Whenever I am on my phone, you can pretty much bet I’m spending a majority of that time scrolling through social media networks.
Instagram is my drug of choice, so to speak, but I’ve also been known to lose long periods of time to scrolling through my Facebook feed, looking at my high school friends’ new babies and reading news stories.
Needless to say, it was an eye-opening experiment. Here’s how my week without Facebook and Instagram began.
I knew the night before I began this experiment that I was planning to start first thing in the morning, but I still unlocked my phone screen first thing in the morning and went to tap on the Instagram app icon without thinking. It was like I was on autopilot and it took me a second to realize that it was no longer part of my early morning routine.
With Facebook out of the picture as well and no unread messages in my email inbox, I was at a bit of a loss about what to do with the 30 or so minutes I had before I needed to get up and get ready to start my day. I ended up reading Twitter for a while, which I rarely ever do, and spent a few minutes taking my turns on the active Word Chums games I had. It was pretty boring.
Thankfully, I was really slammed with work the rest of the day so I didn’t really miss social media, but that was the calm before the storm.
I clicked on the Instagram app icon again first thing in the morning, just like Day One, but I remembered much more quickly that I was avoiding it and canceled it out before my feed even loaded on the screen.
Not interested in trying to find other things to occupy my attention on my phone until it was time to get up, I actually shut my eyes and got a bit more sleep.
After hitting the gym and getting a bunch of work done, I needed a bit of a break. Usually, that would come in the form of scrolling through Instagram or, to a lesser extent, Facebook. Since that wasn’t an option, I took the dog for an extra walk, which I guess was better for both of us.
This is when things really got tough. My partner off-handedly brought up something a celebrity we both follow posted on Instagram and asked me what I thought about it. Of course, she then realized I hadn’t actually seen it since I wasn’t using the app that week and I kind of cheated by looking at the post in question on her phone instead of mine.
I also had her update my health and fitness Instagram account as I didn’t like being inactive for days on end. I told her how to caption it and what hashtags to use and, while it wasn’t as good as posting it myself, especially because I couldn’t see what all the people I follow were posting or what my followers were commenting and liking, I felt slightly less out of the loop.
I started to realize just how addicted I am not just to my phone in general, but to social media in particular, especially Instagram.
During this experiment, I didn’t miss Facebook at all, really. I only really use the site to keep up with local businesses and news sites I follow, and I can always access the info directly through their respective sites.
However, when it comes to Instagram, by the third day, I just couldn’t take it anymore — I had a desperate need to scroll.
I opened the app quickly, telling myself I’d limit myself to five minutes and only look at my feed, completely bypassing any of the Instagram Stories that have been posted. As I’m looking, I feel a little bit guilty as well as a bit weak — it had only been three days and I couldn’t even hack it. I also feel a bit dumb since I haven’t missed much of anything at all, at least nothing exciting that I couldn’t have lived without seeing or knowing.
When I put down my phone, I realize it’s been 15 minutes. Oops?
I decide that I can get through the next few days without Instagram, especially after my mini cheating session the day before. I haven’t missed Facebook at all, but my Insta withdrawal is still pretty real so I decide to mitigate the temptation by being prepared.
When I wake up in the morning, I don’t bother to reach for my phone. Any emails I have in my inbox can wait until I’m at my laptop and I don’t want to tempt myself any more than necessary. Instead, my Kindle is at the ready and I get 20% into a galley of the new Seanan McGuire book I’ve been meaning to read. It’s so good that I can’t wait to get back to it when I’m done work for the day, and I don’t miss Instagram at all that day.
Reading is still keeping me sufficiently distracted from my phone, though it does cross my mind at one point to see if the author is on Instagram or if anyone else has read an advanced copy so I can see what they think of it. Instead of hitting up one of Facebook’s apps, I settle for reading posts on Goodreads, which is the better option for the task at hand anyway.
I asked my partner a couple of days back not to tell me anything she sees on social media so I don’t slip up and look on her phone again, but I do still get a slight pang of FOMO whenever I see her aimlessly scrolling. That used to be me! In fact, it will be me again in just about 24 hours or so.
Because of this, I do take a quick peek at my feed just because I have so many notifications I want to clear from my screen, which I justify by insisting I can only do by actually looking at them. However, I cut myself off soon after and put my phone away for good.
I manage to avoid the apps for most of the day simply because I’m so busy. Between the gym, work, lunch with my mother-in-law, and a few errands that need to be run, I don’t even look at my phone for any amount of time until about 7 p.m. At that point, I only have about 10% left of my book, so I figure I can power through the last bit of time.
Admittedly, the most comforting thought I have before going to bed is that in the morning, I can resume my normal scrolling activities.
To say that it shocked me to learn just how addicted I am to Instagram, in particular, would be a lie. I know I’m pretty reliant on it and I don’t really see a problem with it, especially since my posting habits don’t interfere with my everyday life and I am able to pull myself away when need be.
Still, during my week off Instagram and Facebook, I was much more productive in other areas of my life when I wasn’t constantly distracting myself by picking up the phone to scroll. Taking time to do worthwhile activities like reading and taking the dog on some extra walks felt more fulfilling than scrolling, but that doesn’t mean I plan on stopping anytime soon.
Originally published on Business Insider.
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