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How hard is it to switch off social media?

Laura Peppas

I’ve never thought of myself as an addict – smoking has never interested me, I don’t crave junk food and gambling’s not my thing.

It wasn’t until a friend and I were chatting about addictions, that I realised I (and countless other people) had one: social media.

It might sound harmless, but as I began to think about it, I noticed it was the first thing I checked when I woke and the last before I went to bed at night. As soon as I’m alone in a social situation it’s the first thing I reach for. And, I can’t go for much longer than an hour before checking it.

It had become second nature, to have my phone in my hand mindlessly scrolling though newsfeeds while “watching” TV. But the real test if I was truly an addict, was if I could go a few days without it.

I decided the holidays were the perfect time to try it out: no Instagram, Twitter or Facebook for one weekend. Two days doesn’t sound like much, but if you’re like me, even a few hours  can be torture.

The first feeling when I switched off was relief. No more pesky notifications, or annoying statuses, or belfies! I felt as though a kind of weight was lifted off my shoulders. I began imagining myself as one of those people you hear about in Natural Living magazine that smugly proclaim, “I don’t watch TV. I don’t read social media. I don’t drink alcohol. I just meditate, do yoga and go running on the beach.”

Well, that feeling didn’t last.

As the hours ticked over, I became increasingly agitated.

I felt my hands itching for my phone, to scroll mindlessly through my newsfeed as I watched Friends.

'I found my hands itching for my phone.'

‘I felt my hands itching for my phone.’

Hour number four was the period where I imagine a smoker finally caves.

I found myself toying with the idea of just checking for a few seconds, you know, in case something terrible had happened. (Ignoring my husband, who pointed out if anything awful did actually happen they would in fact contact me on my phone, not Facebook).

I went to bed that night feeling restless, and dreamt about all the mundane statuses and Instagram posts I was missing out on.

The next morning after my shower, half asleep and without thinking, I grabbed my phone and went straight to Instagram. The relief was instant. And then, it clicked that I had broken my promise without realising it. Just how powerful was this addiction?

After that, I started hiding my phone or not bringing it with me when I left the house.

We went to a restaurant that day without me incessantly checking my phone and I finally finished my book instead of getting distracted every few minutes and forgetting where I was up to.

It felt freeing, wandering around the city not having my nose stuck in my phone but instead taking in the faces and sights.

I even began to feel more confident – after all, there were no fashion bloggers sprawled on the beach in the tiniest of bikinis staring back at me while I was eating a burger at Grease Monkey.

Of course, it’s now a new week and I’m back online – my job is the kind of role where social media is a necessity. It’s important to note though that social media does have its benefits – I’ve found many a story from it, it breaks news faster and I love that it helps me easily connect with friends and other Canberrans.

But one day, I’d love to switch off completely for more than a few days. Mainly because I’d like to look back at my life and know that I was completely living in the moment, rather than with my nose stuck in an iPhone. Okay – and maybe, just maybe, so I can brag about it in Clean Living Daily.

Have you tried switching off? How did it go?

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Laura Peppas

Laura Peppas is HerCanberra’s senior journalist and communications manager and is the Editor of Unveiled, HerCanberra’s wedding magazine. She is enjoying uncovering all that Canberra has to offer, meeting some intriguing locals and working with a pretty awesome bunch of women. Laura has lived in Canberra for most of her life and when she’s not writing fervently she enjoys pursuing her passion for travel, reading, online shopping and chai tea.

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