I took a Digital Detox from all social media - Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, all of it - and email, texting and Messenger for 30 days, and boy was it rough. The first 10 days were the worst. I had withdrawals, literally, like an addict. First was the obsessive habit of grabbing my phone, then the migraines started and eventually feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Why would I put myself through this torture? My idea was simple: find out who I really was; stop comparing myself to those around me and just be satisfied with my life - not the life that appears online, but my real life; and be present in each moment of every day with those I loved.
It's too easy to get caught up in society's drama and disillusion, and become part of its problem instead of a solution. Not that I view much of what's going on with the world, but still there's the close proximity to my surroundings and environment that appear like a constant barrage of never-ending propaganda and bullshit. And it's all online for me to see, 24/7. If I don't like what's going on in my Facebook News Feed, I can always switch over to Instagram or Pinterest - pretty pictures of art and photography, landscapes and buildings, fashion and places, things that I choose to look at but it's just another mind-numbing distraction. I'm not a Twitter person, but I was reminded that my 5-year Twitter anniversary came and went while I was on hiatus. Social Media platforms are great at sucking us back in with memories, anniversaries and birthday reminders. Google+, now there's something I never use.
My phone was my addiction, grabbing it from the nightstand next to my bed, checking in with the world before my morning coffee, before the sun even came up. During my digital detox I left my phone charging on the kitchen counter.
I made an announcement the day before I went offline, on Social Media, of course, about shutting down for 30 days. I explained that I would not be receiving notifications on my phone, I would not be responding to texts or messages, and I would only be checking my emails once per day. I went one step further, unsubscribing to all the email that I've been getting for years - literally years - without ever purchasing or pursuing anything from them. No more yoga clothing lines, Pottery Barn, Wayfair, charities and newsletters from organizations I've never read. No more clutter in my inbox. If someone wanted to talk to me, they could call me and arrange a face-to-face at a coffee shop or a hiking trail. Sounded like a good plan, so it began.
The nightly kitchen counter phone charger worked, but in the mornings as I made breakfast, I wanted to look at my phone for no apparent reason. Instead, I threw it in my purse. I took it along with me in my car to listen to my favorite music while I drove. When I got to my destinations, I left my phone in my car. My days felt like there was something missing, like I was forgetting to do something important. It was uncomfortable. Then it became natural. But that didn't happen right away.
I read somewhere, some time ago, that it takes 10 days to break a habit. Seriously, only 10 days, or maybe it's 21, who knows for sure. For me, after 10 days of practicing something different, I felt a whole lot better. This thing that became an appendage, a permanent part of my daily life, was no longer necessary. That is, until I was in a line at a Starbucks. I relied on my Starbucks App to pay for my coffee and gain points, important points to get free drinks. I scrambled through the bottom of my purse, searching for my phone in the Starbucks line, frantic that I'd lose something valuable if I paid with cash. I paid with cash anyway, and guess what? The world didn't end, I didn't die, and that free drink I might have gotten? It went to someone else, and that made me smile.
I missed a B-12 shot appointment because my calendar no longer sent appointment reminders. Oh my, I had to remember things on my own! Imagine that? It wasn't difficult to do. It did, however, make me realize how lazy I'd become, or how overly-busy I'd become, that I couldn't even remember a simple weekly appointment.
Checking my bank balance, my PayPal account, setting an alarm, making appointments, taking photographs, googling something and looking at the weather forecast were all done manually now, if they needed to be done at all.
I noticed that I was becoming less and less patient, and even a bit resentful toward people around me who starred at their phones all day long. I saw them in the cafes, in the coffee shops, in the grocery stores and even on the hiking trails. How is that even possible? "Get the fuck off your phone!" I wanted to yell. I started to feel sorry for people who depended on their phones for instant gratification - the occasional like or comment on a post, or an email, text or message. They were having an unrealistic intimate relationship with whatever was on the receiving end of an infinite web of online crap. I knew how they felt, I was one of them once.
A young person asked me, "What was it like when you were my age, without internet, cellphones, Facebook or GPS?" I thought for a moment and said "It sucked, but it was simple. Life was slower and quieter then." I hated sounding like an old bitch, reminiscing about the good-ole-days. I never wanted to be her. There is something beautifully uncomplicated about being offline, even if it was just for a month.
The time that was freed-up allowed for more reading, walks, eating healthier and going inward. Meditation, visualization and manifesting became my morning routine instead of grabbing my phone. Meeting up with friends, the ones that took time out of their day to see me, meant a lot. Casual conversations about the day, not politics or religion (or anything else that annoyed me) mattered more. My focus and attention toward important things, like spending time with someone new and really listening to them, instead of listening to the chatter going on in my own head, was a new learning experience for me. Daily activities, like making the bed, washing dishes and preparing meals became enjoyable. Taking a drive to a place I've never been and exploring whatever was there, or going to the theater and watching a movie felt like new adventures. I was actively participating and living my life deliberately.
What happened after the 30 days? I went back online, posting new photos of me (with red hair) with a new boyfriend, that I got to know without social media interference, with a newly re-branded image for my business. How did that make me feel? Better about myself and more disciplined with how I use social media. I revamped my website and all of my platforms, giving them a face-lift, and now I get online once or twice a day to market and promote my business. I still don't look at the weather forecast or calendar, I haven't used GPS or checked my bank balance, but I am taking photos and texting them to friends far away. I've taken a more responsible approach to my phone and all the apps and gadgets that are on it. I'm feeling clearer than I have in years, happier and more content with my life and I have fallen in love with a man. How impressive is that? There is no online site, app or phone that can take the place of a life fully lived.