Lately I have found myself in many conversations with different friends from different areas of my life, all on the topic of social media and smartphone addiction. I wrote about this topic earlier in the year after I permanently deleted my Facebook account (which I have not regretted once in the ensuing eight months), but I’m definitely learning that old habits die hard. I may have broken the chains of Facebook, but apps like Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat were still absorbing far more of my time and attention than I care to admit.
Two friends of the friends I’ve been talking with wrote blog posts of their own that really helped me to start thinking about all of this again.
Lindsy recently suffered the end of her very first smartphone (which she had nursed along for four years!). The unexpected switch to a new phone allowed her to take a bit of time to reflect on how she was interacting with that phone in the first place, which is something that I don’t think any of us really do unless forced to. She didn’t immediately re-download all of her apps. She had to rebuild her contact list from those who responded to a request for numbers. Her world became a bit smaller, but one of the things I love about Lindsy is that she is okay with things like that.
Mary writes of her previous, and ultimately futile, attempts to moderate her social media and smartphone habits, and how she recently decided to not only delete both Facebook and Instagram but to go back to using an actual flip phone! It’s inspiring. She has already noticed a dramatic change in her own life, as well as in the attitude and perceptions of her young son.
Inspired by my friends, and knowing the success I have had in the past, I decided to do a bit of a social media detox again. This is not an uncommon practice for me, especially this time of year. As I wrote in the my previous post, I am someone who gets overwhelmed and overstimulated very easily, which can make the holidays a difficult time period. But I’ve learned how to plan for this by managing my time and commitments, by making sure I am eating well so that I am physically at my best, and by cutting out as many unnecessary distractions as possible. This year, I decided to delete any app off my phone that didn’t serve a practical and necessary purpose, or that was just encouraging unproductive habits. Gone went Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat. I haven’t deleted the accounts themselves (yet) but I can’t access them and therefore can’t spend my time endlessly scrolling or checking for updates.
Deleting the apps entirely off my phone, even the ones I am able to use just in moderation, has given me the space to not even think about them. I don’t have to waste any energy or self-restraint, because I have removed them from even being an option. Because even when I am able to break myself of the habit of endlessly scrolling Pinterest, knowing that it was still on my phone kept it is a temptation, even if it was a minor one, that I still had to actively resist. Having Snapchat, even though I only exchanged things with a small collection of close friends, meant that I was constantly making decisions about “should I send a picture of this?” None of this is necessarily detrimental or harmful, but it does take energy to be making those choices, to be resisting those temptations. So I decided, why not just make the decision once and take it all off the table for a while?
In Mary’s post, she talks about how she deleted Facebook and immediately read two books, after thinking that she never had time to read for pleasure anymore. Well, since I started deleting apps off my phone, I almost immediately began writing a new short story. Like, I’ve actually been putting words on pages, not just thinking about and coming up with ideas. I’ve been catching up on my journaling about my trip to Europe. I’ve been keeping up with chores around the house. When I can’t just reach for my phone to distract me from all the things that I should be doing, I actually end up doing all of those things. Who would have thought?
I think we often forget how much control we have over our own lives. I think we also forget that we don’t have to live in the exact same way that everyone around us is living. We are allowed to make choices. We are allowed to experiment and figure out what works best for us as individuals. And we are allowed to go back to less complicated ways of existing in the world. The last chapter of my book, An Adult-ish Toolkit, is titled “No One Can Tell You How to Live Your Life” and I truly think it is an important reminder for all of us.
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