This post was written by an external contributor. Aayushi Sharma talks us through the lessons she learnt during her social media detox.
The closer to Christmas we get, the more I think about my summer holidays and how those three months were some of the most interesting days of the year.
After completing my undergraduate degree, my family and I went for a family trip to Italy, I passed my driving exam, got an offer for a master’s degree, worked part time, started writing for Debut (woot woot!), had friends visit from abroad, got back into photography and even exercised for the first time in god knows how long.
Honestly though as much as I loved staying busy, I was also going through a ‘done with everything’ phase and wanted to stay as distracted as possible. So…I turned to social media. Though it was great in the beginning, I soon realised that I was starting to become a little obsessive about who had seen my posts, how many people had liked them and how many followers I had.
Not only had this started to make me feel worse, I realised that I was looking for validation from the internet… So I decided that I would delete all my social media for a while, have a full social media detox and share what I learnt:
Taking a social media detox can be terrifying in the beginning
If you’re like me and have an active presence on pretty much every social media platform, then suddenly stopping everything can be one of the weirdest feelings. The first day was really hard. I kept checking my phone and was constantly wondering what was going on in other people’s lives and thinking about how much I missed tagging my friends in memes.
Not being connected all the time was scary (also major FOMO!). Looking back, this experience taught me that I might have become a little addicted and stepping away every once in awhile is actually healthy.
After a few days, you will stop having the urge to check your phone first thing in the morning
By day three of the detox, I realised that I didn’t check my phone until after I had reached work. For someone who spends a lot of time constantly checking to see what the latest notification on my screen is about, this was a really big deal to me. By day seven, I realised I hadn’t checked Facebook in about two days and honestly had no urge to see if someone had messaged me.
You will go back to your hobbies – or discover new ones
Before the whole social media frenzy (and other final year shenanigans in general), I used to be an avid reader. With no social media and a lot of free time from not scrolling through Instagram or focusing on how many likes I had, I decided to get back into reading.
For the first time in a long time, I finished two novels and started another. I even decided to get back into photography and updated my website. But what really took me by surprise was how much more excited I was to try out new things and go to new places.
We are part of a generation where most people prefer living through a screen
Having grown up in a tech savvy city like Hong Kong, I didn’t realise the extent to which technology had an impact. For the first time in years, I people-watched and noticed that most weren’t interacting with each other in real life. Two people could have been sitting across from each other during dinner, but both would be on their phones – either playing games or scrolling through Facebook.
The trains were silent throughout the day (including rush hour) – the only noise you’d hear is that of the train moving and the station announcements. No conversations were happening. Everyone would be walking with their head down, staring at their screens. Honestly, as interesting as this was, it was like watching a zombie movie come to life.
You realise who is really there for you
Not having social media was weird, but I realised the ones that really wanted to stay connected to you and wanted to know what was going on, found a way to get in touch. If anything, I was happier talking to family and three friends over Whatsapp and phone calls, than I was showing off my life to 60 people over Snapchat.
Plus, my conversations became so much more interesting than “Did you see x, y, z on Instagram?”
Social media does not define you as a person
One of the biggest lessons I learnt through this experience was that social media is not a determinant of who you are. Just because your friend is getting more likes on a photo, or is getting messages from more people, or has more views on a post, it does not mean that you are liked any less.
Someone’s virtual, internet life is not a reflection of who they are as a person, or what their real life is really like. It’s easy to get caught up in how perfect someone may come across through social media but stepping away from it all every once in a while gives your mind the space to think.
Now obviously this experience might sound a little cheesy or dramatic, but my time off social media was genuinely one of the best things I’ve done this year. It was hard in the beginning but taking that virtual downtime was so worth it in the end. Though I’m back on these platforms again, I feel like I’m more in control of what I’m seeing, doing and feeling.
If it any point it feels like it’s getting out of hand again, I will gladly go on another detox. Maybe for longer this time. If there is one thing that this experience has taught me it’s that, though social media is a great distraction, it also has a dark side, and we need to be careful not to fall into that trap.
So I guess my challenge for you is: Do a social media detox (even if it’s two weeks long) and share your experiences! If I can survive, so can you!