I came off social media for a week and it was as awful as you would expect it to be
See you later Facebook memes
I’m not doing this to shame you for using your phone, performative wellness is gross.
I’m also not going to pretend I didn’t miss using social media, I most definitely did.
But what if I was able to wait for the Metro for five minutes without looking at a Twitter feed I've already read three times? What if I didn't live with my head at that 45° downwards angle all the time?
Over the summer I spoke to a friend, who told me that she had deleted all of her social media apps. It made me realise how much time I spent just looking at my phone, to fill the quiet, to keep my hands busy.
Whether I'm sat on the Metro, waiting for a lecture to start, watching TV; everything I do is closely shadowed by my phone, and if I'm not on it, then it's in my hand.
Looking at the usage analysis on my phone, I found out that I’m on my phone an average of five hours a day, picking it up around 80 times. Grim! Kind of makes me want to vomit.
I used the 'screen time' function to set time limits on my social media apps. I banned Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Pinterest; as well as trying to reduce my phone usage in general.
I made exceptions for Facebook Messenger and FaceTime as it wasn't feasible for me to be completely unreachable while living away from home.
Day one was the hardest: waiting at the Metro station and sitting on the train for the following short journey.
It didn’t feel longer than usual or anything, just emptier without the electronic stimulation and quieter without the music. My hands felt very empty.
I suddenly had time that I didn’t know how to spend. It was initially just a matter of adjusting, having to think about what I wanted to do, instead of just mindlessly scrolling through Instagram. Guess who bought a codewords book from Asda? I'm so fun!
I felt the absence of my phone more keenly, I felt disconnected. My phone is how I get my news and to see what people are up to, even those I no longer speak to. How else will I know if the girl that sat next to me in year nine is enjoying this years' I'm A Celeb?!
I found solace in Netflix and accidentally watched five years worth of Doctor Who in five days. A talent worthy to be on the CV if you ask me but how did I get to this point in my life?
I have seen too much early 2000s fashion in the past few days for my liking, maybe Netflix needs to go as well as social media?
What on earth do people do with their time without technology? I've already learnt how to knit, a productive task that adequately keeps my hands busy when they want to fidget.
The most boring day by far. I spent the morning watching telly (a lot of it), the afternoon in seminars (standing outside a seminar room empty-handed is SO boring!) I had lots of little random gaps of time to fill, time that usually goes by unnoticed with the distraction of my phone.
I forced myself to sit in the Robbo for 3 hours, if nothing else, no social media meant I got all my seminar reading done, a rarity for me.
The bite-size, easy-to-process format of social media is incomparable, newspapers are too long for my short attention span, I can only really deal with 240 characters max.
This day made me realise that leaving social media entirely is not going to work for me. However I do need to edit the nonsense out, I don't need to see skinny girls on the beach every day, especially when it's freezing in Newcastle.
I decided to do a social media purge – on Instagram I went from following 400 people to 200, on Twitter 150 to 70, on Facebook 550 to 250. I decided that I want as few online 'friends' as possible. Following my mums rule, if I wouldn't say 'hello' if I saw you, I won't follow you. Numbers fell quickly!
Day five and six
The social media cleanse finally started to feel more normal. I stopped craving Twitter, stopped missing the endless cycle of watching Facebook videos. I found myself living without the endless barrage of content.
I now wonder why I consume it all: every meme, knife sharpening videos and eyeliner tutorials when I don't even wear eyeliner. It all felt a bit pointless consuming all of this.
These days passed quickly. All week, my fingers have been automatically opening my phone when I'm bored, showing just how programmed I am.
Opening my social media apps again was weird. I looked at everything I had missed and once I was done, I didn’t check back in until the end of the day. I may have done the impossible, have I actually weaned myself off social media?
I realised I may have been using my social media as a way for me to not engage with myself and my thoughts, you don't have a chance to feel any sort of way if you're too busy to notice it. I've found that despite what I'd previously thought, I actually like the quiet, or other people's conversations, because I'm nosy.
I found that stimulation doesn't have to come from the same feed you've already seen a million and one times that same day. It can come from walking around a supermarket without a shopping list and coming up with meal ideas (and spending too much money on vegetarian alternatives). Or even embroidering handkerchiefs for people because you've seen too many period dramas and think it's romantic (definitely not something I did this week!)
I can now check Twitter without feeling the compulsive need to scroll through it again in 15 minutes.
I'm not yet done with cutting all social media out of my life but I am one step further than I was before. I have successfully halved my screen time and pickups, which is hopefully something I can maintain, don't hold it against me though.
Related stories recommended by this writer: