I have a love/hate relationship with my phone. Or rather, I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I’ve been that girl who has obsessed over how her Instagram grid looks, who goes back and deletes embarrassing status’s from high school, and who literally goes to sleep and wakes up with her phone in her hand. And while I commend social media and the use of technology for its abilities to connect and reach new people and places, I also see past the BS.
Because social media has become a business. Doesn’t matter if you’re Old Navy or Jane Doe down the street. Your social media is yet another perception of yourself, whether it's true or not. And you know what? It's exhausting.
So as I came home for Christmas this year, I knew I needed to unplug for a bit. But the first and most important question of "how" was a hard one to answer.
"Is it even possible in this day and age to just completely turn everything off and shut out the social world for two weeks?" I asked this question several times. I got varied answers from "kind of" to actual laughter, like how dare I even joke about going off the grid.
So here's what I figured out. I do not think any functioning adult can completely go off the grid, and I think if you're going to attempt it, a holiday is the best time to do it, because work obligations are more understanding. But when you're like me and you freelance for a living, it's way easier to do this on any given week.
And so the day I unplugged, I had either told in person or texted those I regularly comminuted with to tell them I’d be MIA until New Years. “Make plans without me, I’ll see you when I said I’d see you, and if you absolutely need me, I’ll check my texts maybe once or twice a day but won’t respond unless it’s urgent.” Send, power off, done. I logged out of all social media accounts on my phone and laptop, put my laptop notifications on do not disturb, left my shut down phone in another room or in my bag all day, and started to unwind.
Oh, and I bought an alarm clock.
In the 11 day break from my phone, here are the most important things I learned.
1. I get a lot of Facebook event notifications.
Like, a lot. When I finally logged back in, I had 32 notifications for the 11 days. Maybe 3 of those were memes my mom or aunt had tagged me on, another two comment replies for a group I was in, and another like on a photo I had posted two days before logging out. The rest were “upcoming event near you” and “Tennessee Aquarium added a new event”. And to be fair, I do use Facebook to find events a lot of the times. But remind me to turn off event notifications because I’m retroactively annoyed.
2. The worst part was not knowing what time it was.
I am a time freak. I’m early to everything because even if I map out how long it will take to get ready and drive and be there on time, I get anxious and start earlier than planned. And alright, ready for the weird quirk? When I see movies, no matter what movie it is or how excited I might be to see it, I look up the runtime before it starts and set a timer on my phone so I know how much longer it has. I know, it's weird, we can move on. So not having a little rectangle clock in my hand at all times drove me nuts.
3. Lastly - life was not all that different without my phone.
It was certainly relieving to just sit and relax and be engaged with everything around me, but it certainly wasn’t life changing. I stepped away from my phone at the end of a very hard year because I needed time to focus, to not be so consumed by social media, and to get in a better headspace. But I think the very fact that it wasn’t this astounding revelation proves just how little I need my phone. I got by perfectly well without it. In fact, my phone stayed off for two days straight without me checking it even once. My friends respected what I was doing and kept to themselves and as a strong enneagram 2, it was nice to not be needed for a little while. Though of course that feeling didn't last long.
If I ever accidentally clicked on Instagram, it didn’t matter because I had logged out. My texts came to my laptop at the end the day so I could still get previews of what was being said, but I hardly ever responded and started forgetting to reply even when I wanted to be engaged. And so my life was not drastically altered when I went away from my phone: it stayed mostly the same. Less consumed, less bothered, and more rested, I think. But I more than got by.
It’s not hard to put down your phone and shut off for a while. In fact, it’s extremely easy.