If you are one of the approximately half dozen friends that I guilted into reading this piece then you know that I was recently sick for a decent chunk of time. Were you the type of person that finds hot flashes, dizzy spells, nausea, fatigue, diarrhea, and mild panic to be your idea of a good time then you would have loved living my life for the past four years. As for me, those things really aren’t my jam and, for that reason, I found myself in bed a lot of that time.
Being in bed while sick is a far cry from sleeping in on a lazy Sunday with fuzzy socks, drinking warm coffee while watching an endless stream of Colin Firth movies. It’s more like choking down a half piece of dry toast after a night of Ebola level diarrhea and willing yourself to have the energy to breathe while the incessant drone of infomercials plays in the background. In short, it sucks. That’s where my dysfunctional dependence on social media began.
Human beings are social animals and require connection. Side effects of my treatment made that all the more challenging for me, especially considering that I was a part time hermit on my best day. Social media became my conduit to the outside world and for that I am ever thankful. I contend that one day we will be forced to admit the greatest accomplishment of the 21st century was that technology made it possible to socialize while sitting on the toilet. A time came, though, after treatment had ended and I was starting to feel like my old self, when social media seemed to do me more harm than good. I decided it was time to start living a less connected life and put myself on a social media detox.
The Rules: 30 days, no Facebook, no Instagram. I deleted the apps from my phone and vowed not to access those sites when I was working on the PC. I don’t tweet, so Twitter wasn’t a problem. Snapchat would be exempt from my experiment as it is my main source of communication with my daughter while she is away at college. Plus, I was really not ready to be prohibited from the joy of creating pictures that made me look like I was the love child of David Blaine and Criss Angel.
January 1 – The first day of 2017 is the perfect time to start fresh and this was the day I was supposed to start my detox, but conveniently forgot.
January 2 – The day I actually started. Well, let’s be real, it was the evening I actually started. I informed Facebook of my intentions and urged my friends to publicly shame me if I returned before the 30 days. Considering that I was only deprived of social media for a few hours, this was a pretty easy day.
Jan 3 thru 8 – Most of these days were spent in a cloud of smug superiority. They were also spent reading every damn news article the web had to offer and becoming infinitely frustrated at my inability to pass level 415 on Candy Crush Soda. I also pumped a friend for information on what was happening on Facebook. She claimed nothing interesting was happening. She’s probably right, but since I can’t confirm for myself I’m mildly annoyed.
January 9 – This was the day I cracked and put the Instagram app back on my phone. I had immediate regret when I saw a picture my daughter posted of some random mountainside in Georgia and I went into a downward spiral of guilt and anger. Why was she in Georgia and didn’t tell me? I mean, I know she’s grown, but give your mother a heads up when you leave the state! Why did I crack? Now I know she was in Georgia and I can’t yell at her lest I perish from the shame of not being able to do something as simple as not looking at a website for ONE DAMN MONTH! A few tears fell in my Pinot Grigio that night as I deleted the app.
January 13 – It’s Friday! Friday the 13th! I don’t know why this matters, but I feel like I must have missed some hilarious meme on Facebook that involved Donald Trump and Jason Voorhees. On the positive side, I actually went outside today. My son and I saw some manatees. I was a little bummed that I couldn’t post any mediocre pictures of them on Instagram.
January 14 thru 19 – As the inauguration looms, I’m feeling less like I’m out of the loop and more like I’m lucky to not have to scroll through the sea of political tchotchkes people litter all over the proverbial living room of Facebook. I’m fairly certain the planet will implode at some point during Trump’s presidency, but I’d prefer not to be reminded of that every 37 seconds. I have to admit, I miss the jokes. I have some damn funny friends. I miss the friends, too.
January 20 – The movie adaptation of Orwell’s 1984 was on this morning and I was reminded of what a good idea it was to interrupt the constant flow of repetitive information. Social media is looking a lot less appetizing today. Oh, and kudos to the person at Viceland that made the decision to air it on the day of Trump’s inauguration.
January 21 thru 28 – After weeks of writing with no real goal in mind, I spent these days conceptualizing this blog while editing, reediting, and overthinking the post you are now reading. Look at me getting stuff done!
January 29 – According to south Florida law, we are allotted one cold day per year. Today was that day. I even had to wear a sweater! I felt like I needed to document this somewhere for posterity’s sake.
January 30 -31 – Edit, edit, edit, rewrite, edit, anxiety attack, edit. I’m actually not looking forward to ending the detox, but I am feeling great about getting back to writing on a fairly regular basis.
Final thoughts – Oh please, as if this is the first of these types of posts you’ve ever read. It’s hardly an original topic. You know the drill. I’m glad I did it. It was, for the most part, a positive experience. Yada, yada, yada. In the beginning, I probably spent a comparable amount of time with my nose in my phone as I did before the detox. I simply replaced Facebook and Instagram with Candy Crush games and BuzzFeed quizzes.
As the number of days in my experiment grew, I began to use my devices less. It was nice to be out and about and not be focused on what scene would make a good Instagram post. Breakfast with a friend is always better when your mind is flooded with hashbrowns instead of hashtags. I found myself more often in deeper conversations with people I love. I tended to be less distracted. I will spare us both the indignity of my saying I was becoming more present, but you get the gist of it.
I thought that would be the only reward I gained from my detox, but there was another gift that I never saw coming. I discovered what a pleasant experience it is to read a news article about basically any subject, but mostly politics, and not have to decide what I felt about it or not have to hear what others felt about it. I could ponder it. I didn’t have to take an immediate stance. It was astoundingly refreshing. A reprieve from our almost pathological need to unconsciously express and absorb knee-jerk opinions isn’t even what I thought I wanted, but it turned out to be just what I needed. Given the current political climate, I’d say humanity may, too.
*Featured image courtesy of Pixabay.