This week, we're talking about social media, knowing when you're in too deep, and digital de-toxing.
Join me for . . .
Back in the fall of 2017, I decided I'd had enough of Facebook. It was at the height of the Cambridge Analytica security breach AND . . . I was just sick of what Facebook had become, and what I'd become as a Facebook user. So I deactivated my account and removed the app from my phone. That first day without Facebook? I was itching for a scroll! It was so hard to be without those constant, little dopamine hits! But by day 3? I didn't miss it at all. For a week or two early in the pandemic (pre-Zoom, when any group gatherings were only happening on Facebook) I signed in again. But it was brief. I was in and out of there so fast, I'm sure Mark Zuckerberg's head was spinning. (HA!) After 5 years of not "Facebooking," I've discovered . . . I can easily live without it, and I've deleted my account entirely. (There are two options for "quitting" Facebook: deactivation, which is temporary, and deletion, which is permanent.)
Ever since my experience with Facebook, I've become an advocate for "digital detoxing."
What, exactly, is a digital detox? Well, according to the dictionary, it's "a period of time during which a person refrains from using electronic devices such as smartphones or computers, regarded as an opportunity to reduce stress or focus on social interaction in the physical world."
And why is worth doing a digital detox? According to the Cleveland Clinic, doing a digital detox is a great way to find out if technology is holding you back from living your best life. The results of unplugging can be far reaching, from being more productive at work to deepening your relationships with family and friends. Benefits of taking a technology timeout include: sharper focus, less stress, better social interactions, and more control of your time. A study recently published in The Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology suggests that we should limit our social media use to no more than 30 minutes a day -- which reduces stress and depression, and results in a significant improvement in well-being.
I did a major, 30-day digital detox several years ago, after reading Cal Newport's book Digital Minimalism. I made some big changes to my digital life - and most of them have stuck. I got rid of all news apps on my phone, for example (they're still gone). I turned off all notifications on my phone (and it's still set that way). I started tracking my device-usage (humbling, I tell ya.) I set up rules for myself for when and how I can use Instagram, which is the only social media platform I use now (only after 3:00 pm; only one post per week), and I made sure to place the IG icon on the 4th screen on my phone, and I buried it in a folder to make it even harder to mindlessly click in (it's harder, but still accessible; just sayin). I fall off the wagon now and again (especially when there are highly stressful situations going on in the world), but I've made great progress in coming up with a reasonable digital life for myself.
(This is the far "western outpost" on my phone . . . the 4th screen . . . where you can see IG buried deep within a folder. I have to go looking for it whenever I want to access it.)
How do you know if you NEED a digital detox? There are many (many) articles out there about "signals" that indicate we are ripe for a break from social media (and our phones). Here are some of the recurring "themes":
- You spend more time than you intended to on a site/your phone.
- You feel guilt/dissatisfaction afterward.
- You can't stop comparing/you're motivated by FOMO (fear of missing out).
- You pick up your phone and start scrolling without realizing it.
- You experience urges to "check"/you freak out if you can't check your timeline.
- You spend a LOT of time scrolling, yet you never seem to have enough time in your day.
- You can't enjoy whatever you're doing without posting about it first.
- It’s the first thing you check in the morning and the last thing you check at night.
I knew it was time to do a digital detox myself . . . because I was disgusted with how much time I was spending scrolling without purpose. I knew I needed to break that habit. I was ready for more focus -- and less wasted time.
If you ARE ready to do a digital detox, I recommend Cal Newport's book, Digital Minimalism. If you don't want to read a whole book on the topic, a simple Google search on "how digital detox" will bring you a huge number of strategies to try.
And if you're ready to ditch any of your social media accounts, this article from Popular Science explains just how to shut down your accounts on Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, or Snapchat.
You may not want to do a full-blown digital detox, but you can still be more mindful about how you use social media -- and your phone. Four quick and easy things to do to get started:
- Track your usage. Get yourself a baseline reading, and then see how you do over time.
- Schedule a specific time for looking at social media. (This worked really well for me. I don't allow myself to look at Instagram until after 3:00 pm. It's amazing how well that silly rule works for me!)
- Put a rubber band around your phone. That rubber band will remind you - every time you pick up your phone - to think about what you want to do with it.
- Swap out your lock screen. Choose something motivational that will remind you to use your device carefully.
When I wanted to break my habit of playing Animal Crossings every day (a year and a half ago now), I put this simple note on my Nintendo Switch . . .
It worked. I haven't played since putting that note on my device! (Because, yes. I do have something better to do with my time. Thanksforthereminder.) There is nothing wrong with playing games on any of your devices (I am not anti-game, and Animal Crossings got me through some dark days early in the pandemic). I was just spending too much time with that particular game -- and NOT doing things that I actually wanted to be doing. Thus, that visual reminder.
In a similar vein, I thought about doing away with my Instagram account once I successfully weaned myself from Facebook. But, instead, I set up boundaries for myself on Instagram. I mentioned earlier that I set up "rules" about when I could use it and what/when I could post. I also carefully curated the accounts I follow on Instagram (friends, artists, sew-ers/stitchers, dancers, a few poets, knitters) so I am inspired when I do pick it up and use it (but not until after 3 pm!). I have culled the people who tend to raise my stress-levels, and created a little "inspirational bubble" for myself. It works for me!
I hope this information was helpful for you -- and that you're thinking about how to clean up your digital habits.
If you have any questions about doing a digital detox, or if you have any tips/tricks/advice about your own digital detox, be sure to shout out in the comments!
See you next Thursday . . . when we wrap up our digital spring cleaning.
Other Posts In This Series:
Spring Cleaning, Digital Style - Week 3 -- Using a Password Manager
Spring Cleaning, Digital Style - Week 2 -- How to do a digital de-clutter and clean up your digital footprint
Spring Cleaning, Digital Style - Week 1 -- How to clean your computer, digital devices, and screens