30 Days Without Social Media | The Lab
It’s done. It’s concerning how scary this first step was, but every social media app has been deleted from my phone. Twitter. Facebook. Instagram. Snapchat (does anyone even use this anymore?). Reddit. I am free (?).
Some context. I use social media every day. At the time of deleting, I have spent 5 hours and 11 minutes on social media in the past week (far less than usual), and 4 hours and 23 minutes on my phone each day. EACH DAY. That is almost 70 days a year.
My job requires me to be on social media constantly, so for the purpose of this 30 days experiment, I still have Facebook and Twitter installed on my work phone, and will obviously continue to use them at work. But my personal phone and personal accounts are empty and logged out.
I got this idea from an amazing YouTube channel, who you should definitely check out, called Yes Theory (Yes, I see the irony of recommending a YouTube channel, but they’re great).
In a brilliant recent article by Charlotte Church, she quotes TS Eliot, who wrote of “Faces / Distracted from distraction by distraction / Filled with fancies and empty of meaning.” TS Eliot never had a smartphone, but it’s eerily true. I sit on the toilet or on the train or at the dinner table or lie in bed and scroll and scroll and scroll and scroll until Twitter has become boring and I get a notification on a different app and so I swipe to the different app, now Instagram, scrolling and scrolling and scrolling and scrolling through the same content but in image form. “Distracted from distraction by distraction.”
So here we go. It really shouldn’t be such a big deal or such a terrifying endeavour, but that goes to show just how ingrained in my life social media now is.
I hope that by the end of these 30 days I will be sleeping better, using my time after work and before bed better and feeling better. Feeling happier and more connected to those around me, rather than those in my pocket.
I’ll be writing weekly updates so keep an eye out for those.
Friends, if you find any great memes, set them aside for me.
Today was possibly the best day of the year to begin this experiment, although technically I deleted everything yesterday, as it was Wrestlemania last night and I can’t watch it until this evening because I have a silly grown up job and can’t watch men in pants fighting until the early hours of Monday morning. So, I would’ve been on a social media blackout anyway as to not spoil the results.
I took my phone out of my pocket a couple of times, swiped to unlock it and touched where Twitter used to be, only to open my camera and see a bored social media addict sitting on the toilet staring back at me.
I watched the end of West Ham vs Chelsea, predictably seeing my team beaten by an Eden Hazard double. I wished I could scroll through Twitter for the comfort of reading posts from other frustrated West Ham fans, but I couldn’t. Instead, I just sulked for a few minutes, and carried on my evening.
I treated myself to a Ham and Cheese Lunchables, but all of the little cheese slices were stuck together as one big cube of processed cheese. I thought about tweeting Dairylea my outrage, but realised I couldn’t. I messaged my friends instead and it wasn’t as satisfying because I knew they wouldn’t and couldn’t give me a free Lunchables as a consolation.
I used the time I would’ve spent reading about new Nintendo Switch games on Reddit to meditate before bed. I slept way better and didn’t spontaneously buy any video games I don’t really want.
Aside from opening my camera a couple more times while on autopilot on the loo, today was incident-free.
Another 15 minutes of meditation before bed. This feels far better than two hours of YouTube before (no) sleep.
My girlfriend asked me how the first week without social media was going and I realised that I hadn’t even thought about it today.
Today I worked from home and bought a physical newspaper on my lunch to read cover to cover. I realised that a lot happens in the world that doesn’t make it onto Twitter’s trending list. As an MA Journalism graduate, I was a little ashamed to realise that I now must get at least 80% of my ‘news’ from social media.
Saturday & Sunday
I was sent the new Star Wars trailer in a group chat and treated myself to about 20 watches of that, along with a short video on things I “might’ve missed in the trailer.” I hadn’t missed any courtesy of my multiple watches, and felt that I’d literally wasted 14 minutes staring at my phone watching something that provided me with literally nothing.
As my first week without any personal social media comes to a close, I feel good about the 3 weeks still to come.
Anyone who knows me will be able to tell you that I am on Twitter too much, and I watch way too many hours of YouTube content. Just a few weeks ago, I watched a 20 minute video on the European Chainsaw Carving Championship and felt like I was running out of things to watch on the internet.
In my first week without these apps, I slept better, I went to the gym and meditated more, and I read actual words printed on paper. I’m not saying that seven days without social media will make you a better person, but I already feel better than and not as disconnected as I thought I’d feel.
I know it’s only been a week, but this is getting much easier. I honestly don’t care about how many unseen notifications I’ve got on Twitter or how many memes I’ve missed.
I’m also secretly delighted that I don’t have to use extra thumb energy to scroll pass all of the Game of Thrones-related content that I’m sure is swamping social media today as I’m one of the weirdos who doesn’t watch it. I did try, I just didn’t care for it, but that’s a story for another day.
I went to the gym after work and spent as much time there as I would’ve spent on social media throughout the day, so I lost no time whatsoever.
