I first posted to Instagram on the 17h of February 2013.
It was a photo of three pairs of shoes that I no longer own.
I don’t remember joining. I don’t remember why I joined or who suggested it.
But I realized last week that I didn’t like the person I had become and part of that was the impression that I was always on my phone. I had been hit with same brush as young people and millennials at the rip old age of 33.
The songs I listened to in high school are now 20 years old. To be called the “youth of today” is both a compliment and an insult.
I used to be proud to be “up to date”, at one point in my life, it was my job.
I knew everything before everyone else. Hell I watched live as they speculated if Michael Jackson really was dead (it was 5 am Sydney time and TMZ reported it, there was speculation!)
Being in the loop connected me to the outside world. When Facebook and Twitter first started to bloom, I spent 8 hours a day with headphones on, 8 hours a day sleeping and the rest desperately trying to squash knowledge into my exhausted brain. Some days, I made it through the entire day without actually talking to anyone. To anyone who knows me now that would seem impossible.
I don’t know when the random “insta” people became such a big focus of my day. It isn’t conversation. I don’t spend a lot of time commenting or sending personal messages. Most of the people I follow I have never met and never will. So when I hatched this plan to go 5 days without social media, I didn’t think I would miss them, my Insta-people.
I didn’t “quit” or “take a break” from social media because I was getting hateful comments or was starting to feel pressure to look a certain way, as many social media influencers claim. I just wanted to see what happened.
The first day wasn’t anything special. I didn’t miss it, I didn’t even notice it. I was busy with other things so even if I hadn’t deleted all my apps from my phone, I probably wouldn’t have been on them anyway.
The second day was a whole other story. I managed to find 2 hours in my morning. I was more productive and felt I was having real conversations with people rather than what I had previously thought was efficient multi-tasking. (I found out the other day that multi-tasking isn’t actually a thing and it actually effects your brain the same way that smoking marijuana does! Who knew!)
By day three it had hit me. I felt lonely. I thought, “Wow, I haven’t spoken to anyone that I don’t work with all day,” then I realized that even with Instagram I don’t talk to many people I don’t work with. I thought about cheating and logging on, just to see. It’s not like anyone can actually see if I’m online. But I didn’t, even though I really wanted to. It’s funny, I wanted to know what workout Rich Roll did today, and if Samantha Gash finally had her baby? I wanted to know what Lucy Batholomew had for breakfast. I know on a rational level that I don’t know these people but I still feel like I’m missing out. Like when you don’t get invited to that wedding or baby shower that you don’t really want to go to but feel a little hurt that you didn’t make the cut.
Day four. Is it possible to have social media withdrawals, like actual physical withdrawals? I work up with a headache and by lunch time I had a sore throat and what felt like a mouth full of ulcers. Surely this isn’t due to a lack of social media. I didn’t have the constant craving to check today. I didn’t even feel sad, just a little blah.
About half way through day five, I caved. I blame the so called flu. I took the day off work because I legit thought this social media detox had made me physically ill. But after a had some tea and tried to sweat out the germs with a session on the bike, I began to feel a bit like myself again. And then I re-downloaded my apps.
I thought my world would explode with notifications, flashing beckons of my own FOMO. But it didn’t. There was a few, but as I flicked through Lucy Batholomew’s breakfast, random people’s run’s and more mindless ad’s than I could count, I realized that in five days without my social media accounts I didn’t really miss anything. Nothing worth sacrificing my relationships, my work or anything else for.
And just like that, I put my phone back down.
In five days, I took one photo. A very boring, non Instagram-able photo of a broken chair at work with a stupid sign on it. When I took this photo I had no intention of posting it, I was just going to bring it home to my husband to show him how stupid it was. There was no photos of my dogs sleeping, of my dinner or of my running shoes that are now gathering dusk in the garage.
So what did I learn about myself by going without social media? There wasn’t a big epiphany. I haven’t condemned social media for being mean or disconnecting me from my real life or wasting all of my time. I guess I just realized that I don’t really need to be checking it all the time. I don’t need to be on it. I’m not going to miss out because there really isn’t anything there that I’m actually missing. It will all be there when I get to it.