Digital Detox: Stepping Away from Social

Each year, right around the new year, most of us turn our focus to giving our personal wellbeing some special consideration. Raise your hand if you’ve committed to working out more, eating better, and detoxing from last year’s bad habits. I’ve done detoxes before. My New Year’s commitment for 2017 was to remove toxicity from my life--it started with food, but then I focused on unhealthy relationships and mindsets. But I feel like 2018 is reckoning me to detox even further. In the last few months, I’ve had multiple friends engage in a different kind of detox: A digital detox.

I first heard of the concept from a friend who lives abroad. When she said she was taking some time to disconnect from the online world, I was sad that our conversations wouldn’t be as frequent since we can typically only connect via social media. She said she needed some social media-free time to refocus and reflect, which I could totally understand and support. Then, I had one of my closest friends decide to give Snapchat a break for a month to see if he really need it in his life. Surprise--he didn’t and has remained off the app (even despite my begging for him to hop back on and send me snaps of his dog). In my line of work, I feel compelled to stay up to date on “what’s cool with the kids” so I asked one of my trusted members of Generation Z if digital detoxes were a “thing” right now. She said yes and summarized it so well, describing it as “forcing yourself to not be online (or limit your usage to certain platforms) to help with mindfulness and reduce anxiety.” Following the rule of threes, I started to strongly consider the idea of participating in digital detox.

Global Web Index, recently released a report from a study on social media use and shared interesting findings on digital detoxing. Most striking, 58% of users ages 16-34 years old have tried to decrease their use of social media in the last year, which is more than any other age group in the study.

I suppose am I part of the 58% who have attempted to decrease use in the last year, but I can say haven’t been successful in doing so. When Apple rolled out iOS12, one of the features I was most excited and scared about was the Screen Time function. As a person who loves data and analytics, I was excited to view my usage. However, I also knew the numbers would illuminate something I already knew and the numbers didn’t lie: I might be using social media too much. When I started to see the trend of how much time I spent on social networking versus the time I spent on productivity, I was honestly disappointed in myself. It’s not to say that I don’t value the fact that I can access content about what my friends and family are up to on Instagram or post my very important thoughts on Twitter. But when it was right in front of me how much time I was likely mindlessly scrolling, I realized I haven’t been as present, focused, or engaged as I would like to be. While I do utilize social media for my work, I know I spend far greater time on social media for non-work related purposes.

One of the biggest arguments to use social media is to feel connected to other people and I truly believe social media has the power to keep people connected and informed. However, my love language is quality time. I can assure you the time I spend mindlessly scrolling or liking Instagram photos does not equate to the quality time that truly makes my heart happy. So, I’m reinvesting that time. I’m not going to go cold turkey on social media but I am going to do my best to stick to my Screen Time limits I’ve set for myself. And the spare time I have after work, school, and the gym is being dedicated to spending quality time with my loved ones. If I haven’t seen your face or heard your voice in awhile, expect a request to hang out, a phone call, or FaceTime soon.