Often that’s what social media feels like to me. A few million people sharing their favorite lunch time sandwich and soup. Or maybe a selfie while in the bathroom after eating their favorite sandwich and soup. I’m guilty as charged. I’ve taken a-many cute photos of my two puppies for no reason other than to let the world know how cute my two puppies are. Seriously, just look at these two.
From July 25th to August 23rd I went on a social media detox. 30 days of no social media as a way to “turn off the noise.” Today I’m sharing with you that experience.
Today’s article is a little silly, I curse a bit, and I make fun of all of us. If that jives with you keep reading. If not, see you Sunday with a post about how you can rework your perfect fitness and diet plan when it goes to shit.
WHY EVEN DO A SOCIAL MEDIA DETOX
I’m not going to tell you why you should do one but I will let you know why I decided to give it a shot and if that floats your boat than cool.
When I complain or hear other people complain about social media it usually has to do with the following:
- It’s narcissistic, shallow, and only includes highlight reels of people’s lives
- It’s giving us a false sense of real human connection and creates a world of horrible communicators that only know what to say if they are able to use their fingers or thumbs.
- It’s a gigantic “time-suck” that keeps us from getting important stuff done. You know, like working out and eating well.
But after looking into the research a bit more I found that I was wrong. It’s not making any of us more narcissistic, except giving those that already posses that trait a larger audience to showcase it. It’s not giving us a false sense of real human connection but instead giving us an opportunity to expand our networks. We just choose to keep them defined by liking photos, retweeting 140 words, and commenting on statuses. Versus really growing them with face to face contact, conversation, and sharing life experiences together. It may be a time suck, but as Mark points out it’s also a great platform for us to share information and resources with one another.
My original ideas for starting this challenge were shot to shit. Instead, I got some inspiration for doing the challenge in a place where most of humanity experiences profound life changing thought. Inside a Starbucks.
I was waiting in a long line at the caffeine shop and by habit reached into my pocket to grab my phone. But for some reason that day I stopped and asked myself why the heck was I grabbing it.
Was it to check Instagram or Facebook for the tenth time this morning?
Was it because my nervous system had been rewired by my phone causing “phantom buzzing.” (1)
Or was it because I wanted to take a Snapchat of myself letting everyone know that I was in line waiting for coffee?
I didn’t have a good reason for why I was grabbing it so I didn’t. As I looked around, the entire line had their heads down with their eyes on a screen. Parents weren’t talking to their kids, boyfriends and girlfriends weren’t communicating, and I wasn’t offering to buy the person behind me their drink for the day. I scanned the room and noticed half the place was staring at a screen – Well played Apple… well-played indeed. Some people were doing work or studying but most were on social media. I’m guessing to connect with people in some sort of way.
I thought about it some more – it was a really long line. And the reason I was reaching for my phone was a way to avoid the uncomfortable feeling of standing there alone, looking people in the eye, and in silence. This is something we’ve all done before. Maybe at a party or while out at dinner with some family and friends. The moment the conversation slows, stalls, or hits an awkward moment we go to the phone as a distraction. A way to avoid the silence and the aloneness.
The phone and social media outlets have become our safety net. When you’re not sure what to do, when you’re feeling uncomfortable, or when you’re alone they’ve become our go to.
So with that said. My reasons for doing a social media detox are three-fold:
To get comfortable with the uncomfortable: I don’t want to use my phone as a default for when I feel uncomfortable. When alone, in silence, or waiting in line. I just want to be there and in that moment. If I have nothing to say I just want to have nothing to say instead of pulling out my phone to check my feed. If I’m waiting alone I just want to be alone instead of watching YouTube video’s of cute baby otters. Whatever experience I’m having I just want to have it and to keep from feeling the need to “show and tell” my breakfast, my face, or the new shoes I just bought. Less noise more connection.
To reduce social comparison and anxiety: Social media helps to make everyone else’s life seem perfect. It’s a nice shot of everybody’s highlight reel. At every turn someone you know is on an awesome vacation in French Polynesia, in a hot air balloon drinking mimosa, or riding on a dolphin doing flips and shit. Or maybe they’re just out on the town while you’ve decided to stay in this weekend.
