What Is It Like To Take A Social Media Detox? We Spoke To Two Women’s Experience With Taking A Phone Break

Sometimes you need a clean break from the social network.

Do you ever have the sneaking suspicion that the internet is taking over your life? Your ‘real life’ we mean. If you’re anything like us, you’ll find that the lines are blurry between the digital world and the one with physical humans and taxes and vacuuming.

You could be grabbing a spot of brunch with my friends and feel your fingers itch to grab your phone to take a photo to post to the season’s Facebook album. Even exploring somewhere new and, in a move, you can try to dismiss as being a writer who always needs to capture the world in words, spend more time coming up with a witty caption for the day’s inevitable Instagram post than actually soaking in the sights.

You could be bopping away at your favourite band’s concert, singing along with a crowd to the punch-you-in-the-gut, sun-soaked-Fourth-of-July nostalgia of Runaways when you stop yourself to record the chorus and quickly fire it off to a few fellow Flowers-focused friends.

And we hate it. Hate the pressure of posting perfect pictures,  hate the time we waste scrolling through statuses from people we constantly compare ourselves to, and we hate creating a version of ourselves to impress those we don’t actually care about impressing.

But quitting also seems inconceivable – inconceivable! – because so much of real life is tied up in the online world. Would our friendships be affected by not being able to tag mates in memes or comment a supportive fire emoji on a selfie? And would we miss out on professional opportunities or profile building?

Curious, we set out to chat with gals who’ve bitten the bullet – aka deleted their pipelines – and asked how a social media detox worked for them.

Jen, 27, took a break from social media a few years ago and came back with a whole new perspective on the digital landscape.

Why did you decide to remove yourself from social media?

I lost a job that I really, really loved and I was sad about it and watching other people live their lives…it was really hard.

How did you go about it?

I didn’t delete the accounts, I just deleted all of the apps. I thought if I had the apps it’d be easier to access. I just let people know that I was going through a bit of a tough time so I’d be deleting my social media for a while.

Were your professional or personal relationships impacted by this?

No, because I don’t think social media was such a big part of my life at the time so it didn’t really affect me that much. I ended up meeting up with more of my friends in person. Because they didn’t feel like they were seeing my life on social media, they didn’t forget that they may not have seen me in months.

What did you miss?

I probably missed watching makeup tutorials because I didn’t go on YouTube – even that made me feel bad at the time.  I ended up buying a lot of Kevyn Aucoin books which was amazing, it really opened my eyes up to beauty and how the whole makeup industry changed. I read a lot and ended up getting a lot more physical books and I felt like I retained [the info] a little bit more.

What benefits did you notice?

I definitely wasn’t as anxious because I wasn’t constantly watching other people and judging my life against theirs.

Why did you return to social media?

Because I felt like I was ready. It was just over a month that I took off and I waited until I had a plan again and felt like my life was together so it didn’t really bother me seeing people doing fun things anymore.

Meg is a 21-year-old journalist-in-training who, while studying abroad, decided deleting Facebook and Instagram accounts was the only way to successfully move into the new chapter of her life she was steadily writing.

Why did you decide to remove yourself from social media?

I felt like I was letting it control me. I was spending (or rather, wasting) time on it by mindlessly scrolling. I began looking up people from my past that I had no contact with anymore, just to see what they were doing. Probably the biggest push for me was when I realised I was posting particular photos just to show people how much fun I looked like I was having, when it wasn’t a reflection of what I was really doing or feeling.

How did you go about it?

Prior to fully deleting my Facebook and Instagram profiles, I began deleting and re-downloading the apps from my phone, but because I literally have no self-control I would just find myself back on them again. I remember sitting in my room before a class one morning, just scrolling through Facebook when I realised I wasn’t taking in anything I was reading on it – it had just become a mindless habit so I decided to just completely delete my Facebook account. Ironically, I only told two people – one of them being my mum, the other my best friend.

A few months later, I found myself in the same position with Instagram. I had just discovered someone I went to high school with had unfollowed me, and I immediately began questioning why they would, what had I posted that made them unfollow me, etc. I realised I shouldn’t even be worrying about it so, in the same vein as Facebook, I straight-out deleted my account.

Have your professional or personal relationships been impacted by this?

I don’t think so. I still have a Twitter account, which has probably been one of the best platforms for career-networking. I recently re-made a work-only Facebook account for my job as a journalist for my local newspaper, just because I need to see what’s going on in the community. I only use it when I’m working, and I have no personal friends on it. I’ve noticed that Facebook was really great for keeping up with invitations to birthdays and other events, but if they really wanted me there, they would find a way to invite me!

What do you miss?

Honestly, tagging my friends in trashy memes was the highlight of my social media usage.

What benefits have you noticed?

As cliché as it sounds, I feel as though I’m able to ‘live in the moment’ a lot more. Instead of taking a photo of something purely to post on Instagram, I’m able to save it as a moment just for myself. I also have more time to read again and my neck isn’t as sore as it was!

Would you consider returning to social media? Why/why not?

To be honest, I feel like I may re-download Facebook and Instagram one day, but before I do I want to be sure I would only use them in a way that won’t feel like they’re taking over my life.

While it’s clear there is a cornucopia (you heard me) of benefits to using social media, there’s also the potential for the platforms to become addictive and all-consuming. If you’re feeling a tad overwhelmed by the digital dimension, why not try a detox? Even a short break could be enough to destroy old habits and begin using the web in a more mindful way.

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