Same as yesterday really.
I’m on the toilet for no longer than 10 minutes anymore and I actually had dinner without putting my knife down every mouthful to scroll a little further.
I was reminded of a family friend’s birthday by my Mum and realised I must’ve forgotten to say ‘Happy Birthday’ to so many ‘friends’ who I’m so close to that I rely on Facebook to remember when their big day is. It’s actually quite sad that we don’t say ‘Happy Birthday’ anymore because we have remembered and want to genuinely wish our friends happiness, but more because Facebook told us to, and it would be rude not to seeing as I’ve literally been presented with the means in which to do so by my phone first thing in the morning.
I wrote down said friend’s birthday in my physical calendar and will try to continue this.
This is easy.
Every time I log onto my work PC and go onto Facebook, I have to see my personal feed for a few seconds while I click on my work’s ‘page’ (I wish Facebook would make this easier). I have 61 notifications and I don’t mean this in a horrible way to friends who have tagged me in something, but I couldn’t care less.
I haven’t had any calls or texts stating that I ‘must see what is on Facebook immediately!’, so I assume it isn’t important.
I have now bought a copy of The Guardian every day this week. A lot is said about the future of newspapers and their place in the world of digital and immediate news, but I like them. I’m even getting close to finishing some of the crosswords.
Saturday & Sunday
My screen time was down 34% after the first week with no social media, and today it’s showing an additional 38% decrease on last week. That is bloody mental.
2 weeks in, 2 weeks to go.
Aside from the odd urge to read tweets from fellow football fans that are missing from the physical newspapers, this has been fine.
I miss Twitter most of all. I think I could go without Facebook forever, although my extended family would have no idea of knowing I was alive. I haven’t had any desire to go on Instagram but that might be because I haven’t been on holiday or done anything I’ve wanted to post a pretty picture of.
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday
I know it sounds silly, but over the past Easter weekend, I feel like I’ve done more and seen friends more. Even if I’ve just been out of bed and ready to leave the house earlier because I haven’t watched one more unboxing video of something I want to buy, it feels as if I’ve been more productive.
I left my phone in my bedroom while I cooked and ate dinner downstairs and not once did I touch my empty pocket and panic about where it was. THIS IS GROUNDBREAKING GUYS.
When I did go back upstairs, my phone was where I’d left it, nothing bad had happened and I felt good.
I worked from home on Thursday and went to Costa for some breakfast. As I waited for my toastie to toast and my laptop to log on to my work portal, I pulled out my phone and just rearranged some of the apps on my phone so that they were next to similar apps. Am I becoming more enlightened and free, or more fucking boring?
Friday, Saturday & Sunday
I went for drinks, dinner, and more drinks, finally going to bed at 6:30am. If you weren’t there you wouldn’t know that this had happened because I didn’t post 20 Instagram stories of us (badly) singing along to Bon Jovi and boomerangs of us ‘cheersing’ every drink. So yeah, you’re welcome.
I spent all weekend feeling like I’d gone 5 rounds with Tyson after Friday night/Saturday morning, and therefore I honestly didn’t even think about social media for 99% of the time.
My only desire for Twitter was when West Ham beat Tottenham and I wanted to retweet every related photo and video for my Spurs supporting followers.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday
It might seem as if I’ve gotten lazy because I’ve been grouping my days together and am now combining weeks 3 and 4, but it’s not that (I swear). It’s because honestly, the fact that I’m not using social media at the moment has just become a normal thing.
Sure, I’d love to rewatch all the goals West Ham have scored from every possible angle and of course, it would be great to read through all the potential fan theories for the upcoming Star Wars movie (yep, I’m still thinking about the trailer), but it’s not a big deal.
I go to Florida next week with my brother and researching is not as fun without YouTube.
I’m working through the night tonight as it’s the local election and part of my job. Subsequently I’ll be on my work’s Twitter account all evening and I realise that I now associate the app purely with work.
Friday, Saturday, Sunday
I spent Saturday and Sunday in Brighton and can’t believe how the idea of pulling my phone out and filming for my Instagram story just doesn’t exist in my brain anymore. I actually worried a little and ponder whether the value of a trip decreases if you don’t share it with your friends and followers. I think I was just still drunk.
I stayed up until gone midnight on Sunday night so that it became Monday and I could download my apps again before bed. I couldn’t remember my Twitter password and just went to sleep, turns out it really isn’t that important anymore.
It’s currently Thursday and I have been back on social media for a couple of days now. To be honest, I can’t believe the difference my break has made, and I’ve struggled to stay on any one app for longer than 10 minutes. Where before I could scroll through Twitter indefinitely, I’ve barely made it passed the ‘In case you missed it’ section before closing the app since being back on.
To hear more about my 30 days without social media, and how it impacted my mental health, be sure to listen to the You Me and Anxiety podcast about it all! Until then, hit me up on Twitter @JoeDifford.