Do a Digital Detox to Reconnect with the World Around You

| 12/21/2015 10:21:00 AM


A few months ago, I noticed that I’d developed some weird habits surrounding my social media use. I was checking my Facebook and Instagram accounts at least 10 times a day, but I almost always logged off feeling disappointed or slightly depressed. (Apparently, I’m not alone. See How Facebook Usage is Linked to Depressive Symptoms.)  I follow a number of news organizations on my social media accounts, and, as a result, my newsfeed is a strong mix of political and environmental news, advertisements, and updates from friends and family. Despite the occasionally interesting or inspiring post, I still felt bogged down by news of mass shootings, scathing political remarks, and updates about the declining state of our environment – not to mention the slew of mediocre food pictures and narcissistic “selfies” that seem impossible to escape.

Why did I continue to spend so much time on a platform that I wasn’t enjoying? I have no idea. It was as though I would black out and then wake up to find myself blinking at my Facebook profile.  How did I get there? What was I looking for? The apps on my Smartphone allowed me to check Facebook notifications at stop lights and skim through Instagram photos while waiting in line at the check-out counter. Every potential moment for quiet reflection was in danger of being interrupted by a strong pull to comment, like, share or respond.  The more I became aware of this nagging desire, the more uncomfortable I felt about it.

The day of the Paris terrorist attacks was the day I logged off.  I’m fully aware that turning something off doesn’t make the problem go away. But, for our mental health and sanity, it’s OK to take a break. Take a breath. The world won’t stop turning if you temporarily tune out.  It’s been a little more than a month since I decided to log off, and I couldn’t be happier with the awareness and centeredness that I’ve gained since then.  Here are the self-imposed rules I created, and the steps I took to establish healthier digital habits. You can choose to follow any of these recommendations that seem inspiring, and tailor them to fit your needs.

Log off social media for one month. I uninstalled the Facebook and Instagram apps from my phone to prevent myself from logging in during brief “dull” moments.  I logged out of Facebook on my desktop, but accidently kept it bookmarked on my toolbar. This bookmarked toolbar was how I found myself unconsciously blinking at the Facebook login page about 10 times a day for the first week. I discovered that I’d been treating my Facebook page like I would an afternoon walk, or a refill of coffee. While working at my computer, if my mind needed to switch tracks or take a short break, I automatically clicked the Facebook icon to start mindlessly browsing. I would only browse for 2 or 3 minutes (I think …) but all those short minutes add up.

I finally broke the habit by removing the bookmarked icon from my toolbar and creating access barriers (the need to physically type my login information before accessing my accounts). It took nearly two weeks for me to quit reaching for that icon when I felt bored or restless.

12/28/2015 8:41:14 AM

This really hit home. I need to save this info so I can see it any time I feel compelled to waste time on FB. Definitely a resolution for the new year. Thank you!

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