Sunday last weekend was like any Sunday. I woke up as late as Ivy would allow, drank some coffee with breakfast and went to the gym. Then it was the usual of cracking on with life admin you spend all week running away from, like going shoulder to shoulder with the public in the supermarket, and slowly chipping away at the washing mountain you’ve generated at home. Before you know it, the weekend is a blur and it’s almost time to face a new week.
The difference with that Sunday was I seemed to have some time at the end of my day to actually relax, I know, it felt as bizarre to experience it as it is to talk about it. So from about 8pm onward, the world was mine to do with it as I wished. So what did I do? I sat and scrolled Instagram and watched YouTube of course. YouTube has basically become TV for me, I’m subscribed to a number of different channels, vloggers etc. I enjoy it. Simple.
A wake up call
Having exhausted the usual channels I watch, I’m considering sleep. Yet there I am, still, deep into the realms of YouTube crap like ‘Ultimate fails episode 200’ and ‘how to balance a bowling ball on an egg’ (you know you’ve been there). Or worse, scrolling through the Instagram feed of someone I don’t know, who went to Coachella Festival at the weekend. An hour or so rolls by and it’s nearing midnight by the time I put my phone down. We all know the science behind it, bright lights in your eyes before sleep doesn’t bring on sleep, in fact quite the opposite. So brain fully engaged (when it really shouldn’t be), staring at the ceiling, I decided enough is enough, it’s time to take the reins and come off social media. A digital detox if you will. I need to starve myself of social media and see what difference it makes to my life. At first for a week or so (don’t want to be too dramatic), and see how I go from there.
The main reason behind this isn’t just sleep. On that Sunday or any day of the week for that matter, during any activity or between what I’m doing I will most likely be on my phone. I’ve vowed before that I would reduce my use and be more present around my family and friends, but I’ve never stuck to it. It’s time for a change. Here’s how my week has turned out.
Monday 23rd April 2018
FAIL. One of my many thoughts before sleep was ‘no more social media’. Guess which doughnut woke up and started scrolling Instagram? My brain groggily engaging, I lock my phone, leave it on the side and get ready for work. I’m ready sooner and less rushed getting out the door, Tom 1 – Social Media 0. I have this blog content to focus on during my train journey to work and I bump into a friend on the walk to the office, social media doesn’t stand a chance…
… or does it? It’s like I’ve got no control of my right arm as I wait for the lift, it reaches for my phone in my pocket, I have to psychologically slap my hand away, the same goes for my walk to the loo and waiting at the coffee machine throughout the day. Surely I’m not this bad?! Aside from the early battles, my day has been more focused and I don’t really feel like I’m missing anything online, although the influx of memes my mates are direct messaging me are clearly being sent to tempt me (maybe notifications should be switched off). Generally though, my natural reaction to reach for the comfort of my apps is shocking.
Tuesday 24th April 2018
Off to a better start, my phone remained on the side whilst I got ready for work with no second thought. If it wasn’t for knocking over a full bowl of cereal and causing a milky Bran Flake massacre on the floor I would have been out the door the earliest I have been in weeks. On a day like today I would have happily replaced my time in back to back meetings with brainlessly scrolling the internet. But all in all a good distraction.
Once through the door at home, instead of flopping onto the sofa for 20 minutes, I prepped food for dinner, played with Ivy and generally paid more attention to my family in the room around me (domestic God, I hear ya!). I appreciated my evening more and I’m sure they did too, not having to have a half conversation with the top of my head and watch me scrolling my phone.
Wednesday 25th April 2018
I had to be up early this morning for work related joys. But I realised my sleep had been so much better. The lack of scrolling before I switched off for sleep allowed me to do just that, switch off! My commute into work is only short, and with a bit of Spotify or staring at the head rest in front of me as I try to fully engage my brain, I don’t really need the likes of Instagram to kill the time. At this point though, I am starting to think is it such a big deal if I have a scroll during my commute? (I’m not caving!), it’s not like I have better things to do or it’s distracting me from work. I don’t cave in and weirdly I do feel like I have a better focus on the day.
Thursday 26th April 2018
As the week has progressed I have genuinely found it easier to keep away from it all. The automatic reach for my phone at any given opportunity has subsided and I’m not having to think about not going on. This has been a busier week than usual which has helped the situation. One thing that has become apparent however, is that I am active on these platforms for what they are built for, to be social. OK granted 90% of that ‘social aspect’ is me sending and receiving stupid pictures or videos over Instagram with my mates, but that aspect of it I like and is something I have missed. The fear of missing out is creeping in.
Friday 27th April 2018
It’s come to the end of the working week and I’m feeling good with how little I’ve thought about social media and and my lack of activity. I’m also thinking of how good a beer will be and how many hours there are between me and that moment happening. To top off a mad week, I’ve lost the ‘rubber bits’ on my headphones, I swear the universe is pushing me towards social media on my journey home. A rarity, but I almost fall asleep on the train. That’s one way to avoid my phone.
Saturday 28th April 2018
I’m solely responsible for a 10 month old today who is getting closer to walking every day. To think I’ll have time to go on my phone is laughable.
Sunday 29th April 2018
Exactly a week on, and I’ve completed the ‘digital detox’. It feels good. Among many genuine benefits, the most noticeable are how much time I have gained back to do what I’m supposed to be doing, how much more focused I am during my day and how much more relaxed I am due to more sleep and not feeling like I have to keep up with the social world. Earlier in the piece I used the words ‘starve myself of social media’. On reflection, to starve myself would suggest that I need it to live. I don’t, it’s simply a side dish that happens to be incredibly addictive, a bit like nachos. Are they enjoyable? Yes. Should I have them all the time? Nutritionists would probably tell me no (a hungover me would say yes every time), but they should be enjoyed every now and then, just like social media. There’s no escaping social media completely these days and I don’t see it as total negative despite hiding from it for a week, in fact my Dad In Training Instagram page and the profiles that I follow are those I consider the most healthy to be engaged with and actually educate me and bring me value, instead of numbing my brain. This week off was never going to result in me finding so much time I could write a novel, create world peace or fix third world poverty, but it has shown me how much of my time is wasted online, life is happening around me more and more these days, and it’s no different for every body else. So my advice to others like me, and I know there are a lot of you, look around once in a while because you’ll be surprised how much you’re missing.