"Do it for the gram."
A popular phrase amongst millennials alike, akin to doing something only to post it on social media. Well, for the few months I've been exploring "do it because you can". Akin to doing something, because you're alive.
It was on Christmas Eve that I made the decision to give up Instagram, Twitter and Facebook indefinitely. (Facebook has been on its way out for a while, let's be honest.) I wanted to be present while opening presents with my family and not spend time adjusting the individual fairy lights on our tree to ensure I had the perfect lighting for that perfect post. Or worse yet, watch other people open their presents with their families and their perfect lighting.
I decided to take on this social media detox after watching this video:
Matt D'Avella is a minimalist and his aim was to remove himself from social media for 30 days to see what kind of effect it would have on his life and productivity. Social media is a key tool used for his online business, alongside the occasional round of pleasure.
I on the other hand make sure to consume every single pixel of every single post, for what is most certainly the saddest form of pleasure. Even the boring posts. Sometimes even the ads. Instagram is my favourite, what can I say?
"Alright then." I thought to myself.
"Let me give this a try."
One of my biggest fears about this wasn't so much concerning how I would fill the remaining days of an uneventful Christmas holiday. It was more so to do with how I would handle my daily commute, which can take anywhere between 90 - 120mins, each way.
Would I just sit there, perfectly still, silently stewing at the reality of this pointless exercise? Would I be forced to... <gulps> make conversation with other travellers? Or worse yet, accidentally look someone in the eye, because there was simply nothing else to look at?
I reached out for my phone — ready, I thought — to re-download Instagram and Twitter. It had only been two weeks.
Instead, I opted for a podcast, closed my eyes and let the journey go on. That was nice, but not for every day. I still felt the urge to check or at least read, something.
Making it through my holiday was far less of a struggle. After getting over the initial "Netflix and YouTube default phase," I actually found myself being productive. I decided (looking back, seemingly out of nowhere) to rebuild this blog. I searched for a static site generator I could use and came across Next.js. Without wanting to bore you with all the nerdy details, I pretty much learned the basics within 3 hours and then had a minimal routing structure, API and landing page done before the end of the week.
"WOWZAH!" I thought to myself, knowing fully well that this would not have been possible if I still had access to dem feeds doe.
Removing myself from social media had unlocked anywhere between an extra 17-89% brain capacity to do things which were actually productive. Eventually, I scrapped that project and settled for another platform (as discussed here), but even the notion!
However, it wasn't all good. Before challenging myself to this detox, it hadn't occurred to me how much I rely on social media for things other than just "passing the time".
For example, one day, the icons (ironically, the Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp icons at the top of this post) weren't showing up on this site whilst I was still developing it. Those icons are actually hosted externally, so my initial reaction was to log onto Twitter and check the status of the host to see what the problem could be. On another occasion, I wanted to check service times and locations for a church in London I followed on Instagram. I've become so accustomed to the ways of scrolling feeds, that in both instances I felt it necessary to ditch the experiment and get the info I needed. Same goes for one afternoon when there was chaos on the trains and checking the infamous Greater Anglia's Twitter feed was the most natural way for me to know what exactly was going on. I couldn't think of anything else.
FontAwesome, Hillsong Church and Greater Anglia all have websites where the information I needed was readily available.
That's when I realised that Mark Zuckerberg and the rest, had won. As much as I would love to delete Facebook and remove my digital footprint from Twitter and Instagram, I can't. Because to a certain extent – and it is painful to write this – I need them. Facebook – I have chats on there which span years and feature conversations about multiple milestone events; stuff way too important to just delete. The other two maybe not so much, but the point still stands. I had become reliant on something I couldn't even perceive as possible ten years ago.
I wonder what else that's true for?
"So, I got married last week."
"Err... come again?"
"Yeah bro didn't you watch my stories?"
"Yo, where was the invite?"
"Don't you check your DMs? Yoooo, I live-streamed it as well you know? Some mate you are. Don't care about your boy tying the knot? Okay then."
The worst thing about isolating yourself from social media in 2019, is that you're inadvertently isolating yourself from a wide circle of friends too. It quickly became apparent just how much I communicate with my friends via social media. A lot of it not even being meaningful conversation, just sharing posts and tagging each other in comments on videos we find funny.
I guess what's worse is that I didn't make any conscious attempt to remain in contact with anybody via any other means. I just saw people when I saw them, called them when I felt like and replied to texts whenever was necessary. I was fully aware I was missing out on catching up with friends, but I didn't really do anything about it. I had no idea what anyone was up to. Not that I have to know, but it just surprised me how out of the loop I was when Insta went walkabout.
This led to another unfortunate discovery. I have adopted a mindset of "social media or nothing". This attitude kept playing on my mind, culminating in the shouting of "Instagram, I miss YOU!" towards the end of week three.
Yes, really :(
With that unhealthy attachment to social media, I decided to challenge myself to a further five months off the Gram, off the Facebooks and off the Twitter.
Looking back over the six months total, all I really wanted was to develop a behaviour where I'm no longer worryingly reliant on social media. I wanted to engage with my friends on a more personal, real level. I wanted to increase my productivity and focus on all the different things I've longed to create.
I wanted a better
The experiment was actually a success. I achieved all of the above and more. And even now that I'm back on it, the urge to check it all the time and post every day has gone (mostly). I guess the biggest lesson was learning just how much I don't need it.
So maybe now the next step is to delete it? Why stop there? I may as well just get rid of Facebook and Twitter as well.
Let's not do anything too hasty here.