Sometimes, we never really realize the realities of what we’ve been doing until they’re pointed out to us. Before I even came across Thomas Bragg of Yes Theory’s video on social media cleansing, I hadn’t even realized that I spent an average of six entire hours a day on my phone—doing God knows what. That’s equal to me spending a quarter of an entire day on my phone.
When you begin to realize the amount of things that could be done in the minutes you spend scrolling mindlessly on Twitter or viewing your friends’ and celebrities’ Instagram stories, you start to question if what you’re really doing with your spare time is good for you. And so, you begin searching for alternatives.
On taking that first step.
Not much people talk about what happens when you begin the journey of a social media detox, like the time you spend sitting with yourself after hitting the delete button, wondering how to turn yourself into that productive member of society you had envisioned in your head. And as someone that went through the exact same thing, I can assure you: it is completely normal. It’s perfectly fine to want to get back to the comfortable routine of opening Facebook, then Twitter, then Instagram until it’s a hole you find difficult to get yourself out of, only to find yourself on your fifth straight Youtube video.
It’s hard to steer yourself away from things that have already begun to be considered normal and acceptable for you and everyone else, even when you know it isn’t doing you any good anymore (this applies to situations offline, too). But that’s why it’s even more important to take this first step and attempt to distance yourself from these types of things.
This isn’t goodbye.
Here’s the secret behind social media detoxing that needs to be said out loud: digital minimalism does not necessarily mean completely eradicating it from your life; it’s learning how to control the way you use what you’ve so conveniently been given to make sure that it isn’t controlling you. When you find yourself unable to prioritize other things because you cannot put your phone down, it might be time for you to develop what is commonly called digital discipline.
Sometimes, digital discipline simply means setting your phone on “Do Not Disturb” while you study or write a paper, or just want to be alone and undisturbed. It could mean permanently turning off your push notifications to stop that habit of constantly checking your phone for a text or a reply to that Tweet you cared so much about.
To detox is to remove whatever it is you found toxic from your life, whether referring to your immediate surroundings or the digital space. So, maybe instead of using social media to view the stories of people you don’t really like anyway, use your platforms to benefit you. Follow your favorite artists, athletes, scientists—people who inspire you. Or, explore other platforms forms of social media that could provide inspiration instead of gossip, generate ideas instead of fill you with complaints.
As I slowly learned to do this over the weeks I spent trying to renew the way I used social media, I began to actively use my social media accounts and channels for things I deeply cared about or even exploring new things I would learn to love, like watching Yes Theory change the world with a bunch of other creative content creators, learning more about things like astrology or the way the brain works with Vox’s 20-minute, graphically extravagant episodes on Netflix, listening to podcasts about love and life as I cleaned my room, or even just browsing Spotify discovering new music to add to my endless list of favorites.
In the moments I found myself falling in love again with the way it felt to intentionally learn things that were always just at my fingertip’s reach, I began to see the beautiful side to the internet and social media. I was reminded of the belief that its power can change the world. Use the unlimited freedom of social media to get to know yourself more. There is so much to learn if you look in the right places; social media isn’t exactly your enemy unless you make it out to be. Just like what you should do offline: keep only what you know can serve you better.