When I last posted to this blog, I was embarking on a month long experiment in which I removed all social media apps from my phone. I would say that it was a success — I didn’t even want to rush right back into it when February ended. Only today, the 4th of March, is when I reinstalled a couple of apps back on my phone.
At first, it felt a little strange to be without social apps on my phone, almost like I was dealing with a phantom limb. I would instinctually pick up my phone when I was idle, only to find out there wasn’t really anything for me to look at.
Within the first few days, I found myself actually looking for something else on my phone to kill the time with, so I started browsing my social Slack instances to see what people were talking about. That still had a bit of a social media feeling to it, so I eventually deleted those off my phone as well.
More reading, less browsing
Soon I started reading my neglected reading lists on Instapaper and my RSS reader. That felt pretty good and enriching, but I still didn’t like staring at my phone for an extended period of time. I eventually limited my feed reading to my iPad, when I would sit down intentionally to read. That worked pretty well! I also started reading on my Kindle more regularly.
The life and death of FOMO
I definitely had a feeling of FOMO in the early days of this experiment. My anxious brain kicked in: What is everybody up to? Am I missing any big announcements or events in anyone’s life? Am I being a bad friend or family member by not keeping up with things as they’re happening?
The solution to this was to make more direct connections with people. That made the FOMO monster go away, and I felt more relaxed.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I gave myself permission to make occasional, intentional visits to the desktop/web versions of these sites while sitting at my computer, and spend a limited amount of time on them. While it was nice to have that option, I ended up only doing so a handful of times over the course of the month, mainly to check in to see what family and close friends were up to by visiting their profiles.
I think going directly to the profiles of people I want to check in on is a habit that I’m going to keep up with, as the main feed on Instagram in particular is often frustrating with the way that the algorithm sorts things. I’ve also become partial to using the “Favorites” view if I felt like browsing. Another habit I’d like to keep up with when browsing IG is to use the desktop/web version more often, since there doesn’t seem to be any advertisements littering the feed.
In addition, I made more direct connections by contacting people individually (via email, text, even calls). That felt a lot more fulfilling than trying to keep up with social media posts.
It turned out that Instagram was the largest presence in my social media life, and that adjustment was probably the most challenging. The second runner up was Mastodon, which I had only recently gained momentum in using in the past few months.
The other apps were not a challenge at all to be away from. TikTok and Tumblr were already occasional visits. I largely stopped using Twitter many years ago, and cleared out my account last year anyway.
The sound of silence
I really, really liked the reduction of noise in my life from taking social media apps off of my phone. When looking at my phone to check the time or weather, it was refreshing to not be greeted by a long, scrolling list of notifications.
What I took away from this is to disable notifications from these apps completely. It’s such a simple solution, yet I hadn’t thought of it till I conducted this experiment.
With less social media in my life, I found myself with more time and mindspace to just be. I found myself sitting and reflecting a lot. I picked up journaling again. I became more consistent with my exercise habit. All good things that I hope to continue.
I’ve learned a lot from this experiment, and have some new habits that I’ll be keeping — I consider this experiment a success!