I finally did it.

Over the last few months, I started to notice how dependent I'd become towards social media. How it was the first thing I'd reach for in the morning, and the last thing I'd fiddle with at night. How I'd enjoy breakfast while scrolling through Tumblr, or spend hours on my bed, aimlessly going through Instagram. There's a lot of talk about how we're "getting addicted to social media", to which I'd usually answer, well yeah, but we can't just live without it.

Or can we?

The thought came like an epiphany. I began to think back and wonder what (or who) in this world ever suggested to me, and everyone out there, that we desperately need social media. Do we really? Is it really that crucial for us to have a social media presence, or to constantly be in touch with it day by day?

I decided to challenge the idea. I admitted that even though I don't obsessively spend every waking minute on social media, my relationship with it was borderline addiction. So finally, I made a commitment to go off all my social media sites for a whole week.

Why the sudden change?
  • Social media has the terrifying power to permanently reduce the brain's ability to focus on one thing for a long period of time. To make it simple: It shortens your attention span. I learned about this through this Ted talk by Dr. Cal Newport; one of the key reasons as to why I finally decided to quit. It made sense, because none of us spends 5 whole minutes looking at an Instagram photo. Our habit is to scroll at a quick pace. Stories give us a chance to look at three-second photos, but even then we still tend to tap through just to get to the next photo quicker. These apps are designed to be addictive and fast, and that's why we can't just let it go. Once I knew it was damaging, I fully wanted to sign off.
  • We live in a world where people are drawn to gadgets more than they're drawn to other people. How phones have intervened into real life situations among us, began to scare me. Cafe meet-ups turn to Instagram-worthy photo sessions. Hanging out with friends only involve a group of people enjoying each other's phones; together. Birthday surprises with one person holding the cake, one blowing out candles, and the rest of the group recording it on their phones is just not authentic. Is it really that necessary to record everything that's happening around us? If we don't post it online, does that mean it never really happened? I wanted to start living, not for the sake of likes or comments, but for the sake of being there.
  • If there's one system that contains every person's highlight reel, every peak of their lives, every good and special moments only, it's social media. It's not a secret that what we see isn't always real. Everyone will seem like they have better lives if you look at them through the eyes of Instagram. Comparison is toxic, and social media is one of the tools that make it much worse. At the end of the day, it's not healthy to think "I wish I looked like her" or "I wish my life was as good as theirs" every day for the rest of your life. 

When I mention to people that I'm quitting social media, they look at me like I just saved a child from a burning building. As I was announcing to everyone that I'll be off of social media for a week (so they can reach me through my phone number instead), multiple people were quite surprised. They messaged me and asked me for the reasons behind this "big decision".

Part of me found it hilarious (I mean, gosh, I'm just deleting my apps for 7 days, not getting married), but a part of me also found the reaction quite reasonable. It clearly defies the We Can't Live Without Social Media implication. By "detoxifying" myself from social media, I've committed to detaching myself from the endless, constant stream of information and communication that ties our society together. 

Well, hey, someone has to try, right?

For someone like me, who would post and share quite frequently, this social media detox was actually very much needed. Going into this, I thought that I'd totally regret it. Can I really do this? What's gonna happen while I'm away? What if I miss out on things? What was I supposed to do with myself?? Live??

And live I did.

The most common question I got asked was, "So how will you spend all that time?"

After deleting all my apps (Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Tumblr, Line, and Pinterest) on Sunday night, it felt bizarre to wake up on Monday morning and find my phone- well, empty. Because of this blog, I'd spent a lot of time on those many sites networking, and building ways to share links and self-promote. I'd always try to maintain a good presence throughout all of these sites solely for that reason. Now, with all of them gone, I felt like I needed to find another purpose; another way to fill the void of my days. Something that didn't require scrolling, tweeting, posting, commenting, or double tapping anything. 

Not gonna lie, I felt like a BuzzFeed experiment.

As I woke up and finished my morning devotionals (distraction-free this time), I stood up and headed for breakfast. Standing there, I realized my hands were empty. Usually, I'd already have my phone on hand, my eyes fixed on the many things I'd missed among the 7 or 8 hours I was off sleeping. With that out of the way, I opted for a book instead. A book that's been sitting on my table for far too long (accompanied by 2 to 3 other books). I then learned that starting the day with a book was ten times better than catching up on any latest news online.


So how did my week go?

Strangely, it was one of the best weeks of my whole summer. Social media is one of the main reasons I procrastinate so much. Without it, I instinctively became more productive. Other than that, it also gave me a lot of peace. I genuinely enjoyed how my days went. After being so hung up on social media all this time, finally granting myself that solitude felt like pure bliss.

As my sister was staying at my home, a week off of social media gave me the time and chance to spend a lot more time with her. I spent mornings and afternoons playing with my little nephew. We went out to the mall and not once did I get so hung up with my phone that it runs out of battery, like what usually happens if I go out. In short, it improved the quality of our quality time. 

When I get restless at night, instead of jumping into hours of scrolling through social media as an escape, I simply continued my book. When I still wasn't tired, I listened to podcasts and wrote notes about it in my journal. Just because I can. 

So last week, I went to a dinner gathering without documenting anything.
I celebrated both my sister's and my good friend's birthday and did it without holding down a Snapchat button; I'd learned to be present in social situations.
I finished my small book and am now reading two other books.
I started taking walks and running in the morning again.
I resumed my internship after summer break.
I dealt with moments of anxiety better than I ever had.
I finally got back to learning Dutch, this time while taking actual notes (8 filled pages and counting).
I finished digitally coloring a drawing that I'd started the week before.
I somehow managed to consistently practice my piano everyday.
I finally decluttered my bedside table (a small step towards decluttering my whole room).
And I'm having the time of my life, by making the most of it.

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This post will be published on a Monday; my first day back into social media. I'll probably need to catch up on some things, but this time, I won't let it overwhelm me, or take up too much of my time. I don't necessarily think social media is a problem (it's actually very useful and beneficial in our modern society), but I think it all comes down to how much we let it control our actions. I might even quit again soon, just because of how liberating it felt.

If you're thinking about doing this, I totally suggest that you try. 
It won't change your life to the point where everything becomes perfect overnight, but it could make you feel like a different person. And if you try, it'll give you room to discover and learn new things, and to pursue a life that you'll be proud of.

See you around.