What happens when you switch off for 1 week

Earlier this month, I came across an article titled ‘What Do Social Media Breaks Accomplish?’ that looked at our lack of self-control when it comes to social media, and the benefits of logging out.

The piece caught my attention because although I’m more than aware that I’m stupidly addicted to my phone, I’ve always found social-media-detoxes annoying and a little over-the-top.

The article highlighted that (perhaps unsurprisingly) most attempts to pull away from social media end in failure. A 2018 study on people attempting to avoid the platforms for a week showed that the majority of subjects gave in at least once.

Research indicates this is usually linked to habit, rather than the “connectivity” façade we’re sold when it comes to these sites. But when a mini detox is successful, studies show that it’s pretty damn great for your headspace.

I spoke with Psychologist and Cyberspychology Researcher, Jocelyn Brewer, to get a better sense of the trend:

“My take on this is unless you restructure your cognitions unless you actually dig into why you are driven to compulsively check – what you think you’re looking for, how you feel before, during and after using social media…. All of those sorts of things, then purely logging off and going through a sense of abstinence, I don’t think is effective,” she said.

“…most of what people do after that time off is they jump back on, and they go straight back to their old habits.

“…if you’re not changing a habit, you’re really just kind of amputating yourself. And that can be more detrimental because it’s not achieving your goals.”

So, naturally, I had to try it out and see for myself.

I stepped away from social media for a week, and this is what I discovered…

It was not as simple as I thought

I deleted all my apps from my phone before going to bed the night before I started this experiment. I figured this would remove all temptation and put me on track to succeed.

I was very wrong.

On day ONE – no joke – I absentmindedly clicked out of an article about Amy Schumer’s baby name and found myself scrolling through the actress’ Instagram account. I didn’t even realise I was doing it until I was like, six posts in.

My second hiccup came on about day three when a friend told me about a funny new Snapchat filter. She passed me her phone to try it, and I obliged without thinking.

Does taking a selfie on someone else’s app count as failure?

Probably, yes.

I realised how heavily I relied on these apps

At one point during the week, I needed to double check a friend’s birthday… How in the holy hell do you do that without Facebook? My days of physically writing special dates into a calendar are long gone.

In the end, I had to ask a friend to hop online and find the date for me. It was way more convoluted than usual.

Convenience also tripped me up when I decided to take a trip through the States with a large group. All kinds of details were shared in a Facebook group, and I missed a lot of them, which, y’know, isn’t ideal. Eventually, I caved and jumped onto the website to avoid forcing everyone to repeat themselves.

I felt icky about it.

Despite failing a lot of times, I didn’t actually miss social media

Addict though I may be, once I deleted the apps from my phone (something Brewer strongly suggested, I should point out), I moved on pretty quickly.

Sure, I occasionally wondered if I had been tagged in something funny or if Michael B. Jordan had decided to reply to my DMs, but as a whole, I had no real desire to check the platforms.

I felt no pull to see what other people were doing, and I stopped caring about sharing my experiences online – even while on holiday.

But one of the greatest feelings to come from the challenge was the knowledge that I was not whiling away the hours scrolling through a news feed. There was a sense of accomplishment that came with that – even if I did fail a ton of times.

I’m under no illusions about the fact that once I re-enter the social media vortex, I’ll probably go back to my old garbage habits – as Brewer warned – but the experience of shutting out the noise of these platforms was a really eye-opening one for me.

I was genuinely surprised at how little I missed being plugged in. I’m even thinking about keeping the Facebook app off my phone altogether (I’m not strong enough to permanently cut Instagram, you guys).

It’s the last thing I expected, but I guess you could call this sceptic a social media detox convert.