If you email me and tell me you’re not guilty of social comparison I will fight you. Prettier, smarter, more accomplished, makes more money, has more fun, does more cool stuff – It’s ingrained in us as humans to gauge how we measure up against one another. Check out the video of my boy Prince Ea explaining this. We can’t help it. But you can change your environment to remove a large source of it.
Refresh your browser if you do not see a video. Or click here.
To promote more physical and conversational connection with people: A good face to face conversation is one of my favorite things in the world – it gives me energy and makes me feel alive. Instead of liking someones photo and calling it a day I want to chat over coffee, take a walk around the park, or ask someone what they’ve been up to while rock climbing. I want to give them a chance to describe a cool experience to me and for me to ask questions about. I’d prefer to let my buddy know how adorable his two kids are by telling him in person versus writing a comment under a Facebook post. To some people it may hold the same significance but to me I know I’m far more appreciative and blown away when someone calls to wish me happy birthday than writes it on my Facebook wall.
I MESSED IT UP THE FIRST 3 DAYS
No joke, the first 3 days I attempted the challenge I messed it up royally.
Day 1: I never log out of my Facebook account and on day one I received an email from a class that I’m taking. In that email was a link that I clicked on. Boom! It sent me to Facebook. FAIL!
Day 2: I was waiting for a client and habitually opened up my phone, thumbed Instagram and began scrolling. FAIL #2!
Day 3: When I started this challenge I had no faith in my ability to resist the temptation and dopamine releasing instant gratification of social media. I was finding myself waking up in the morning, shutting off the alarm on my phone, and instantly completing a social media round.
- Check Facebook
- Check Instagram
- Check Twitter
- Check Snapchat
I’d head downstairs to make a cup of coffee, let out the dogs, and while I was waiting maybe do another little check. Not a complete round but a quick little Facebooking. God only knows what I may have missed the 2 minutes it took me to get downstairs.
After having my cup of coffee I would… well, you know what coffee does to you. And while sitting on my throne what better way to kill some time than to check my Instagram. Maybe someone took a picture of their breakfast or the crazy hair day they’re having.
I’d usually teach some classes or work with clients for the next few hours and around 11am I’d sit down to write. Upon opening up my twelve hundred-dollar typewriter and firing up the internet I would habitually and mindlessly type in w..w..w…f…a…c…e…b…
Holy shit! What the f*ck was I doing! I closed my laptop and decided social media and I needed to talk.
It’s not you babe… it’s me. You see, I’m going through some things right now and I just need some time apart. I don’t know how long but don’t worry. If it’s meant to be then it’s meant to be.
Thus, the 30 day social media detox finally began.
I immediately deleted all social media from my phone: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Periscope. I use my phone all the time and I knew that if they were there it would be too hard for me to resist. Sort of like walking by a Cinn-A-Bon in the mall and getting a whiff of that scent or seeing an old flame when you both just happen to be single.
I also installed self-control on my laptop because face it, as humans we’re just not that great at displaying self-control. I next made it a point to tell family, friends, and clients about the challenge for a few reasons.
- So if they caught me on social media they could punch me in the gut and give me a hard time about not being able to go through with it.
- So that they could help support me as I was detoxing. You’d be surprised how effective the simple act of someone asking you how the challenge is going is at keeping you accountable.
- So no one would think I was dead. Everyone is on social media and if you don’t respond to someones message, “like” a photo, or update your status in a while people think you’re six feet under.
And that was pretty much that. The challenge had officially begun. From July 25th to August 23rd I went on a social media detox. 30 days of no social media as a way to “turn off the noise.”
FEAR AND LOATHING WITHOUT SOCIAL MEDIA
It sort of bothers me that I’m admitting to having fears about going without social media for 30 days. I was afraid that it would affect my business. I was afraid that I would get less traffic to the blog. I was afraid that I would become irrelevant and that people would forget about me. I was afraid that I would be missing out (#fomo). I was afraid I’d be out of the loop.
Social media has become such a gigantic way we interact with each other and I was afraid that I’d be alone. I often justify it as a great way to stay connected with people but this experiment would help me figure out if that was actually true or not.
I was also afraid I’d become poor. You’re probably wondering WTF I’m talking about right now. Social media has become currency. We exchange likes for likes, comments for comments, tweets for retweets, and friend requests for friend requests. Now this isn’t a bad thing. It’s one of the ways I built this blog, made new friends, and has allowed me to find some really cool products, services, and knowledge. I was afraid of losing some of that.
