For me, social media isn’t only a hobby, it’s my livelihood. This can be both a blessing and a curse because while I genuinely love what I do, I’m plugged in 24/7 and tethered to my iPhone to a point where if I don’t answer someone’s text within three minutes, they wonder if they may need to call a hearse. We could all use a break—and that sentiment stands doubly for someone like me.
Two years ago I got that break when I had to temporarily relocate from my apartment in New York City to the third floor of a hospital on the eating disorders unit where I would remain, unknowingly, for three months. Due to strict confidentiality guidelines and a little thing called HIPAA, there was a no-camera policy, which is common in similar settings (fair enough, I guess, if you aspire to be Amish). So I had no choice but to ditch my iPhone for my entire length of stay and replace it with a trusty old flip phone that not even my 94-year-old grandmother uses.
I’m plugged in 24/7 and tethered to my iPhone to a point where if I don’t answer someone’s text within three minutes, they wonder if they may need to call a hearse.
First things first: Imagine walking into the Verizon store and telling a guy in a red shirt that no, actually, you, a tech-savvy millennial, are not happy with the iPhone and in fact you’d like to downgrade to a Samsung jitterbug. He erupted in confused laughter, but instead of getting into the whole she-bang I just told him it was for the sake of journalism. I guess it wasn’t a total lie because here we are.
Suddenly a social media vacation no longer seemed enticing. I tried to convince myself it wouldn’t be that bad, that I wouldn’t miss it that much, and all would be well. But the moment a nurse pried my iPhone out of my cold hands, I felt as though I had lost an appendage. I was in denial. Initially, not being able to check my phone or social media every few minutes filled me with anxiety and boredom, like an itch that couldn’t be scratched. It was not ideal.
I began to fill my time with other things like drawing, knitting, reading, and re-runs of Roseanne. If I wanted to communicate with the outside world (and I did!) I resorted to the retro ways of the dark ages like email, picking up the phone, or—gasp—writing a letter. A friend of mine managed my Instagram while I was gone because I valued my privacy and didn’t want to broadcast my current life situation, but also didn’t want it to seem as though I had been kidnapped.
A few weeks in, not having access to my device and having to resurrect the dreaded T-9 method became more of a first-world inconvenience than anything else, and I started to adjust and realize that while I certainly didn’t elect to do so, having a break from social media was a total luxury. I didn’t even really bother to text anymore, because having to tap a number three times to get a certain letter just wasn’t worth it. A lot of the eye-strain headaches I had been experiencing lessened in intensity and I found that I was getting more, and better-quality sleep.
Eliminating communication via social media channels helped me identify who really had a presence in my life and deserved to stay there.
After six to eight weeks had passed, I actually found that some of my relationships had strengthened. Sure, difficult times have a way of revealing true friends, but eliminating communication via social media channels helped me identify who really had a presence in my life and deserved to stay there. Real relationships take effort, and I’ve found social media eliminates a lot of the legwork, which can create or feign friendships that aren’t necessarily the most genuine or sustainable.
Toward the end of my forced social media cleanse, I hardly even thought about my iPhone. The time I’d have ordinarily spent looking at a screen was replaced with more constructive activities like meditation, art, or having real-life conversations with actual humans. I also took up journaling so that if and when I decide to write a memoir (pronounced mem-wah, because Kris Jenner), I have a hard copy of all the details.
Once I got back to work and into my normal routine, social was a novelty, at first. But in what spare time I have when I’m not working these days, I no longer feel as though my phone is glued to my right hand for the sake of personal use. It’s allowed me to be much more present and calm in my everyday life, rather than consumed by the pressure to document and filter every little thing when I much prefer to be a bit more of a mysterious woman. Oh, and follow me @thepouf.