Did you know that Americans collectively check their smartphones upwards of 8 billion times per day?!
But wait, before your jaw completely drops to the floor — there’s more.
According to this particular study, we, as individuals, touch these pocket-sized computers typically about 2,600 times every 24 hours. And get this: on average, people will spend an estimated five years and four months on social media throughout their lifetime. Say whatttt?
Now, although our society’s obsession with smartphones and social media is nothing new, when I stumbled across these astonishing figures, something strange happened. Once my mind mentally digested these disturbing “fun” facts, it instantly went into denial mode.
“How horrible… but that’s not relating to me… I’m hardly ever on social media… I got rid of my Snapchat account ages ago… Bla, Bla, Bla.”
Yet, as these thoughts kept swirling around in my mind, I looked down to realize the Instagram app was open on my phone and the Facebook browser was staring back at me on my computer.
I took one big gulp and knew I, too, was addicted.
That moment of realization got me thinking. While social media was originally meant to inspire and connect, there is no doubt it has quickly risen to the new addiction in our hyper-connected society. From the ‘likes’ and ‘follows’ to the shares, comments, and notifications, so many of us — myself included — have come to rely on social media for unnecessary affirmation. And after having the lightbulb finally go off, I was ready to make a change.
So, I decided to challenge myself to undergo a 30-day social media detox.
Because I desperately wanted to cleanse my mind from all the toxins social media can bring forth, I ran full throttle with this detox and deleted all the social apps off my phone — even the internet app — and had my friend reset my passwords so I couldn’t check any platforms on my computer. While this might seem a bit on the extreme side, my goal was to be released from the tight grip of the dopamine system.
See, contrary to popular belief, the chemical dopamine has nothing to do with pleasure. Instead, it has more to do with anticipation and motivation. By making you feel like you want something, dopamine shifts you into a reward-seeking mindset, compelling you to act. And when you do act to satisfy that desire, that’s when the brain releases endorphins, which are rewarding and pleasurable. Long story short, specific characteristics of social media — for instance, the instant gratification — can abuse our dopamine systems, fueling the addiction.
But back to the detox.
I won’t lie, the first couple of days of being disconnected from the social web were rough. (Talk about a mental challenge!) I felt everything from FOMO and loneliness to flat-out boredom. In fact, I even found myself sporadically touching my phone, despite knowing I couldn’t check anything. It was as if there was suddenly a huge void in my daily routine, which was a telltale sign of how heavily dependent I had become to these interactive apps.
Yet, after neglecting the sweet burst of dopamine I could sense my brain craving over and over again, each day became a bit easier, especially once the first week had passed. And suddenly, I started to recognize an entirely new level of clarity and focus in my thoughts. Because I wasn’t experiencing the urge to check my phone for “important” updates throughout the day or find myself getting lost in the endless social-media rabbit holes, I was truly taking back the reigns of control when it came to my time.
And the best part? I inadvertently felt more present in the present moment, which unveiled more mindfulness in my everyday. No longer was I taking a photo with Instagram in mind, or searching for the best hashtags to gain more likes or shares. By disconnecting from the social web, I was actually reconnecting with loved ones in more meaningful ways, not to mention I was flying through my reading wishlist and got back in tune with my creative roots.
Before I knew it, I was already at the halfway mark for this detox, and then within a blink of an eye, Day 30 was creeping up. Although I had only intended this cleanse to last a month, I enjoyed this newfound free time so much, I decided to continue this journey. In fact, a couple months have since passed and here I am, still going strong.
While I will occasionally post some of my freelance writing on Facebook so friends and family can stay up-to-date since I live across the country from the majority of them — and let’s face it, a little self-promotion never hurt anyone, right? — I have dedicated about 90 percent of my time to staying “off the grid,” which has brought forth an even greater sense of positivity to my life.
Now, don’t get me wrong — I am definitely not trying to insinuate that social media is pure evil. Just like anything else in this world, I believe the key is moderation. But if you’re even the slightest bit curious of experiencing this social-detox reawakening yourself, I highly recommend you leaning into that desire. Whether it’s a month, week, or simply one day, I guarantee even the smallest amount of time spent offline will make some sort of an impact. And who knows, you might even inspire your friends to do the same.
Because when you think about it, just as we detox our bodies with nourishing foods, shouldn’t we all take a digital detox for our souls every once in a while?
Kate also wrote about leaving social media for a week; you can read about her experience here, I encourage you to try it too!
BY Kathryn - October 23, 2017
Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.