By Diane Cervantes
In March of this year, I began to feel very overwhelmed and in need to distance myself from others. These emotions, which seemed to have come out of nowhere, eventually led me to a 3-month social media detox. Although it wasn’t just social media affecting my life, it definitely was a driving force. As I went through the motions, I realized that I had fallen into a routine of spending the majority of my free time on my phone, mostly skimming through articles, looking at memes and keeping up with the latest posts and tweets from people that I follow online. Most of these things didn’t have much substance and as a consequence, I was moving through life mindlessly. We can’t process 100% of the information we go through in a day, but it can still affect us consciously or subconsciously and can even shape our thoughts and actions.
Aside from focusing on what others share from their day-to-day, the political climate and other realities of the world were really taking a toll on me. Watching and reading the news had me in anguish and feeling somewhat hopeless. I felt the need to escape, so I decided to disconnect for a week. This meant no tweeting, no scrolling for hours on end and no liking or posting on social. I turned off all my notifications and went on with my day. At first, I’d compulsively want to click on whatever social media app I could, but then proceeded to lock the screen. My moodiness evolved into a state of self-realization.
About a week into the cleanse I was ready to open daily conversations with friends again, however, I was still unsure about returning to social media. While many use social media as a resource for communicating or gaining knowledge in various subjects, others straight up fall into the rabbit hole and that was becoming my reality. It would go something like this: I’d be continuously scrolling through nothing in particular, which would turn into googling something like home recipes to make my hair shiny and then somehow end up on the IMBD page of a random actor. It begged the question:
Is my precious time really being used wisely? And even more importantly, am I living in alignment with my values?
For me, living in alignment with my values means being a person with integrity and actually doing what I said I would. Whether it’s being on time or sticking to a consistent exercise routine, these are some of the standards I wanted to uphold. There were numerous times I didn’t prioritize my tasks. I’d start to panic and condemn myself for not being responsible. The worst feeling was being conscious of the problem and not doing anything about it. The constant haunting question then became, “Why are you like this when you know better?” Having previously implementing a lot of positivity in my life, this time I was really off track.
Despite following particular pages that offer inspiration and a personal sense of motivation, it wasn’t enough for me. When the positive stimulation decreased, it was back to square one, where I’d find myself lacking the discipline to follow through. More often than not, we fall into the comparison trap looking at glimpses of what others share, and perhaps wishing that we could have similar experiences. However, we don’t always know what goes on behind-the-scenes and we tend to disregard the details and effort put into the whole picture (literally and figuratively.)
I felt like I wasn’t doing anything meaningful or moving with purpose. By moving with purpose I mean, small things I could apply to my life that would surely add up to benefit me later on. This could include setting weekly goals such as reading more books, spending more time in nature, checking in on friends and relatives . . . the list goes on. All of these intentions require something we sometimes think we don’t have enough of, time. It seems that a lot of people don’t realize how much time and effort are worth, consequently disregarding it. Even without social media, it seemed that my days were still full and my plans for the week would shift because of unexpected occurrences. Next thing you know, the months go by quickly and you look back on all you’ve done (which sometimes still doesn’t feel like enough!). Throughout my social media cleanse, I still used my phone to listen to music, however I still wasn’t inclined to look into the current news and other content.
For someone that’s typically on top of the most current pop culture news, it was odd for me to be the last one “in-the-know.” As the weeks went by, it felt really good to be away from it all. I was more conscious of my thoughts and how I experienced each day. Rather than checking my phone the minute I woke up each morning, I took the time to meditate, incorporate positive affirmations, or just fit in the errands I had to do for the week. I noticed that my mood improved and that I was being more productive than I typically had been. The detox was taking effect and I was really enjoying it.
The semi-amish life I was living opened up a bit and I got back on Snapchat and Tumblr a month after my initial decision to log off all social platforms. The choice to go back to these two particular outlets were for the following reasons:
- I didn’t have to really socialize with people
- It’s more personal/private
Not that I would display outrageous stories or posts, but I like that I can still engage with content without losing control over what I’m consuming. Instagram has more going on, whereas Snapchat is more convenient for just sending quick pictures and videos to friends. Tumblr is more of an *aesthetic* inspiration-type thing (how millennial of me). Despite being back on two social media platforms, I was still out of the loop when it came to current events. On the upside, I was now in my own world, focusing on my goals. In April, a little more than a month into the detox, the fear of missing out started to creep up. The joy of being logged off was fading and suddenly I felt rushed to get back on. I did get back on Instagram and Twitter momentarily. It was during weekend one of Coa(Bey)chella and I just HAD to be in on the coverage.
Although I did go on YouTube binges after my “detox” started, I recall not even opening my laptop for a good three weeks. I got used to not relying constantly on my phone for entertainment, conversation or knowledge.
It has been a process, but I definitely feel more present, clear and recharged.
I have become aware of where I lack discipline and can move forward and apply changes now. I learned to prioritize and practice self-control. The way that this experience has played out for me so far has been very rewarding in many different aspects. I have learned to be more patient, accepting and responsible. I am more aware of myself and strive to use my energy wisely. Although I couldn’t completely remove myself from social media, it was nice to be “off the grid” (kinda).
Have you ever disconnected from the internet world or detoxed from social media? Share your thoughts and experiences with us!