Disconnected: The smartphone detox

Imagine a scenario in which you have to survive without your smartphone for a month. Would people naturally turn to a book in such a case? Well, let’s be honest, most of us wouldn’t. Books are good, no doubt about it, but allow yourself to dwell on that thought.

The Trap

The internet and social media were introduced into my life, I wasn’t born with it. The good old 90’s. I’m the so-called “entitled millennial”. It’s okay, I don’t take offense. And to make it all worse, like many of us, I got caught up in the internet and social media craze.

What spoke to me the most was Instagram. It allowed me to express myself in ways I had never imagined before. It also affected the way I use the camera, edit photos and basically, everything. I’m not going to lie, it was addicting to see all the likes and appreciation flowing in. Like all the other social media sites, it was designed to be super addictive.

Also, the fact that I was a student and unemployed for some time, contributed to — I’m being vulnerable — addiction. “Addiction” is a strong word. It almost feels like it doesn’t really fit my situation. I was just abusing Instagram and it made me unhappy. But again, social media tools are amazing and powerful if you use them correctly. If you use them correctly and don’t abuse them.

Challenge yourself

A lot of people talk about it and are aware of it, but not many of us know and are ready to do something about it. About what, you ask? The social media addiction! It’s hard to tackle the topic so that I don’t have to write a book. But don’t worry, because I got you covered with my experience. And definitely take a look for interesting sources at the end of the article “sources and materials“. Like this “The Art of Manliness” podcast about “Becoming a Digital Minimalist” (available on all those other platforms).

It was early January. The time of the year when we make New Year resolutions and actually stick to them… for a week (am I right, guys?). It dawned on me that I had to change myself and do something about how I function. It didn’t take long to see the root cause of some of my personal flaws. I think it’s really important to notice your flaws because only then you can work on them properly.

I wanted to rewire my brain, to declutter my life and to create order. To become the person I desire to become, I had to make sacrifices. The idea was clear to me. Seemed right that a certain level of digital minimalism would suit my lifestyle. It quickly boiled down to the plan of – reducing social media and smartphone usage in general. Essentially, I believed it would improve my mental well-being. And here I was – lo and behold – the social media detox!

Rewire your brain

How it all begun: I deactivated my Instagram account(s) and deleted all the social media apps from my phone – the usual practice. I could access Facebook only on my PC, which is not that often and it satisfies me and my detox plan. In addition to that, I use a Facebook plugin “News Feed Eradicator” which leaves me with just the one option I need the most from Facebook – contact with friends.

Everything was going great. I was feeling better, more productive and most importantly – I didn’t feel trapped by my own instincts. Even more so, I felt relieved and found that the natural urge to check my phone, wasn’t actually that strong.

To set the record straight, I wasn’t planning to abandon smartphone forever. That would be insane. One or two months for experimental rewiring would do just fine (some people are more extreme – 8 months! What?). So, I made some sacrifices, but I played it safe.

Until… In the middle of my detox month, my smartphone randomly died. Realizing that the repair would cost too much, I temporarily switched to a flip phone. The one which is used by every family member if their main phone breaks down. The last resort. The universe conspired against me! Or did it?

I was thrown back to flip-phone era and it had some serious drawbacks in the era of smartphones. I didn’t have a thought that I miss social media and neither I was waiting for someone to chat with me. I was more interested in talking and especially in real life and with real people. The rewiring process was perceptible.

New neuron pathways, who this

As odd as it sounds, this situation made me realize an important aspect of having a highly sophisticated brick. While a flip phone usually is equipped with a pretty good battery life, calendar and… yeah, nothing much else… modern human being would need a little bit more than that. You might argue that it also has an email option, but I dare you to write a proper email to your boss by clicking several times one button to access a letter “s” on the mini screen.

Yes, it’s a super multi-functional brick. It contains not only social media apps but also very useful and essential tools like – google maps, easy to use email, cloud services, even Spotify for that matter and other tools exclusive to a smartphone. Whatsapp (or any similar internet based app) is also super useful in day to day basis. You can fight me, but those are great tools for me at least.

After all the struggle with my main phone and flip-phone, I finally, after a month or so, switched back to a smartphone. And interestingly – I found it quite boring. I’m writing this article about a month after the detox month ending and I feel eligible to answer to the main question – did the rewiring work? And Yes, it did. What about the phantom vibrating sensation? It’s almost non-existent. It wasn’t really noticeable and interfering before the detox.

A month is not that much but it can definitely change the way you think and the way you use your phone.

It was a great experience and the results are visible. It helped me to focus all my energy to the things that matter. Since the detox month, I have been using my phone to do only the most essential things. And I feel untangled and happier.

You should try it. And I hope I inspired you to do so.

Sources & Materials:

1) Going dumb: my year with a flip phone: Link 
2) Break Your Phone Addiction (Matt D'Avella): Link 
3) Why You Should Limit Your Technology Use, Now.: Link 
4) No, Phones Aren't Ruining a Generation.: Link 
5) Digital minimalism (podcast): Link
6) Phantom vibrating sensation: Link
7) 7 Warning Signs That You Have a Social Media Addiction: Link
8) Casey Neistat: Goodby Social media Link
9)Social media apps are 'deliberately' addictive to users Link

Note: All the photos used in the article are photographed by me


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