Way back, at the beginning of 2019 actually, I took part in what I can only describe as a digital detox. I had already deactivated my Facebook account months beforehand and had felt incredibly light since scrubbing that from my brain. The difference I felt in my mind and brain power after deactivating it was insane to me. I couldn’t believe it and so, I wanted to extend that to other areas too.
Since then I have done numerous digital detoxes. I typically do them whenever I feel overwhelmed and also, whenever I’m realistically able to do one. When I say digital detox I don’t exactly mean avoidance of digital devices. I still have my phone, my computer and tv but I delete my social media apps (no insta, YouTube, etc), my tv is only for a specific amount of time in the evening, and my computer is restricted to work and emails -no browsing anything online that could influence me. The only apps that I still use on my phone is audible and Spotify, which are where I listen to a lot of my podcasts and audiobooks. So it’s not an entire detox and some would probably say that I’m cheating but it’s important to be realistic and as a housebound Spoonie, I don’t think I could commit to a full detox at this time.
Having done a few of these detoxes now, usually for a few weeks at a time, I wanted to share some things that I’ve learnt from them. Some of these are quite obvious and then others really surprised me. Even just the experience of it and how clear my mind seems during a detox is amazing and something I would recommend everyone do at some point.
How much damn time I spend on meaningless apps
I always knew I spent far too long on apps like instagram and YouTube, even apps like Pinterest and Tumblr I could spend hours on. They’re like rabbit holes into the digital abyss that would take up so much of my time and before I know it an hour or so is gone and I really need to get sh!t done. By taking all those apps away, it made it all the more evident how much of my day is eaten up by mindless scrolling – it was an eyeopener! So much so that when I did finally have my apps back it made me more mindful of my use of social media and how long I spend on there.
Facebook doesn’t contribute anything to my life
While I had somewhat realised this before the detoxes, it became ever more obvious to me as time went on. Throughout the detoxes, I kept thinking about how I use social media apps and the roles each of them play in my life. I realised very quickly that Facebook just doesn’t contribute to my life. For people like my mom and her friends, its a way for them to keep up to date with one another’s lives even if they don’t have the time to physically see one another. For me, it became more burdensome. I’d be tagged in meaningless videos and status’ that really didn’t bring anything to my life, or if they did it was a more negative tone. I’d feel like I had to comment or acknowledge the tagged posts in some way, even if I didn’t like them which would feel tiresome but at the same time I didn’t want to be rude so it also felt somewhat fake.
Now I know this perhaps sounds very ‘first world problems’ and just outright rude of me, feeling burdened by having to comment to friends and families online, but I just realised that I much prefer seeing people. By not being involved on the Facebook scene I’m far more present when I do spend time with them and I really love that. When I ask about their trip away, I enjoy seeing how their face lights up that I remember and I’m interested in them and their experience. They usually pull out their phone and show me photos of what they’re talking about and telling me their funny encounters, etc. It’s far more fulfilling for me then swiping through and simply ‘liking’ them.
Instagram inspires me but also burdens me
I think there’s different ways in which people tend to use instagram, I have friends who use it in a very social way but for me it’s a little different. I follow a lot of independent businesses, especially those with a sustainable initiative and I absolutely love following activists and keeping in touch with the different ways in which they are striving the change this world. I find these figures so incredibly inspiring but while I love this kind of content, too much of it can be overwhelming; especially if something particularly poignant is happening in the social sphere such as the death of Sarah Everard. Instagram was inundated with posts of advice and ‘what to do’s’, and there was so much conversation around this topic that needed to happen. I know personally that this event and these posts conjured so many open conversations with my boyfriend. Quite often he would send me a post he’d seen with his thoughts which would open up a discussion about it. While I loved this and to my mind these conversations are how we will change society, it can get a lot. Every so often I find instagram too much and I need to take a time out. It’s not that I don’t want to interact or stay up to date with things, and I still care about whatever’s happening at that given time, but I also need to take time out to help my own mental health and I think that’s okay.
How valuable time is
Now it’s a bit of a cliché but digital detoxes have really taught me how precious time is. I’m not talking about time in the grand scheme of things but the little chunks of time. Those 10 or 20 minutes of scrolling here and there throughout the day when you’re on a break at work or between jobs or chores, etc. Those moments all add up and can make quite a sizeable chunk when you really think about it. I didn’t realise this until I scrubbed social media from my routine for the detoxes. Instead I’d spend those little moments doing other things like getting fresh air with the dogs in the garden, reading a few pages of a book, practising some mindfulness or even just doing a little bit of knitting. I noticed not only the difference in my time but also how that time spent elsewhere contributed to my mental health. It was refreshing to sit outside with the dogs, even when it was the colder months and I really loved those moments of stillness in practising mindfulness (the daily calm tracks with Tamara Levitt on the Calm app are godsends to me).
How many important tasks I can complete instead of being on my phone
This one is somewhat linked to the one above. It’s all too easy to get distracted by our phones and let the important tasks slip by. They don’t even have to be important but even chores and little things that need doing but all too often stack up until you need a full-on chore day. Instead of browsing my apps, I got into the the routine of doing a task off my list with a podcast or audiobook on. One of my favourite chores to do is set up my stall and try do some ironing while I have an audiobook on. I can enjoy the book while ticking a thing off my to-do list -which never would have happened had I still been sucked into all my apps.
While I know this list is by no means ground-breaking, I do hope that it gives you something to think about and maybe even inspire you to try your own digital detox. Everyone is different and uses technology in their own individual ways, especially since so many had to work from home during the pandemic, so be realistic if you want to try one and don’t be too hard on yourself.
Let me know your thoughts or your experience if you’ve tried a digital detox before.
Cheerio for now!