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What I learned from a 5 day social media detox

I recently watched the documentary called The Social Dilemma on Netflix. It rattled me quite a bit because I recognised myself in the characters in the documentary. It really made me question the ethics of social media companies, finding out how much they profile their users and manipulate the algorithm to keep us using their apps. I squirmed in my seat a few times as I looked down at my fabulous cardigan which I purchased thanks to an ad on Instagram. I was torn because I love how the algorithm works for me, because I get to see only the things that interest me, but it also made me uncomfortable knowing how much these companies know about me because of the information I willingly and unwillingly give to them. Truthfully, I was feeling really angry because the documentary made me realise that I was addicted to my phone.

I was about to start a 5 day Ayurvedic detox, so I decided that I would take off all the social media apps on my phone, which in my case are Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and You Tube. I popped into my Instagram stories and said goodbye to my followers and then pressed delete. Here is what I learned:

I was indeed addicted to my phone

As I was going about my day throughout the detox, I noticed that every time I had a spare moment, my instinct was to look at my phone. Even if it was 30 seconds before a scheduled call with a friend. It had become so automatic that not having anything to look at really made me realise how bad I have become at being quiet with myself. I was so used to mindlessly scrolling feeds that in truth were not adding anything significant to my life. I was not able to just be.I started to just sit with myself in those spaces in between and realised that life is pretty lovely in those moments.

I discovered how it had been affecting my mental health

I started to notice that I was walking around with a low level anxiety, wondering what was happening on my social media. Did anyone like my latest post? Did they comment? It was extremely uncomfortable to delete the apps from my phone. It really felt like I was losing a part of my identity. I started thinking about young children on social media and how much more difficult it would be for their developing brains, especially because being part of a group is so important as they are forming their identity. I also realised how stressful being on social media has become because of the pressure to appear perfect. I thought I was immune to this and it was only a problem that teenage girls had. But, I had to face the reality that I did not want to appear on there when I was not looking my best; or I didn't feel comfortable sharing certain parts of myself or my environment because they did not look as stylised as I thought they should. I was in the comparison trap just as much as anyone else. Even after 11 years of yoga and meditation, I was still affected by the need to be liked and "enough" by my tribe.

I discovered how disconnected I actually was

As I started to ease into my days without my appendage (a.k.a. my phone), I started to feel more calm. I noticed that my meditation in the morning became clearer. I felt more peaceful. I wasn't jumping out of my meditation, wanting to share a picture of it to Instagram. I just wanted to be in the peacefulness. I wanted to sit and look at the trees outside. I wanted to read more. I wanted to journal more. The low level anxiety was fading away. I was present. I was present with myself. I was present with my family. I was present with my life.

I remembered all my dreams again. I read the notes in my journal and remembered what I have been wanting to achieve, but have been too distracted to actually do anything because of a preoccupation with likes and filters. All of a sudden I had time. I had lots and lots of time. And the peace of mind to focus my energy on what I want to do next in my life. I phoned friends. I did more gardening. I spent more time outside. I picked flowers. I danced in the kitchen while cooking. I felt like I was once again participating in my life, instead of thinking how to style my next meal to be Instaworthy.

I discovered what was really important

I started making plans. Plans that had somehow gone on the back burner in the midst of a pandemic and stay at home orders. I started to schedule in time for my self care again. I added my mani/pedi, facial and hair mask time back into my calendar. Somehow they had disappeared when the pandemic hit. I thought about what kind of dance classes I want to start once things open up again. I started planning what travel I want to undertake, because one day we will travel again, I am sure of it! I started reading books instead of posts and I did not get distracted, my attention started to be more focused.

I started to become way more intentional with my time and my energy.

My action plan

I realised that I needed an action plan. I knew that I would eventually return to social media. But I needed to be smart and intentional upon my return.

The first thing I did was to schedule my time on social media. I went into my calendar and added the days and times that I would be on there. It was a bit confronting, but mostly incredibly empowering. I now dive in there once (sometimes twice a day) with a purpose. It is up to me to keep myself accountable. There is no social media police to make sure that I keep to my allotted time. Only my own integrity. I get to develop trust in myself. Trust that I will show up when I say I will and leave when I say I will - to go and actually live my life. Because, really, life is not on that little square on my phone.

Real life is outside the square.

By being intentional on social media, I quickly discovered which accounts I wanted to keep following and which ones I wanted to stop following. If I am only to be there for a certain period of time, I need to spend it only with my nearest and dearest. So, I did (and continue to, every time I log on) a drastic unfollow sweep. I am also unsubscribing from any newsletters that I do not actually read. And I have also unsubscribed from all the retailers that email me. If I want to make a purchase, I know where to find their website.

My time is too precious to be scrolling through emails that do not actually bring me joy.

I also realised that I was subscribed to some wonderful newsletters that I was not reading because I didn't have the time. I didn't have the time because I was mindlessly scrolling on my social media, when the real, quality content was waiting for me in my inbox. So, I have taken the time to read the beautiful newsletters I receive from the high quality people that I value. I have also subscribed to the newsletters of wonderful people that I follow online so that I can actually soak myself in their wisdom, instead of getting the sound bites on their social media.

You see, you get the real value when you subscribe to someone's newsletter, or their membership site, or their yoga class, or their online programme. I am curating a selection of beautiful content to be delivered to me, for me to read at my leisure, with a cup of tea, in a way that feels soothing, instead of jarring. And I don't need to seek them out on social media anymore.

The final thing I realised was that I did not actually miss anything by being away. When I put Instagram back on my phone, I went in, wondering what earth shattering news I had missed. What I discovered was that it was the same casino, with the never ending scrolling feed, enticing me with filters and "like" buttons, but nothing of real substance.

I choose to be a woman who values quality over cheap. And time spent with my books, my garden, my family and my friends always outweighs the cheap thrill I get from social media.

Yes, I am still there. But I am wiser. I know that it is like that bad boyfriend - very fun and exciting in small doses, but ultimately, I am better off with quality and staying power in my life.

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