You'd be surprised to discover how often you check Instagram. True you might only spend a few minutes total scrolling through it every day, but if you're anything like me—i.e. committed to staying off social media for a month—you'll come to find you check your apps almost compulsively, at all hours of the day.
Bored at work? Check Facebook. Stuck on the train? Instagram. Can't fall asleep? Twitter. Dinner and drinks with close friends? Sadly all of the above. Turns out then even when I'm sitting less than two feet from my favorite people in the whole world, there's still a good chance my phone is out. You know, just in case there's a family emergency or more importantly, a photo op.
Unfortunately, I know I'm not alone. My friends' phones are always out and logged in to Facebook and Instagram, too. Sometimes they even check their phones in the middle of a conversation—mouths moving, thoughts articulated, but eyes glued to their phone screens. Truthfully, I'd never noticed until I deliberately tucked mine away for my resolution challenge, and I cringe at the thought of how many had observed the same behavior in me until now.
It's New Year's Day and I would like nothing more than to troll Instagram and Facebook from bed all morning—okay, and afternoon—but alas, it's day one of my social media fast. Despite emails alerting me I've been tagged in pics from the previous evening and lots of enticing headlines about Mariah Carey's New Year's Eve debacle, I don't even check Twitter. Instead, I text my friend Kat (who has graciously agreed to be my "no social media" sponsor) and lament: I don't know how I'm going to do this.
I realize something terrifying: Social media is actually how I start my day. Before coffee, before emails and texts, before I even get out of bed, I check my social media accounts. On one hand, this seems completely acceptable; Twitter and Facebook are filled with news and headlines from around the world that are essential to my job as a writer. However, considering the bulk of social media is pics and info from random people (many of whom I haven't spoken to since high school), it also feels slightly unhealthy. I commit to doing yoga and reading the New York Times every morning instead.
My editor at Apartment Therapy emails to let me know the first post of this series is live, and out of habit I head straight over to Facebook to share. Luckily, I've logged out and cleared my browser history of all social media access—so I wind up just texting the link to my close friends instead. They write back notes of encouragement and support, but it somehow doesn't feel quite as gratifying as a public "like." I'm starting to think I have a problem.
It's day four and I have to access Instagram for a work assignment. I use an old college email to open a fresh account and am quickly flooded with pics of friends, except this time under the guise of "people to follow" suggestions. I log off and create a brand new email account to start a third Instagram, this time, sans the familiar faces. It's nice to see all the pretty visuals from random celebrity feeds but by no means as interesting as my personal feed. In fact, it's making me want to log in to my real account more than ever.
"I've officially stooped to living vicariously through someone else's social media. Pitiful."
By the end of day six, I relapse. I'm done working for the day and so restless that I talk myself into checking Facebook for just one minute. I log in just long enough to see that five of my friends are marked "safe" from a local train accident and to share a post my friend Brittany has tagged me in to my timeline. And though I immediately feel guilty and log out, I spend the next hour texting with Brittany about how much I miss social media and to see how the shared post is performing. I've officially stooped to living vicariously through someone else's social media. Pitiful.
Watching the Golden Globe awards without Twitter is tough. Thankfully, most of the major news outlets have rounded up the best social media reactions of the night, so I can feel at least partially a part of the pop cultural loop.
If a tree falls in a forest and no is around to hear it, does it make sound? Similarly, if you spend a day downtown with friends and no one takes an Instagram pic, did it really happen? Of course it did. In fact, there's something strangely liberating about simply focusing on your present company instead of the next photo opportunity.
It took nearly two weeks but for the most part, my social media withdrawal symptoms have subsided. Although I definitely miss all of the quick news and curated content my various feeds provide, my newfound sense of phone-freedom is truly improving my mood—as well as my boyfriend's—and my work productivity. Not to mention I'm officially caught up on Planet Earth II and Vanderpump Rules and have even had time to spiralize most of my dinners! #winning
How I'm Feeling Halfway Through
While I can say with certainty that every day without social media gets better, that doesn't necessarily mean it's getting easier. I still find myself mindlessly typing Facebook into my browser or itching to post a selfie, however now I'm able to stop myself and do something more satisfying instead, like making zoodles or texting a friend.
And now that I am not constantly being bombarded with other people's whereabouts, opinions, and brunches, I'm actually becoming more and more focused on what's happening right in front of me. I'm excited to see what the rest of the month brings and hope that more of my loved ones start to notice a difference in my presence, too.
Caroline will be coming back at the end of the month to share the results of her journey quitting social media. Until then, you can catch up with our other writers' resolutions.