Imagine if you were presented with a book containing the statistics for your entire life, and you had sufficient time to look through the entirety of this book and reflect on its contents shortly before you die. It’s a big book, and every conceivable statistic can be found on its pages. The number of holidays you’ve had and the countries you have visited, the number of conversations you’ve had with your friends and family, the number of books you have read from cover to cover, the amount of time you have spent at work, and so on. Some of these statistics will be completely insignificant, others will be of more interest and evoke happy memories of time well spent. But there is one statistic which would undoubtedly cause the greatest worry and regret, and in particular for millennials and members of generation Z. The amount of time spent on social media.
In the context of a single day, an hour or two spent scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed or Twitter timeline would seem inconsequential and would rarely inspire concern from other people who almost certainly do the exact same thing. When looking at the bigger picture though, it becomes more obvious that these seconds, minutes, and hours add up quickly, and in the context of a lifetime they amount to a whole load of time which cannot be claimed back and that could have been used more wisely. It wouldn’t be as bad if our social media use was more productive and promoted positive mental wellbeing and happiness, but anybody who has this expectation is likely to come away from their laptop or phone disappointed. The reality is more like this, at least from my experience. Family members arguing about politics. Friends sharing their holiday snaps which prove that their life is more exciting and fun than yours. People practically begging for likes, retweets, favourites, shares, and comments. People trying to accumulate as many friends and followers as possible, often resorting to attention seeking, self-pitying and narcissistic posts to achieve this. Irrelevant and intrusive ads. Clickbait articles. Fake news. The list goes on.
That I was addicted to social media was a very difficult thing to admit, but it was also an incredibly liberating thing too, because it gave me a starting point from which I could deal with the problem directly. I had developed a very unhealthy relationship with my phone which seemed to have more control of me that I had of it, and that’s when I knew that I needed to do something drastic. Where I would previously jump on any Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, or Instagram notifications with predictable optimism that my post had been liked, retweeted, shared, favourited, or commented on, I have now turned notifications off for all of these social media platforms. Where I would normally spend anywhere between two to three hours a day browsing my social media accounts, I will now dedicate only a few seconds of my day to quickly check my social media accounts for any important updates. Where I would casually take my phone out at the dinner table, or worst of all whilst I was having conversions with the people I care about, I will now make an effort to keep my phone zipped away in my pocket during these times. I have also purged my phone of social media apps that I no longer use or particularly care for, Snapchat being one of them!
One of the biggest obstacles that I had to overcome when I decided to cut back on my social media use was the fear of missing out, the nicotine of social media addiction which keeps people coming back again and again to satisfy their curiosity. But in all honesty, I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything important that I wouldn’t be able to access outside the realm of social media. I have very quickly come to realise that I don’t need to be on social media to enhance my life, and with all the additional time that I have reclaimed back I am now able to read more books, learn new things, converse more with my friends and family, engage more with more interesting communities both offline and online, and most importantly get outside more! Additionally, all of the negative feelings that I had from constantly comparing my life to the seemingly perfect lives of friends, and even strangers, had vanished. It was one of the best decisions I have made, and if anyone else is considering a social media detox, especially given that people will start to be thinking about new year’s resolutions for 2019, they should definitely do it!