The other day I found myself checking my phone constantly. I wasn’t just scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, I was checking when people had last been online, if they had viewed my Instagram story, pondering whether they were going to start a conversation. I felt like I was addicted to checking who had viewed my Instagram story, or liked my post. All of which are things that I didn’t think really bothered me at all. But I was bored of my essay and was obsessing over small things and it was making me feel bad. I don’t think I had ever truly realised the power of social media until that point. I felt bad because someone, who had no reason to message me and I hadn’t sent a message to, had been online a lot throughout the day and hadn’t sent me a message. What made this scenario even more ridiculous was the fact that I wasn’t actually that bothered in the first place about whether they were going to message me or not. So, I had basically worked myself up into this obsessed frenzy about something that, at the beginning of the day, I couldn’t have cared less about. Therefore, I decided there and then that I was going to do a phone detox. So that is where I am at now… it is currently 14:30 on the day of the phone detox and I am ready to report how it has gone so far…
I woke up at 7:45 and resisted the urge to flick my phone off airplane mode to get my usual morning updates. I then got ready about ten times quicker than usual and even had time to throw on a nice outfit! I left the house feeling good about how much time I had saved that morning, all because I hadn’t wasted my time mindlessly scrolling through my social media accounts on my phone.
I then reached the tube… in rush hour. I hate the tube at the best of times, but rush hour is just the worst. I am usually able to bare the pain by plugging in my headphones, blasting country music into my ears, and reading a trashy novel on my phone. This morning though was different, I left my phone in my pocket and awkwardly observed the people on the tube. Everyone was on their phone in one way or another. I’d never noticed before, people are so consumed in their own bubble they just don’t notice what is going on around them!There was a pregnant lady that nearly got knocked over so many times because people were speed-walking with their eyes focused on their phone screens instead of on what was happening around them. I swapped off the jubilee line to get the metropolitan line and discovered that there were severe delays… my first instinct was to grab my phone and text my classmate that I was going to be ten minutes late to class. However, I resisted the urge and got back on the jubilee line for a few more stops, after all me texting ahead would make no difference to the time I arrived. Eventually I made it to Baker Street where I had several options of how to get closer to university, but they were all so busy and overcrowded because of other delays I figured it would be quicker to get the bus. So, at about 9am I had a relapse and got my phone out to look up which bus to get. As soon as I had the bus number I turned the phone back on to airplane mode and continued to uni. Running up the steps to the classroom 20 minutes later, apologies in hand, I reached the room and it was dark. And empty. Confused, I checked my planner that I had the right place at the right time. I did. So at about 9:20am I had another relapse and checked my SOAS email account… my lecturer sent an email before 7am explaining that she was ill and so wouldn’t be in class today. I genuinely couldn’t believe it. Of course all of this would only happen when I had decided to turn my phone off for the day…
I headed to the library, got distracted by BBC news, and went to my next tutorial without a problem and, perhaps more importantly, devoid of an urge to use my phone. After my tutorial I decided to go into work for a few hours so that I wouldn’t have to try and cram it in tomorrow morning. I got there and the person I needed was no where to be found and I stubbornly refused to use my phone to see if they were about. After 30 minutes I gave up and returned to uni in search of some friends to keep me company. Turns out it is really difficult to find friends by chance on campus! I checked everywhere I could think of and couldn’t find a single person! So, that led me to where I am now… in the library pretending to do my readings for my next lecture and writing a few articles.
One thing I have definitely realised is that, as surprisingly easy as I find it to not go on my social media accounts, it is frustrating not being able to text a few friends to see where they are. On the positive side, I have done a lot more work than I usually would do…but I think I would prefer to be hanging out with my friends! I have also realised how often I use my phone as a mask. If I feel uncomfortable, or am walking somewhere alone, I often get out my phone and mindlessly scroll in an attempt to make myself feel more comfortable. Which is bizarre. I am not an overly self-conscious person yet, on occasion, I hide myself away from face-to-face interactions with strangers because I feel uneasy.
I have more readings to do now but will check back in at the end of the day with how the rest of the day has gone. I am waiting for an important email into my university email account so have allowed myself to check that on the library computer; other than that I am currently unreachable!
I have just got home from work… and my day of detox is almost complete! I arrived and carried out my evening as I had planned the day before and simply trusted that nothing had changed in the previous 24 hours. Luckily, it hadn’t and before long I was up in the bar, serving a few drinks and chatting to friends. A few had asked why I hadn’t responded to their messages and I simply explained the detox… a lot of people asked why, to which I simply shrugged and said I thought it would be a good idea. A few strange looks, a few hesitant nods and people moved past the concept quite happily.
Now I am sat in bed, writing this and, in all honesty, I am dreading turning my phone off airplane mode. I don’t really want to deal with everything that has happened on my phone today… but there is also a small, insecure, part of me that worries that nothing will appear on my phone once the airplane symbol is replaced with signal bars… I suppose it can wait until tomorrow!
I turned my phone on this morning and was flooded with messages, alerts and random buzzing and noises that I have never heard before! Instead of the feeling of relief that I expected to engulf me, I put my phone in my pocket and continued with my morning routine. Now that was a feeling of relief.
I did eventually get round to sorting through my phone at random points in the day and feel as though I learnt several valuable lessons from it. The first one was that it was refreshing to not be concerned, and somewhat addicted, to my social media accounts and phone. I enjoyed seeing more, and experiencing more, around me. But I did also miss out. People speak of social media and mobiles as if they are some kind of curse. They blame them for all sorts of evils in the world, some of which, it has to be said, are very fair. However, people often forget about the benefits, and that is something I realised when without my phone for the day. I missed out on meeting up with my friends, being there for them if they needed me. Mobiles are great for that, the initiating of contact, checking in on one another. Therefore, I feel like I have reached some sort of happy medium: whilst I don’t need to check my phone for likes, views and activity, I do like to check to see if my friends are okay, if they want to meet for lunch, or if a quick phone call catch up is needed. So, that is what I am doing, I am spending less time obsessing over my social media and more time using my mobile and social media for positive purposes.
This post wasn’t intended as a brag about how I can live a better, more fulfilling, life without modern technology, in fact it is entirely the opposite. We live in a modern world, where modern technology is fundamental to so much of what we do. It would be entirely naive of me to say that I think I can get more out of life by being completely disconnected. What is important, I believe, is to use social media in a positive way and to encourage others to do the same. Not an original concept I realise, but one that still needs to be reiterated as it is yet to be put into full practice. So, I dare you… try and go a day without your phone, figure out what you miss and what you don’t. For me, I discovered how I like to use my phone and how, in some ways, it can also endanger my mental wellbeing and outlook. Therefore, whilst I won’t be tossing my phone ceremoniously into the sea anytime soon, I am looking forward to the occasional switch off every now and then and to using my phone in a more positive mindset in the future!