3 min read

Social media detox

A few weeks ago I removed all social media apps from my phone. Why? As an experiment more than anything else. I wouldn’t say I’m addicted to social media, but it had become my default task. Waiting for a meeting to start? Check Twitter. Few minutes until the train arrives? Good chance to catch up with Instagram. Should really be asleep but eh, did I honestly need this extra hour (spoiler: yes, yes I did)? Scroll through Facebook.

Photo by ROBIN WORRALL on Unsplash

I had noticed how much time I was spending, but it only really became obvious after I started using the iOS 12 beta and I could see the data that Screen Time was collecting. I was spending several hours on my phone every single day. Those occasional five minutes every so often were really adding up into a meaningful chunk of time. Enough time to get through a book in a week, go for longer walks or just do absolutely nothing but think. Yet instead, I chose to seek solace in a heavily curated data feed.

The first few days without these apps on my phone (namely Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube for good measure) was relatively easy. I wasn’t forcing myself to stop using the services, I just didn’t want to make it so easy. Checking in while at the office was fine but now when I sat down on the sofa or went to bed, there was no point in picking up the phone, so more often the book won. That was, until FOMO hit.

It wasn’t the fear of missing out of everyone else’s content — though there was the odd occasion where I’d miss a friend share some exciting news — it was the inability to add my own. I like to tweet. Whether anyone likes to read them or engages with me is for another post, but I enjoy sharing the occasional thought, idea or photo. So when I felt the urge to tweet, I no longer had the ability to, unless I was by a computer. As a result, I was posting less as well, which further removed me from the services and gave me less reason to check in. Fair enough, but that wasn’t my aim. My aim was to make social media work for me, and not the other way around.

At this stage, I bargained with myself and installed Hootsuite. This re-introduced the ability to post and share and, thanks to the unfamiliar interface, still kept me away from scrolling through the timeline. In fact if this experience taught me anything up to this point, it’s that the native Twitter app has really nailed the timeline interactions.

Though as I’m sure you’ve already figured out. This was the foot in the door that signalled the return. By this point I had convinced myself that I had things under control, that because I no longer instinctively browsed to social media, I could be trusted with full access once again. The fact I wasn’t browsing was because I didn’t have full access seemed to escape me at the time, but there we go.

Fast forward to today, and things haven’t actually changed all that much. The apps are back (except for Facebook) and I still check social media too often, swiping down to refresh with an expectation that the next post will be so worth it. And as before, it never is. So onto my next thought: If I can’t change myself (admittedly I didn’t try all that hard), how about I change social media?

That’s where we are right now. I’ve stripped back my following list, cleared out the people I never really knew from Facebook, and refined the instagram feed to either show me what my close friends are up to, or inspire me somehow. I may be checking them too often still, but now the signal to noise ratio is much better and the content much more genuine. It’s less funny animals and more friend’s home improvements. Less rehashed news headline and more colleagues celebrating success.

It’s by no means perfect, but it is providing more value from the same amount of time that it previously was, so for now I’ll consider that a win. But you can expect we’ll be back here in a few months time again. Social media is one of those things that you need to continually evaluate and make sure it’s providing you with value, and not the other way around.