Last week, I began my month-long challenge from some of the social media networks I use far too frequently. My first week of the challenge came to an end yesterday.
Here's a rundown of my routine prior to taking on the challenge:
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When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is reach for my phone, turn off my alarm, and scroll through my phone for updated feeds. During my commute to work, I would check several social app updates, and I would almost always find the same news.
During meals, I would occasionally post pictures of new dishes or restaurants. I'd be constantly checking in, trying to figure out how to take better selfies, sifting through better photos to upload, and coming up with witty posts. Even when there are no updates, I would be multitasking and subconsciously scrolling and re-scrolling feeds at home. I was also subscribed to email newsletters from the same sites at the same time.
I recently became addicted to constantly checking for feeds and notifications. It was consuming a significant amount of my time and energy. Besides, I was wasting time by directing a portion of my attention to mindless scrolling, wishing for things that didn't matter to me.
The Beginning of My Challenge
I announced on my personal page a day before my challenge that I would be taking a month off. I then uninstalled the apps from my phone. On the first day of my challenge, I had to force myself not to reach for my phone or wonder if anyone had liked my previous post.
On the second day, I was still bothered by the fact that I couldn't virtually connect with my friends (acquaintances). I was tempted to peer over the shoulders of others, but I was able to resist. I started unsubscribing from emails that I'd always deleted without reading on autopilot.
On the third day, I was able to focus completely on my work without reaching for my phone. Less emails were coming in, and I was taking less time as well. I figured the most important news to stay up to date on would come from the news platform, so I signed up for news station notifications.
On the fourth day, I began to pay attention to my surroundings and noticed that the majority of people were looking at their phones, either on social media or watching videos. I was a little self-conscious about not taking photos or reading on my phone while eating.
On the fifth day, I began reading more news from news notifications, unsubscribed from more newsletters that I had previously signed up for, and received more high-quality emails such as LifeHack and Highbrow. Without being interrupted, I finished my work lists that I had been putting off for a while.
On the sixth day, I feel more productive and less consumed by my phone addiction. I went to bed earlier.
Today, I'm not as tempted to log in to social media sites or as glued to my phone as I was the week before.
Here's what I discovered
While it was difficult to disconnect from the increasingly connected world, I gradually came to realize and understand aspects of myself that I had previously ignored.
It was difficult to turn off, but once we did, our senses expanded. I started to enjoy my meals without having to take photos every time. I went places without bothering to check in or take selfies because I didn't have a connection. I immerse myself in the experience and the company with which I am associated. I didn't even have to think about what to post, rewrite my thoughts, or proofread my grammar, let alone wonder if anyone liked my photos or posts. When I wasn't looking down, I started to enjoy the scenery and marvel at how the city had changed.
Get rid of the mindless clutter. We are drawn to them for some reason. It seems like a never-ending process, whether it's watching video after video or reading other people's posts. We've probably spent a few hours doing the finger exercise by the time we realize it and are too tired to do anything else. Furthermore, most of the things we see, while entertaining, are not as important as we believe. A week into the challenge, I don't feel like I'm missing out on much.
More time to work productively. Other than being on the apps all the time, I was able to do more. I took the time to reorganize my tasks and schedules. I emptied my inbox. I continued to write articles. I finished more work in the office and checked off more items on my to-do list at home. At the same time, I am clearing my mind of mental clutter.
To reconnect with ourselves, we must turn off our devices. Being connected all the time keeps us engaged all the time; we're always switched on mentally, one way or another, because there's a constant reminder ringing in our heads to check these apps and read those notifications. I made time to cook my own meals, read books, and chew mindfully while eating. I'm getting more sleep and reading less in the dark, which is good for my eyes. The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is stretch and look out the window, smiling to be greeted by dawn.
My lifestyle has changed in a matter of days simply by removing one habit that I had unhealthily built up and incorporated into my lifestyle without even realizing it. Instead of constantly checking my phone or reaching out and automatically opening apps to check for repeating feeds, I began exploring other channels and have found myself enjoying more useful and quality articles and sites that will help me grow.
Disconnecting has brought me closer to reality; I've re-learned to look up when walking, to spend time with those I care about, and to improve my sleep quality.
We are so connected virtually, but so disconnected in reality from those we care about. While they are excellent communication tools, we become engulfed in emotional and psychological ties when we become captivated by them. Would the likes and loves we amass from our selfies, photos, and photos have meant anything in the end? Would we miss the pages we adore if they vanished one day?
I'm in my second week of the challenge, and I'm finding that I'm relying less and less on online connections. I started paying more attention to real connections (real conversations over meals, not talking on the phone while walking, making time to prioritize real work over notifications) and I'm loving every minute of it.
If you're up for the challenge, give it a week and see what resistances you'll feel (even now, thinking about not being able to check your feeds and notifications), the effects during the challenge, and what happens after a week of being disconnected.
What would you have missed if you hadn't gone?
Or would you be remembered at all?
I doubt it, but even if you were missed, your true connections would know where to find you and how to contact you.
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