The “you” was “me” — and I was trying to shame myself into action. For almost an hour I had ignored the world around me. I hadn’t gone to the gym, called my parents or crossed a single item off my to-do list. I had, however, watched multiple “tiny kitchen” videos on Instagram, witnessed a handful of heated political posts on Facebook, and repurposed some funny Game of Thrones content on Twitter.
The matrix had sucked me in once again — but this time, I was determined to do something about it.
I’m not alone: 3.1 billion people — roughly a third of the global population — use social media. And an estimated 210 million of them suffer from social media and internet addiction. Which is why I decided to take a hiatus from interconnectivity (as much as a communications professional can) and “detoxed” from social media for two weeks.
I won’t lie: It wasn’t easy. The pangs to reconnect were sharp and frequent. Like Pavlov’s dog, any beep or chirp prompted me to reach for my phone. But — for the sake of journalism and experiment — I remained steadfast. Here are four lessons I learned:
- Your battery lasts longer.
This one seems obvious, but it’s a huge plus. I used to charge my phone so often it was basically a landline. The whole purpose of a mobile phone is to, you know, be mobile. By deleting social media apps and not checking my phone as often, I could work all day, go to the gym and arrive home at night still with 20% battery. Not to mention, I decreased my screen time by three hours a day.
- Comparison is the thief of joy.
Social media makes it incredibly easy to compare your life to others — especially those in your age group. Which only puts you in a constant state of FOMO (fear of missing out). But I’m here to tell you FOMO disappears if you don’t know what you’re missing out on. Tackle that to-do list, start future-self journaling, or find a cobbler to finally get your favorite pair of boots fixed. Not knowing what others are doing frees up a lot time to focus on what you want to do.
- Your hands will be dexterous again.
I’m convinced the newer cell phone models aren’t meant for the human hand to survive, let alone thrive. They’re mammoths compared to older versions. The amount of times I massaged my own hands and thumb area decreased significantly during the detox. Give the digits a rest here and there, I’m sure your future self will thank you.
- We’re rude to each other.
You’re sitting with a friend trying to have a conversation, and the friend is scrolling through her phone. Eventually, she looks up and says, “Sorry, what did you say? I was reading something on my phone.” A frustrating — and sadly, highly common — scenario. When I didn’t have the distraction of social media, I was on my phone a lot less. And I became hip to the probability that I had acted in the way that was now frustrating me. Be present, talk to your friends, and don’t let the art of conversation become as obsolete as cursive handwriting.
It’s the new normal to be constantly plugged in — but that doesn’t make it any less distracting or detrimental to our mental health. Ready to give social media detox a try? Here are some quick tips that might make it easier:
- Tell your friends in advance. Let them know you’re not ghosting them.
- It’s not enough to log out. Delete the apps from your phone to remove temptation.
- Set a game plan for entertainment. Have books and Netflix series or documentaries ready in the queue.
- Keep a journal. Positioning the detox in your mind as an experiment makes it fun and achievable.
- Get outside. Go to brunch, hike, rock climb — get out there and do things with friends and family, get some vitamin D, and let the fresh air aid in the detox.
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About Unum Group
Unum Group (NYSE: UNM), an international provider of workplace benefits and services, has been helping workers and their families for 175 years. Through its Unum and Colonial Life brands, the company offers disability, life, accident, critical illness, dental, vision and stop-loss insurance; leave and absence management support and behavioral health services. In 2022, Unum reported revenues of about $12 billion and paid $8 billion in benefits. The Fortune 500 company is one of the 2023 World’s Most Ethical Companies, recognized by Ethisphere®.