Have you ever found yourself saying “I don’t have time” and yet magically you find all the time in the world to browse online? Do you need more peace and quiet, but you can never make the time to get it?
That was me before I embarked on a new monthly challenge – take a break from social media and observe my behaviors and habits while offline.
I was inspired to take on this challenge because of the documentary, The Social Dilemma, which talks about the dangerous human impact of social networking.
So, for the month of April, I decided to go off the grid. I wanted to observe my behavior to see if I could gain time back. My findings have been interesting and eye opening which resulted in 7 key takeaways. Once I decided to leave the online world, clarity creeped it.
LESSON #1: We are digital addicts.
The first week of April was a challenge. I noticed I picked up my phone a few times in just 5 minutes...for what? Zero notifications, that is what!
Do you count how many times you pick up your phone throughout the day?
According to eMarketer, the average US adult spends 3 hours and 43 minutes on their mobile devices. On average, we pick up our phones 58 times per day.
Did you know you can check your phone to see your average usage?
If the data you see is unsettling, you can also set restrictions.
If you are an Android user: Settings > Digital Wellbeing and parental control.
If you are an iPhone user: Settings > Screen time and tap See All Activity under the graph.
After I learned (mid-challenge) what my average usage was, I managed to cut down my usage from 2.5 hours to 1 hour a day. If you are a brave soul, please share your average phone usage in the comments below. Let us address the digital addiction beast together.
LESSON #2: The online world is loud. Really loud.
You probably know this already. This is not because of the pandemic, though data shows that phone usage has increased tremendously. There are many books written in the 1990s that state the digital world was noisy back then too. 30 years later, and the online world is just getting louder and busier.
By going offline, this challenge helped me get my time back plus peace and quiet. It gave me a lot of time to reflect and gave me clarity on the best and effective way I can use social media moving forward.
LESSON #3: Online world is very personable and customizable to you.
This dawned on me when I was on a road trip when I found myself wanting to check out social media of different businesses to get an idea of who they are and how they engage with their customers. That is when I realized you are a consumer and the creator of your digital world.
Being a conscious consumer and aware of what you consume is important. Make social media work for you, not the other way around.
So, ask yourself – are you aimlessly consuming cntent or are you gaining something from it?
Are you getting positive outcomes from social media and taking action toward your life or are you consuming social media content and it makes you feel less confident in yourself?
Consider the type of content you consume and realize that you can change your online experience.
LESSON #4: FOMO (fear of missing out) or JOMO (joy of missing out). The choice is yours!
The digital addiction is real. The first few days offline I noticed that I moved from checking social media on my phone to checking it on the computer. Then would hate myself for the rest of the day because I did not commit to my challenge.
I learned once I committed to the challenge of being offline (from my phone and computer), I began to enjoy the quiet and peaceful time completely. Yay to JOMO!
I also did not feel like I was missing out on anything. The people who needed me knew how to contact me. This resulted in me falling in love with my “me” time which results in me getting more time to read, write, reflect, and learn.
When you are offline, you can hear natural sound from the real, physical world. You start to notice your surroundings more too. Give it a try!
LESSON #5: Inspiration is everywhere, you must be willing to find it.
I will admit it took me 3 weeks to delete Pinterest – the app I use to get inspired. I could not get myself to delete the app. I love learning and getting inspired online. It was so heart breaking to delete the app, but I did it. I had to remind myself inspiration is everywhere, and I turned to books for daily inspiration.
As I am a digital addict like the rest, I found myself looking at my phone with no apps to entertain or inspire me. So instead of being online, I looked through my past work (images, videos, recordings) on my phone library. I consumed my own content that was accumulated over the past weeks and months that I recorded during my road trips. I found it interesting to be able to inspire my own self.
TIP: Get creative in entertaining and inspiring yourself. Social media is not the ONLY way to inspire action. Find YOUR way!
LESSON #6: The right people will find you!
So, I made my grand announcement on March 31st and went offline on April 1st. It was not long until I began to receive texts, calls and emails from close friends checking in on me to make sure I was okay. It was very sweet and means so much.
However, I do want to address the big elephant in the room. Just because a person wants to go off social media does not mean they are not doing okay. Perhaps it means they need a break from the loud noise of the online world. I encourage ALL of us to do a digital detox, so we can appreciate the things we have in the physical world and to enjoy the present moment we are in.
This is all to say, the right people who care about you will find a way to connect with you. I am grateful to all the people who checked up on me and thought of me. It means a lot and the biggest takeaway from this is learning the value and importance of friendship and relationships. The right people will find you, online and offline, and if they do not, then hey, put your phone to good use and call them!
LESSON # 7: Social media will find a way to get you sucked back in!
If you have not watched the Social Dilemma documentary, I do encourage you to check it out as it touches on the personalized experience of your online world and ways it will try to get you sucked back in!
As I was offline for the month of April, I gained clarity, focus, and peace. However, I observed something remarkably interesting. When I had family over at my house, I would notice my family on their phones, eager to show me their favorite content. Perhaps this is the 21st century way of bonding?
Is there no escape from social media because I observed getting drawn back into social media through different phones?
I also noticed my family who were physically in the room but were completely drawn to the online world. It is peculiar to me see how one human who is physically present but mentally somewhere else. It is one thing to use social media when you are alone, but when you are with others, surrounded by close friends and family, then engage in the conversation, get to know people, and develop deep connections. Be mindful and present in the physical world. The power of being present is impactful, but it requires your full attention and presence.
After this challenge, I made a commitment to myself that I want to live a rich life completely conscious and aware of how I use technology and social media. I want to be in control of my life and do not want technology to dictate how I feel nor dictate the content I consume.
At the end of the day, we are human beings, not content consumers. Be present, learn about yourself, take your time back, try the digital detox and find the best way to live your life your way. Do it with integrity, authenticity, and respect for yourself and for others.
We all share space on this earth. Let's be kinder and respectful to one another and it begins by putting down our phone when someone talks to us and wants our attention.
If you want to take on the digital detox challenge, here are 3 steps I took to disconnect from the online world.
1. Let your Top Five know about your plan to go offline.
This may be optional for some, important for others. I was compelled to make an announcement online to let my Top “Four” – family, friends, followers, fans – know I am going on a hiatus. This is to ensure no one freaks out when you are gone offline suddenly. However, the way social media is designed, only those who engage with your content will see this, so do what you think is best for you!
2. Delete ALL your social media apps from your phone.
You may have muted your notifications from the apps in the past, but nothing beats ZERO notifications than deleting the app itself. Take inventory of the apps you have downloaded on your phone. It was eye opening for me to see how many apps I used, deleted, downloaded back again, then deleted again.
I deleted and downloaded WhatsApp a few times. I blame my family for this one...they made me feel very FOMO on the baby pictures and videos of my nephews. I could not resist the cuteness for a whole month, so the app had to stay.
3. Log off and remove all bookmarked links to the social media on your computer.
It took me 2 weeks to put an end to this. If you want to make your life easier and not relapse on the challenge, then sign out from all your accounts. The logging in process alone is time consuming and dreadful, which is more of a reminder why you must stay committed to your challenge!
Good luck! Report back and tell me what you observed in your behaviors!
Wishing you all the best because you deserve the best!