Guys, it's been a very interesting journey going social media free this month. I've been taking notes on my phone when I have feelings and thoughts, to reflect and digest and also see how I feel throughout the month, and at the end I plan to make some sort of decision about it.
I got Facebook in 2007. I was in Grade 10, in Geography/History class. At that point my 'online' medium had been MSN messenger, but I'm not sure if you would classify that as social media. I literally remember getting FB and being so excited and enthralled with it. My project partner was sick for the week so I spent every geography/history class completely on Facebook while she was absent. When she came back and my teacher asked for the work I did while she was away I spilled the beans and said "I'VE BEEN ON FACEBOOK THE ENTIRE TIME I LOVE IT HAVE YOU SEEN IT???". And honestly since that week I don't think I've gone 3 days without social media. That means for 12 years I've been active online - sharing, consuming, and attached to social media.
On that note, I think I have been really lucky because in that time I generally haven't had to deal with any bullies or creeps. Any questionable people/accounts I delete or block, so maybe that's what kept it at bay, but at the end of the day social media has been a really positive outlet for me. I joined Instagram Christmas 2010 to get a cool picture of our tree - at the time I thought it was just a way to put filters on photos rather than be a social connecting platform. Slowly it grew. I started following more people outside of my immediate circle of friends I previously knew. I'd see someone with a funny relatable bio, emojis I use, or people doing similar things (yoga, UNA, etc.) in Calgary and I'd follow them. Friendships were born. I felt connected to a bigger circle. I loved it. Then you add the endorphin hit of having a photo that gets likes and what's not to love? This continued and grew. Instagram stories at first seemed like an annoying copy of snapchat (which I was also an AVID user of at that time), and became another thing I loved. Finally, to see a more real glimpse into people's days - something less curated and unfiltered - was thrilling. Although I never got into a truly curated feed for myself - I wanted the authenticity of what was actually going on in my life vs styled pictures and photoshoots from other times. These are still beautiful, and I've shared professional photos of my baby and wedding, but I didn't have the time/money/energy to dedicate my feed a singular curated look. I loved seeing what people were up to, good places to try for dinner or dessert, to travel, to wear. It was all interesting. I was often able to swim away from the currents of comparing - the place to drown in 'grass is greener-itis', but sometimes I'd catch myself grasping for air there. On those days I'd be opening instagram 10 times more frequently. I'd be on pages of people I didn't know (I don't know if any good comes from going to the 'explore' page...). It'd become a twitch more than anything - opening the app without actually thinking about it. Those days were 10 times more likely to be anxiety ridden. I'd be using the app for the furthest thing I intended to use it for. Wow writing 'using' in that sentence is interesting... any kind of scary. Good segue...
I was watching "The Fix" on Netflix. A show with comedians coming up with 'fixes' to problems. This episode was about fixing the monster that is social media. During the episode one female comedian actually starts using her phone while cameras were rolling. Everyone calls her out like "are you serious right now you are literally being paid to be off your phone and discuss the issue of social media and you're on your phone???". She responds with something along the lines 'I know I'm so bad it's totally an addiction', and semi laughs it off. I think this is a common sentiment towards our phones/social media. People jokingly say they are addicted to their phones, but leave it at that. 'hahahah yeah I'm totally addicted!' I feel like if it were any other substance people would be like 'yeah that's not funny I'm worried about you.' After watching that I felt the desire to jump away from my phone. I didn't like the knee-jerk response of opening it when I was bored. Anytime there was a window of nothing, of waiting, I went straight to my phone and to social media. Opening it to capture highs and funnies of my day. And even though my experiences with social media were all positive, did that make it a less serious addiction? Was it an addiction? I had so many questions that I didn't have the answer to. I still don't. But here are some of my thoughts I wrote in my Notes app from the first two weeks (HEADS UP SOME OF IT IS EMO):
First 24 hours:
I’ve reached for my phone to open Instagram at least ten times
It’s forced me to sit with my thoughts rather than consume to distract
I feel lighter
I feel less expectation to produce
I feel more isolated
My phone feels less needed and less useful
I focus better watching tv
Meditation is the same in terms of focus
I’m bored and feeling it
4 days in:
I'm bored more
Thinking my own thoughts rather than having them served to me
I miss knowing what’s happening. What are people doing? I feel like I genuinely care but then I can’t tell what’s become a reflex or addiction
The thought of 'if you don’t post it did it really happen?' Am I even living if I’m not online? Is the opposite true? Are you living if you’re online? Part of me feels like writing this is trivial then the other part acknowledges what a big ducking deal it is - living online and being online. It’s more complicated than we understand.
Waking up to my alarm clock syncing the Bluetooth without my permission on airplane mode at 3:05am was weird. NOT COOL.
Can you separate life and social media?
When people discuss social media in terms of addiction it scares me.
Ads. I used to think that being catered to was convenient but it’s really manipulative and invasive in terms of privacy and consent and information.
Deterioration of attention span also scares me.
Being alone with thoughts and experiences. Thinking about sharing and living public vs private. Expectations vs reality. My children watching and mirroring me.
6 days in:
Reflecting the addictive cycle of consumption but also creation.
Alone again with my thoughts. Not happier. But quieter. It feels like in Wall-E when the screen shuts off and they realize where they actually are and what they've been missing.
I feel sad about the world. Concerned for the earth. Questioning everything.
(PS ^ I was highly emotional sitting by the river feeling sad about planet earth. Still.)
Today (two weeks in):
I no longer have the knee jerk grab my phone when I'm bored or doing nothing.
I will think about specific people I followed on Instagram, who I really liked and wonder how they are doing. People I've followed for years but don't know deeply or personally or have their actual contact.
When I take photos (which I still do, I have always done and will always do), I'm less picky about the quality/lighting etc. This is less draining.
I realize I was spending a lot of time even thinking about captions, or what would be a 'great' photo. This extra time I now have just has me thinking more.
I'm more intentional about texting people and connecting that way or with facetime to talk to people outside of Fernie.
I do feel more reflective and quiet.
I feel less attached to my phone which is nice. I really do care less about my phone - this is positive.
As small/shallow as the gratification I received on instagram may have been, I miss it and feel a slump in my self-esteem. It's something that can be repaired, but it's something I'm reflecting about it and working on.
I really felt the need to CONSUME media and quickly. I definitely went on Pinterest and justified that it wasn't social media because there wasn't any back and forth, or gratification - but it was still a CONSUMPTION HIT - so bizarre. No more Pinterest for the rest of the month.
Dissecting all this is weird yet important
There was always a feeling of missing lots of what was going on in Instagram (not being able to see what everyone was doing), but now to be missing literally everything everyone posts is a deeper exercise in releasing FOMO.
Right now I feel like I will come back to Instagram, but maybe aim for a once a day. It's weird to think about and I am still undecided.
This has been an interesting process. Only half way there. I hope you're doing well! Let me know if you've ditched your phone. What are your thoughts on all of this?
Sending love from the mountains,