I. Can’t. Stop. Looking. At. My. Phone.
And frankly, it’s driving me nuts. Earlier this year, I broke up with Facebook for good. However, since it’s a business tool – and therefore a necessary evil – I allow myself to log on for five minutes a week to promote whatever is on my docket. However, in those five minutes, I don’t “like” anything, nor do I look at or comment on anyone else’s posts.
There were a lot of reasons for the decision: my extreme annoyance at poorly thought out political posts, my love of privacy, and my disdain for unresearched opinions alongside all of those pushy, eerily accurate ads. As soon as I had made my decision, I found it very difficult to stop my Facebook creeping habits, especially because I uncomfortably realized that I felt the need to check it every 15 to 20 seconds. I felt like I had become a slave to it.
Nearly a year later, I’ve practically forgotten that Facebook exists for the majority of the time, and it’s been a huge relief. Yet, rather hypocritically, I have ratcheted up my involvement on other social-media sites. It’s like an itch and, if I don’t scratch it, it only gets itchier. If I forget my phone at home, it eventually feels like my whole body is covered in coarse wool.
I’m in a cycle during which I’m checking Reddit, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat in quick succession – over and over and over again – when I have any moments of free time. In the year of the craziest and fastest news cycles I’ve ever witnessed, I can’t stop feeling like I’ll miss out on something major. Can anyone recommend a doctor that will legit diagnose me with #FOMO? What do you take for that anyway?
It turns out, I knew the cure all along. My Facebook addiction is well and truly dead, and it came as the result of a conscious and concerted daily – even hourly – effort to abstain. I had to make a conscious decision to take a break from my phone, reconnect with the real world, and actually talk to other humans face to face. Looking to reap similar benefits? Here’s what you can look forward to following a digital detox.
You'll Have the Free Time You Crave
Your phone represents a huge amount of wasted time. As of 2017, the average user spends upwards of five hours a day on their phone. That’s 150 hours a month! For all of you “I’m so busy” folks out there, 150 is a lot of free time. You could literally earn an entire Bachelor’s Degree in the amount of time you spend browsing monthly on your phone.
All of those things that you intend to be doing like volunteering or joining a meditation group, which inevitably get shoved aside because of a busy schedule, could easily be filling that time. In the words of US congresswoman Maxine Waters, “Reclaiming my time” should be your mantra going forward.
You'll Have Real Conversations
While I am by no means an oversharer on social media, I – like most people – tend to post about life events. Because of that, I am broadcasting changes far and wide, irrespective of who might see and take notice. When I post my vacation pictures to Instagram or check-in to an event on Facebook, I am completing one half of the conversation for people already, while the comments and likes that come in are the other half. What this does is completely remove actual, tangible communication from the equation.
For example, I am no longer congratulating my friend on her new baby when I see her, but telling her, “Oh, I loved the post in which she was trying to roll over!” My knowledge of her life is a foregone conclusion. By detoxing from social media and your phone, you are opening yourself up to the opportunity to engage with others in a real way once again. That means, the next time you see a friend or loved one, you can say, “What have you been up to lately?” – and genuinely not know the answer already.
You'll Alleviate Depression and Anxiety
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” After all, nothing can rob you of a good feeling like seeing an annoying former colleague skiing in Gstaad with Chrissy Teigen. While globalization has connected us more than ever, studies suggest that all of this connectivity leads to comparing our lives to everyone else’s, which leads to chronic depression and anxiety.
It’s so easy to look at the glossy, curated, edited, polished versions of people’s lives on social media and think, “Why can’t I have nice things like her?” While it can take months of retraining your brain to refrain from needless comparisons, you can get a head start by refusing to check social media for long stretches of time. You’ll notice those “not good enough” feelings dissipate immediately.
You’ll Learn to Rely on Yourself
“What’s the name of that one song? You know the one that goes ‘every rose has its thorn’? Never mind, I’ll Google it.” How many times have you been a part of that scenario? Hundreds? Thousands? In your pocket, you carry an incredibly powerful supercomputer, and chances are you’re taking it for granted.
Memory recall is at an all-time low, and our smartphones are the reason. In a study of 1,000 Americans between the ages of 16 and 55, 40 percent reported that their phone “serves as their memory”, while 90 percent “agreed that they use the Internet as an online extension of their brain”. Yikes. What happens when your phone dies or if your WiFi quits working?
Experts are calling the phenomenon “digital amnesia”. We now have increased trouble recalling simple facts that we recently learned because there is no “reason” to learn it – your phone can remind you of it any time. Fortunately, you can keep your memory sharp and your brain flexible by training yourself with mnemonics, a tactic that helps improve memory. You’re now thinking, “Is there an app for that?” There is, but we encourage you to try it without the help of your phone.
You'll Discover New Things
The other night, my WiFi went out at 7 p.m. and, for the next two hours, all I did was lie on my couch and complain like the Internet was personally out to deprive me. Suddenly, I realized that I had basic cable, something that I had never once turned on or browsed, and I quickly entered a whole new world of bad television stuffed to the brim with channels in languages I didn’t understand and more home-shopping options than I could count.
I kept flipping until I landed on a 1980s film called Fatal Beauty, in which Whoopi Goldberg plays a cool Los Angeles cop on the case to prosecute a rich man who is peddling drugs in the downtown area. Her outfits were amazing, the dialogue was pithy, the action was eye-popping, and the plot had strong feminist undercurrents. I’ve never seen this movie on a listicle, never been recommended it by a friend on Facebook, and never seen a style edit of Goldberg’s amazing costumes on a fashion site.
It was a pure and authentic discovery all of my very own. Do you see where I’m going with this? There’s a whole world out there that’s waiting for you, and it’s way more rewarding when pure curiosity or a chance encounter yields something new and fantastic.