Introduction and Background…
Technology detox. Now that is the most terrifying phrase to hear for anyone these days. I mean, how on earth would we talk to people, look things up, share pictures of the food that we are eating or our pet sleeping, or even go down the rabbit hole on YouTube to the point where we are watching cats play the piano?! This is madness! Our lives will be ruined forever! Now imagine a social media detox. Dun, dun, dunnn!!! We won’t be able to post about our day by the hour or stalk our favorite celebrities. What will do with our lives!
All jokes aside, we all fall victim when it comes to the overuse of technology to the point where we become addicted to it in different ways. Social media in particular has invaded our lives whether you are an adult or as young as one day old infant. Yes, you read that correctly, a one day old infant. Nowadays people, mostly celebrities are creating accounts for their child who was just born even though they can’t use themselves until years later. We can spend hours on social media to the point where you don’t even know how you got to the animal videos when you started. I’ll admit it, I have spent hours on social media, whether it’s Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, or Twitter and I don’t know how the time went by. Once I got the chance to do a detox involving technology for five days, I knew it had to involve social media. While I go on social media every day, I don’t use every platform so I went with the one I am on the most, Instagram. After deciding this the next five days changed my life, in ways I never knew was possible.
The Set Up Before the Madness…
As I already said I chose to do a detox with Instagram since I use it the most. However, in order to get the intriguing data this needed, I wanted to make it harder on myself. I did so by leaving all the notification settings for Instagram on and left it where I usually have it and not hiding it in a folder or deleting it completely. I also included the weekend with the 5 days since I don’t have class that would keep me off of Instagram. I wanted to be able to focus on different areas of this detox. I came up with questions to answer by the end. They include:
- How often do I think about Instagram?
- How often do I accidently open Instagram?
- Will I forget about the detox and constantly go on Instagram?
- How often will I think about using social media?
- Will I go on other social media apps more now that I can’t use Instagram?
- When do I go on social media and normally use Instagram?
- How often will I about to open Instagram but then go on something else? (hover over Instagram and then go on a different app)
- How often will I be tempted to open the Instagram notifications?
- What will I notice more of since I won’t be on Instagram?
- Will I become happier after spending less time on Instagram?
- Will I be able to change my social media habits?
- Will I change the way I use Instagram after the 5 days?
The Results Are In…..
Now that the madness of no Instagram is finally over I can officially say I am a new person. Never in a million years did I, a college student drowning in technology and social media, ever believe I could give up Instagram for 5 days. Granted I did have some slip ups, but hey…what can I say I’m human.
At first the mere thought of having to give something technology related up I found that my anxiety increased and I started having concerns about it. Anxiety and concerns about giving up something that has been consuming my life ever since I can remember? Now there is something that I never thought would come to mind. What concerns could I possibly have had though? When I thought about the “concerns” that I had, it was ridiculous how idiotic it sounded. I mean some of the questions and concerns that came to mind were, am I going to be left out of the loop when I am with friends? Will I have nothing to do when my work is finished? What will I have to talk about or do? or my personal favorite: but I’m going to miss posts from my favorite shows or from my favorite celebrities (posts, stories, or an Instagram live), I can’t possibly miss anything they post. These were just a few that popped into my head when hearing about this assignment. To think that my anxiety increased before I even started scared me. It scares me to realize just how much of a hold technology, or in this case, Instagram, has on me.
It, for sure, took some getting used to because I have a bad habit I know I have to break. That habit is after I wake up in the morning I go right to social media with Instagram taking up the majority of my time as well as right before I go to bed I check social media one last time. Instagram is basically the first and last thing I use and see, and using it throughout the day. So the day one of the detox I already slipped up, I woke up and completely forgot I planned on starting the detox cold turkey that day, and was on Instagram for about 45 minutes before realizing about the detox. After that slip up, it happened again 2 more times each for about 10 minutes right before I went to bed after a long day on day 3 and 4.
While I was doing the detox, something intrigued me. I knew I used social media a lot throughout the day and even though I post very very rarely, I never knew how often I grabbed my phone to go on it. Not only that but at times I found myself refreshing an app every 2 minutes. I started the detox on Wednesday and ended on Sunday. Now, I had school Wednesday and Thursday with one class for 2 hours and 50 minutes on Wednesday and two classes being the same amount of time each on Thursday. I realized that walking from my car to class, waiting to get into class, taking my seat and waiting for class to start, when there were breaks during class, getting food, then walking back to my car, I kept going onto social media and almost opening instagram multiple times. That being said, it frightened me that I spend that much time on social media and I haven’t factored in the rest of those days or the other days yet.
