Digital Sabbath

 
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Meg’s Digital Sabbath

In the spirit of doing good, our Communications Specialist decided to examine her time on social media.

 

I work in communications, yet I took a break from Instagram for an entire month. However, only a couple days after going on my social media cleanse, I was back on the app. Turns out when you still have to use Instagram for work, it’s a lot harder to stay off your personal account. So with new resolve (and alarm), I committed to a month off and deleted my personal account from my phone.

What motivated me to start the cleanse in the first place? I joined the app in 2012, during my freshman year of college. Back then Instagram was a place where you would document shenanigans from your college experience. I worked in college radio for four years, and I was responsible for our account. The idea was lighthearted, and still very new. Before DM’s, Instagram Live, Instagram TV. Generally speaking, it was significantly less all-consuming. And users had boundaries, and the app had boundaries with us. It was a good place to be.

 

5/15: Day of termination. Deleted the app off my phone so I could manually add Wool&Prince and wool& accounts one by one and have my personal off my phone. Had one witness, Chris.

from Meg’s notes

 

Fast forward to current day—the idea of taking a break from Instagram kept coming up in my life. My sister had sent me several articles about phone addiction, and my roommate had just taken a month off. I had read the poignant New York Times article titled “How to Break Up With Your Phone” by Catherine Price. I was starting to examine the myriad of ways that technology was negatively impacting me. Turns out, the link between one’s technology consumption and well-being is strong: “The time we spend on our smartphones is interfering with our sleep, self-esteem, relationships, memory, attention spans, creativity, productivity and problem-solving and decision-making skills” (Ward, Duke, Gneezy, and Bos, 2017). Incidentally, there was also buzz happening in the office about how we can better allocate our time and energy as a company to social media. 

I was off the app for exactly a month, from May 15th to June 15th. However, I was on my work accounts during this time, because that’s a facet of my job. In the spirit of honesty, I will admit that on occasion, I used the work accounts for pleasure. And when I say occasionally, that might mean everyday. I learned a lot during that time, and came out of it with a new approach to my relationship with the app. That month was particularly active for me, as I was going on trips both personally and for work, concerts, and family get togethers. It was a busy time to say the least. I recorded stream-of-consciousness notes (peppered throughout this article) as often as I could so I could collect my thoughts with some cohesive data at the end of the month.

Generally since the sabbath started I’ve been feeling more present with my family and friends, like I can really absorb their energy and presence. Have been thinking about how social media is a numbing/coping mechanism, an escape...if you will.

from Meg’s notes

I got used to staring out the window and taking in my surroundings.

from Meg’s notes

Let’s first talk about the difficulties of wiping Instagram from your phone. Initially it felt slightly jarring. I had a sinking feeling that I would miss out on a big announcement, or a message from a friend. I had traditionally used Instagram as a way to send comical content to my friends and family. My sister lives in Israel, and sometimes that’s the easiest medium to feel connected with her. Like most people, I had always used Instagram as a distraction. I am well accustomed to the impulse to grab your phone and scroll while in line at the grocery store, during lunch at work, or the most concerning—first thing in the morning. While spending time with people, I noticed I was more likely to grab my phone if they were. It gave me a false idea of what genuine quality time with friends really felt like. 

Day kind of dragged on, but I noticed that my compulsion to grab my phone has diminished a little bit. Worked from the cafe and I people watched more than normal. I have the impulse to “check up” on certain accounts, some people that I know and others like my sister to see what they’re ‘up to.’
— from Meg's notes

The positives did greatly outweigh the negatives. Some side effects did include better sleep, feeling more present when spending time with those in my life, increased productivity, and a better sense of self-esteem. The last observation is one that tends to come up often when analyzing and reflecting on social media. The inevitable comparison cycle comes up. We often consume other people’s social media through rose-colored glasses, and it’s hard to find a lot of authenticity and truth in this. I found myself following people and feeling like I had to “check up” on them in order to feel, I’m not quite sure what—fulfilled? Inspired? It was only after I filled my time and shifted my focus to other people and things, I started to feel more at peace. I also felt more inspired because the world felt quieter. Around halfway through my detox I noticed this: When you’re not engaging in social media, it frees you up with a lot of mindspace to focus on other things. Sometimes there are lulls in conversation, sometimes you don’t know what to say, sometimes it’s awkward, but leaning on social media is like a band-aid. It only can act as an antidote for a brief moment. I had a recurring thought throughout the month, giving up social media gives you a sense of freedom. Free from not having to know what other people are doing. It’s only natural to find community on these platforms, but when there are minimal boundaries in place, you end up losing more than what you gain. 

Before bed I read a couple chapters, and slept better than I’ve slept in a long time. I don’t remember ‘trying’ to fall asleep which is a new thing for me.

from Meg’s notes

Went to a museum and checked my phone twice for the time. The feeling of immersion was quite refreshing.

from Meg’s notes

Upon reflecting on my 30 days, I have to say that the results were more profound than I expected. I had attempted to wipe Instagram from my phone in the past, but it never stuck. Then the right time came to me, and I committed. Like any other cleanse you might do, whether it’s an elimination diet or deleting a silly app from your phone, commitment is a virtue that must be present. Holding myself accountable and writing small notes everyday was both enjoyable and useful to look back on. Whenever a “bad feeling or emotion” crept up, I didn’t reach for my phone to pull myself away from the feeling or emotion, because it wasn’t an option. I learned to rely on other devices—mindfulness, meditation, walking, reading, listening to music, talking with friends, the list goes on. There’s so much to gain from taking space for yourself to focus on other things. Catherine Price sums up this idea well: “Many people equate spending less time on their phones with denying themselves pleasure—and who likes to do that?...Instead of thinking it as ‘spending less time on your phone,’ think of it as ‘spending more time on your life.’” Now that I’m back on the app I can feel old habits resurfacing. I’m considering going off Instagram again, for a longer period of time, perhaps indefinitely. Now that I have seen the “other side,” I can confidently say I would like to stay there.

Sat in the front seat on the ride home and felt blissfully tired. Noticed things about the drive that I normally wouldn’t have...the way the gorge changes throughout the drive, weird people on the road (a crew of motorcyclists), restaurants...etc. Watched a lot of TV when I got home, but felt good to not be on TV and phone at the same time.

from Meg’s notes

I feel like my craving to open up the app has decreased. I still am feeling a sense of freedom. Free from not having to know what other people are doing.

from Meg’s notes

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