Silly fears? Maybe, but I’m human and humans are silly.
THE 30 DAYS: OBSERVATIONS, NOTES, AND WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS
As I mentioned in the intro, social media has become a habit. Like smoking cigarettes, biting your nails, watching porn, cracking your knuckles, or snacking when you’re not hungry. For the first few days I was finding it a little weird to not log into Facebook after opening my computer, or to check Instagram while on the can. I felt weird standing in line without my head down starring at a screen. So much eye contact and awkward smiles.
There was no lusting after a cool new gadget or someone else’s awesome experience wishing I would have done that. Instead, I found myself creating more new experiences for myself. I signed up for dance lessons – something I’ve been saying I wanted to do forever. I took a cooking class, and started working on my mobility using Gold Medal Bodies Elements program.
I was engaged in more tiny experiences that mean a lot to me. I was walking the dogs more, started regularly meditating again, and began reading more fiction (I’m more of a non-fiction guy). More importantly, I was striking up conversations with strangers at the coffee shop, in the bookstore, and while grocery shopping. Real human connection and it felt good.
Over the 30 days I realized how big of an impact social media has on our lives. I missed engagement announcements, invitations from friends (sorry Denny, the coffee tasting would have been boss!). I missed out on updates from my Precision Nutrition mens coaching group (love you dudes). Conversations would come up with people asking me if I saw so and so’s update, pictures, or tweet – and I would have no clue what they were talking about. Social media is how we get information, stay in the loop, and connect (sort of) – and I was out of it. It was weird.
The first few days I even felt a little depressed. Not sure if this has anything to do with the dopamine release that we get when talking about ourself, personal views, or the sheer instant gratification it offers, but I was definitely not as chipper days 1 thru 4.
LOGGING BACK IN
August 23rd: The day had come to log back in and despite what you’re thinking there was no celebration. No balloons, no party favors, and no cake. It was just me, myself, and I sitting in my backyard on a beautiful Sunday morning in Southern California.
I was feeling less stressed, anxious, and I was really enjoying my time away from the screen. I felt more productive, I was sleeping better, and I was more creative. There’s something to be said for boredom, or maybe it was just the lack of distraction that helps to get your creative juices flowing. I even started an Idea Book (thanks James) for all the non-sense that was running through my head.
To be honest, I was fearful about logging back in. I had broken my social media habit. No more automatic logging in when I open my computer screen. No more scrolling through Instagram while pooping. No more tweeting when I felt uncomfortable. I didn’t want to revert back to old habits.
But I did it. I logged back in for the first time in 30 days. What I found was pretty much what I expected. Not to sound like a dick or anything but about 90% of what I saw I didn’t care about or who it was coming from. I know, I know, I’m an asshole but that’s the truth.
There were hundreds of Facebook notifications, 8 messages, and a couple of friend requests. I missed tons of tweets, Instagram comments and likes, and some Snapchats. But the world didn’t explode and I was still alive – go figure.
But the most important thing I got out of this was that I just felt better. I like simple, I want fewer distractions, and I like the idea of exposing myself to less noise.
So am I done with social media for good?
No. But I plan on using its powers for good and not evil. I’ll now be asking myself if I’m using it to contribute to the betterment of other peoples lives or just to make some noise and stroke my own personal ego.
I want to wrap up this article with a little cheat sheet incase some of you are interested in doing a 30 Day Social Media Detox:
- Step 1: Remove any applications from your phone
- Step 2: Use website blockers like self-control, anti-social, and stay-focused. 99U has a great article on some of these.
- Step 3: Let your friends, family, and anyone else you speak with often about the challenge. Let them know better ways to contact you.
- Step 4: Post a message on the social media sites you use the most announcing the challenge
- Step 5: Use a wall calendar to track your progress. Place a line through each day you successfully complete the challenge. Once you see a consistency chain you won’t want to break it.
To be honest I was hoping that this challenge would be something profound. But it wasn’t. It ended just ended up giving me clarity about whose important to me, what’s important to me, and how I can better contribute to the world…
Maybe that is profound?
Question of the day: How do you feel about social media and have you ever thought about doing a 30 day detox? Comment below and let me know. I’d love to hear from you.
PS: Thank you Prince Ea for some of the inspiration for this article
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