin tricks and eating ice-cream in the warm winter sun.
And yet… and yet…
I had an itchy finger the whole time. Maybe I could post this photo or that photo and get some likes. I needed the dopamine hit. Had I missed an important email? I could have let myself check emails but for me they seem like a gateway drug to social media. If I pressed on that app button, I don’t think I could trust myself not to press the next one along (no, I did not delete the email and social media apps off my phone but I had moved them off the first home screen).
Especially in the down times – when I was waiting to go on a ride at a theme park or in the evenings when the kids were in bed, it was an uncomfortable feeling to NOT be looking at my phone.
3) Social Media Detox Troubling Observation 3 – Hardly Anything Has Changed
Now we are back to normal life again, the email and social media consumption has resumed – and at least in the first few days, it’s more ferocious than ever. So not much has changed – I am still hungry for my social media fix.
However, since the digital detox I can now see where I have tied or ‘anchored’ the checking in to habitual behavior. There are certain points in the day – before picking the kids up from school for example – where a social media foray is the norm. Picking up my phone when I am a little bored is also common. Now I can see this, I can stop these ingrained patterns. From now on, I want to interact in a more purposeful way with my phone.
- Not checking emails in bed before I get up in the morning
- Being comfortable with boredom (as a car passenger, waiting in line etc.)
- Having a day or at least a half-day every weekend without any social media
Please hold me accountable!
During the week away I read Scar Tissue– a biography of the Red Hot Chili Peppers lead singer, Anthony Kiedis’ rise to fame which included a chronicle of his drug-filled early life.
Perhaps it was the influence of that book that has led to the extensive use of addiction references throughout this post – white-knuckling it, gateway drug, a hit, a fix. It may be overstating things to compare wanting to check Facebook multiple times per day with an ongoing heroin habit but the similarities are spooky.
After all, even though we had a great family vacation, there are three troubling observations from my one-week social media detox: the thought of giving up checking in with the online world seems hard, I do miss it when I am not on it, and after a break, I am right back at it.
Whether we have a digital addiction is still being debated – mostly online (!), but in the meantime, feel free to share this blog post on YOUR favorite social media site. 🙂