Since I had to stop using Instagram, I realized I was using my other social media apps way more than I normally do and I tracked when I tended to use them. I found that when I was bored, when I needed a break from school work, when a commercial was on TV or while I was relaxing, while I was eating, walking to and from class, waiting for class to start, and when I was hanging out with friends and family was the majority of when I had an impulse to use social media and used it. This is a terrifying realization because that is basically my entire day and it seemed to me that every minute I wasn’t doing something I was on social media, like I had to do something and that something was social media. During those moments I either hovered over Instagram or accidently opened it and exited it out about 50 or more times each day which is frightening to see. There were multiple times, about 2 times for the first three days that I forgot about the detox and went on Instagram for about 30 or more minutes each time. I know what you are thinking, how can I forget about the detox after a couple of days? Well, I realized that if I was very busy one day, really focused on work that had to get done, or even relaxing and was bored, I went on Instagram completely forgetting about the detox.
Furthermore, I had kept the setting on where I would continue to get Instagram notifications that will appear on my screen before I even unlock my screen or pop up while I’m using my phone, in order to make it more challenging and to see how I would react. Well, I can tell you that it was harder than I thought. Every time I was notified that someone posted a picture I had the urge to see it and almost did numerous times. Then, when my favorite shows or celebrities did an Instagram live and I was notified, which was also many times, I did slip up and watch a few of them because with those it’s more personal than posting a picture since they are live and in person interacting with the fans. Even though I would probably never meet them, it was the closest thing to meeting them for me and it was very rare that they happen to do it, so I felt the need to have to watch them. How strong of a hold does Instagram really have on me that I surrender as soon as an Instagram live begins that I’m interested in watching? I mean, Hossein Derakhshan says it best in his article, “The Web We Have to Save”. when he says, “What is more frightening than being merely watched, though, is being controlled,”1. He explains how Facebook can control what we see and know and how it’s scarier than being watched by surveillance. In a way, Instagram has been controlling me and I was somewhat blind to the seriousness until now. On the last day of the detox, it was also the day that my town does a festival with a parade called the Southington Apple Harvest Festival. Now, I was in the parade walking with my dance studio that my sister still goes to and I help when I can. Before the parade started everyone was taking pictures and many were posting to Instagram right after. For some reason I felt the need to post something about the parade on Instagram to show others all the fun and for myself as well as seeing what others posted from it. However, I never did but wondered: Why did I feel the need to post something or look at the posts, even though I was there and saw the pictures being taken?
In the midst of the Instagram detox, there were many moments where I didn’t use any social media or my phone and I began to seriously notice things. One moment in particular that resonated with me was when I going from one class to another on Thursday and getting food after my class on Wednesday. I noticed how basically everyone was looking down on their phones and most likely on social media instead of enjoying the company of others or enjoying the weather that day when it was nice out. I also noticed how often my friends and family (mostly my sister) asked me, did I see this or that on Instagram? Or did you see what he or she just posted on Instagram? I had to keep telling them that I didn’t and reminded them of the detox, but I was tempted many times to look at it.
Coming out of the 5 day Instagram detox, (yes, I’m still alive believe it or not – it is possible!), I noticed that my anxiety has improved, I was happier, I figured out ways to change the way I use social media, and even changed how I use Instagram. Once I stopped using Instagram (or tired to), at first I had anxiety about missing out on certain things, but then my anxiety improved day by day. This is mainly due to the fact that I wasn’t seeing things that made me annoyed, insecure, sad, or any other negative feeling and I was able to relax and break away from the negativity. Even though I was on other social media apps, Instagram was where I found my anxiety was higher. I became happier because Instagram took up the majority of my day almost 30 minutes to an hour or more is spent on the app, so when the detox happened I spent more time doing what made me happy whether it was drawing or doing other art, reading from a series I’m in the middle of, or just doing things I love to do alone (me time) and with friends and family. I began to focus on the small things, especially on those that made me happy. Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, mentions that we should focus on the smaller things in life and that “The simple choices can provide a ‘reset button’ to your emotions,”2. I feel like if I focus on the simple choices that make me happier, I will be happier so I agree with Cal Newport because if we can’t focus on the small things in life then society will swallow us whole. That said, I found ways to change how I use Instagram and other social media apps. So instead of following people that create negative feelings and emotions, I’m going to unfollow them and follow more inspirational accounts about art and design or others and surround myself with those that make me happy which in return will hopefully lower my anxiety. Additionally, to stop the overuse of social media I will try to limit how much I’m on the apps and enjoy other things during the day, and stop using them at unnecessary times like when I am walking from one class to another or when I am just bored or relaxing and do something else to better pass the time.
All in all, it gave me a wake up call that I definitely needed and is one that everyone can use whether people believe it or not. I know it’s the most stressful and scary moment in your life to give up something like social media that you’ve had your whole life! I mean our lives will be done…ruined actually! But I am living proof that it is possible to give up technology and/or social media! I’m real…not a figment of your imagination!