Making Habits, Breaking Habits: An (Anti)Social Media Detox

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Despite being one of the most renowned social media sites around, when I had to give up Facebook for a week I realised how antisocial I am when I have it readily accessible on my phone, laptop and tablet. When asked to have a Facebook detox I didn’t think it would prove too difficult: perhaps cat video deprivation would encourage me to do some work towards my slightly neglected degree? I allocated myself 5-10 minutes each evening to use the Messenger app to discuss group presentations, but was not allowed to check my timeline and notifications.

Just ten minutes after waking up on the first day of my detox, I noticed the absence of Facebook when greeted with a smug, blue screen asking me to log in. I never consciously noticed that without fail I will check Facebook first thing every morning to find out what I’ve missed in the eight or so hours since I last checked it (usually someone’s 3am rant about pulling an all nighter for an essay, and a healthy dose of videos of dogs who sound like people). Having left my phone unattended for at least a quarter of an hour, I am once again greeted by the blue screen when I attempt to check my account whilst waiting for the kettle to boil. My first major hurdle came in the form of the 2A bus. I sat down in my seat and looked tentatively around. Everyone, including people engrossed in conversations, was sat with their phones in their hands.

Having replied to a couple of text messages, played a round of Candy Crush, and sent four Snapchats, we hadn’t even reached Bowerham and I was lost as to what to do next. Normally I’d spend the rest of the journey checking up on what adventures my friends had been up to since getting out of bed in the morning. I looked into my bag and pulled out a strange, heavy, rectangular object, weighing it up in my hands. Apparently this was called a book, so I decided to open it up and see how it worked. Having actually engaged with my set reading for 9 uninterrupted minutes, I was starting to wonder whether some benefit was coming from going cold turkey from social media for over an hour.

On the way home later that day, a new friend of mine came and sat next to me on the bus. I panicked. How are you supposed to talk to people on the bus without checking your messages and notifications every time there is a lull in conversation? As it turned out, when I paid them my full attention, there were no pauses in conversation, and I in fact left the bus journey knowing them far better than I had done when we got on at the underpass.

At dinner the next evening, I created what I would call a culinary masterpiece. I grabbed my phone and just as I was about to photograph it, I realised that I wouldn’t be able to share it with Facebook. How would my friends get through their evenings without vicariously enjoying my dinner with me? Over the duration of the week it dawned on me how much of my life I feel it necessary to broadcast on social media – and how trivial these things seem when viewed objectively. Does anyone really need to see pictures of my friends and me at pre-drinks?

When the week came to an end I assessed why I previously spent so much time on Facebook. One of the main reasons is not to feel left out or excluded from my friends’ news. The number of times over the week I heard my friends saying ‘did you hear that so and so did this last night? I saw their picture on Facebook!’ made me realise that, actually, a large amount of the crucial information I feel I need to keep up with is in fact very trivial, and my life has been largely unaffected by not knowing what a friend’s child got in their exam results, or where my friends have checked in for dinner.

This year many of my friends didn’t acknowledge my 21st birthday – when one of them discovered they’d missed it, they asked me if it had been on Facebook. It saddens me that we live in an age in which we are actively reliant on the internet to remind us of our friends’ birthdays because we no longer keep them written down, or better still, remember them! The other reason I use Facebook is largely to entertain people, in the same way that I write these articles, or tell anecdotes at parties. If something unfortunate or embarrassing has happened to me that day, I use Facebook as a means of transforming the situation into something positive. I work out how to subvert the situation as a joke towards myself, and allow my friends to laugh with me at my misfortune. This often elicits considerably more responses than ‘OMG had such a bad day 2day i cant even deal ryt now :/’, statuses which I refuse to engage with and are usually written with the hope of a comment responding with a concerned: ‘whats up babez, hope ur ok’.

In future I will endeavour to leave Facebook logged out for most of the day, I will read or talk to people on the bus, and hopefully my automatic response whenever anything funny or embarrassing or crude or irritating happens will cease to be ‘I HAVE to tell Facebook about this’. Next time I achieve a culinary triumph, I will try to refrain from inflicting a triple-filtered photo of it on my friends. And most of all, I will attempt to cut down on my use of #ironic #hashtags.

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