Late on November 30th, I posted a short message to Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter then signed out of any account with a social feed. I deleted all the social media apps from my iPhone and in their place put Kindle, iBooks, and Instapaper. I hoped in the idle - and not so idle - times when I would reach for social media, I would read instead.
I’d been thinking about Cal Newport’s New York Times article for a few weeks and I thought a break from social media would be nice. I am a week into my break from social media and I’ve noticed a few habits I was expecting to find, but am not proud of.
After the third day I stopped reflexively opening the app that fell into the place where Instagram used to be. It worries me that it became so automatic to pick up my phone and be almost instantly pulled into social media. The Twitch between Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat can eat up 30 minutes. It’s effortless to jump back and forth between apps, and there’s always some new and exciting update to look at.
The Twitch kept me from being present. Even if Colore and I were hanging out at home, I wasn’t fully engaged. I haven’t broken this habit completely yet. I sometimes check email or read Instapaper while we watch TV, but not having social media has helped me set the phone aside more than before.
One of the goals of this break was to replace scrolling through photos and videos with reading the long list of books and articles I have collected. This week I have been opening the Kindle and Instapaper apps more often and reading for a few minutes here and there. I’m chipping away at my big list of articles saved in Instapaper, and I finished the excellent Raw Materials by Matt Gemmel.
I am embarrassed to say I found myself Twitching to apps that aren’t social media, but could have an update in them. I think I’m looking for a dopamine hit of the “new.” Instead of seeking a hit from social media, I dive into my email inbox or open the app store, hoping to find something there to update.
This probably speaks more to my attachment to social media, but I worried about how much I was going to miss in one month. I don’t feel like I’m “missing” anything. I know my friends have posted cool photos and brands have announced holiday promotions, but not seeing those things hasn’t bothered me.
There are definitely Snapchats I’ll have missed that are gone forever. There will be far too many Instagram images to ever spend time catching up on. I’m okay with missing those updates. I gave up on being a social media completionist a long time ago.
I’m consuming far less internet ephemera in favor of longer, more lasting, writing. Without the lens of social media to give me bits and pieces of my friend’s lives, I’ve been texting them more. I might even write a few of them letters.
It is still early in the month, but so far I feel optimistic about my social media hiatus. I’m looking forward to finishing a few more books and seeing if/how this break changes my relationship to social media and my iPhone.