Plus, a few other social network apps sucking my soul.
Photo by Thought Catalogue via Unsplash
For context, in 2018, after my Bachelor’s degree, I decided to shift my academic focus away from music, something I had been dedicated to for pretty much my whole life. To the surprise of many, I took a complete left turn and signed up for a Master’s degree in marketing. Unlike any other challenge I set myself in life, the degree was far more academic and research-based than I imagined, which is why I fell in love with it all. However, I quickly realized that I was spending a ridiculous amount of time glued to my phone due to the lack of time to dedicate to writing my assignments.
While for many of us, the average screen time is 3 hours and 23 minutes a day, which is still crazy to think about, I was spending an eye-watering 5–6 hours on my phone per day, almost double the average. There were also no illusions as to which apps I was spending most of this time on; Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube.
So for the latter half of my degree, a period of 6 months, to carve out the time required to complete my thesis, I decided to delete my account from the biggest culprit, Facebook.
Now I’ll also put a disclaimer here; Facebook wasn’t the only social media app I decided to delete. I also removed Snapchat and Twitter since I wasn’t getting much value out of them anyway. As well as those, I also removed LinkedIn as I figured I would just access that via my laptop instead if I wanted to use it. However, I did keep Instagram and YouTube as I get a lot of inspiration and educational content on there (such as art tutorials).
With that said, here are some of the things I learned about myself, the people around me, and the pros and cons of the experience.
Without social media apps on my phone, I was spending less time in bed.
I think many people understand this; since my alarm was on my phone, I would pick it up to turn the alarm off in the morning and then notice some notifications. This would then turn into checking all the apps for updates from my social circles, then spotting an article or two, and before you know it, an hour or two has gone by. This was the same process when going to bed at night too. It got so bad for me that I factored this time into my daily routine. Bad move. Especially since most of this content was pretty negative.
Though without those apps to send me notifications during the night to wake up to, I actually got out of bed to do something more productive, like getting a head start on my daily tasks. This gave me a sense of accomplishment and set a brighter mood for the day.
My productivity levels DID increase, but only for a while.
As a natural progression to the last point, since I was spending less time in bed in the morning and night, I did manage to get some valuable hours back to turn into writing time for my assignments and thesis. As well as this, it also put me in a more or less distraction-free environment during those periods since I wasn’t getting buzzed every time someone posted in some group I joined or someone went live on LinkedIn.
After some time, though, perhaps about 4 months in, I started using the little news cards in the Google app a lot. At first, I would rationalize this as ‘research’ or telling myself, “how else will I keep up with current events?”. Though I realized that if I didn’t curb this, I would quickly end up just replacing the time I spent on Facebook with Google. This is exactly what happened before I started taking the more extreme measure of keeping my phone away when I needed to focus. More on this later.
Facebook is still one of the most prominent ways that my age group connect.
So I’m in my mid 20’s now, and even though it wasn’t undergraduate level partying, my classmates still liked to go out for drinks now and then. Though I found that if I managed to talk to a stranger in the bar around my age, the parting words would always be “I’ll add you on Facebook.” Which lead to some interesting goodbyes. People seem to feel pretty uncomfortable with giving out their phone numbers these days.
Along a similar vein, I also found that I was being contacted less by friends outside of the university, likely because my profile was no longer popping up as active and ready to chat. Since my profile wasn’t there, it wasn’t reminding them that I existed.
A lot of people, myself included, use our phones as a crutch when out in public.
I honestly didn’t realize how much of a social crutch our phones really are. It’s a little weird and awkward when everyone around you is on their phones, and you’re just twiddling your thumbs. Dr. Larry D. Rosen, in this article, mentioned that one of the reasons we might be using our phones in public is as a shield, a defense against having to interact with the people around us. I think this is true for many people, even if we don’t want to admit it. It was certainly true for me, especially when I was on the bus or waiting in a line somewhere subject to the infinite scroll's death grip.
Though I think there’s also a good case in this for being uncomfortable with just being present at the moment—the feeling of always needing to be doing something.
The good, the bad, and the ugly.
There were both pros and cons to not having direct access to these apps on my phone for 6 months.
- I did actually manage to finish my degree with top marks and an award for best student in my course, which I attribute a lot to my awareness and subsequent regulation of my social media use. Which is ironic considering the area I studied.
- I noticed a significant shift in general mood in a positive direction. One of the core reasons for me undergoing this experiment was that I was consuming an awful lot of negative content. There were stories of some injustice every other post, as well as being British, the stereotype of being serial complainers seemed to ring true on my newsfeed. Without this barrage of constant hate and misery, I became a lot happier.
- Removing Facebook (and the various other apps) didn’t break that social crutch completely, and I still found myself now and then down the Google and YouTube rabbit holes. When this happened, I would go a few days with minimal interaction with the phone itself to remove the temptation.
- It did get a bit lonely. Luckily I don’t mind my own company, but there were times when I felt somewhat isolated and good old FOMO would kick in. That’s when I would send a text to a friend and organize some time to catch up the old fashioned way.
In all, I would say that the positives were more powerful than the negatives. Though I do have social media apps on my phone now, I am far more aware of my use and curating the content a bit more wisely. I’m proud to say that I’ve managed to cut down my total phone use to an average of a little under 2 hours a day.
While looking at an overhaul of our relationships with our phones might be a bit too much for some, I would encourage anyone who feels that they use social media maybe a little too much to give a detox a try. You might find that it works out quite well for you.