Before I dive into this subject, I have to admit that the initial plan was to keep this ‘experiment’ (if I can call it like this) for two weeks. However, because of some reasons that I will address below, I couldn’t keep it longer than a week.
Technology — it’s all around us from the moment the alarm buzzes, till the moment we go to sleep and we set the alarm for the next day. Even my job involves social media — which made this week without it quite difficult.
We are using apps for sports, cooking, social, apps for news, for transportation, maps, and so on. We are so dependent on all these tools that we can’t even leave our homes without our smartphones.
Have you ever asked yourself how many hours of your precious time you’re wasting on your smartphone?
Well, I have. So I installed an app that tracks all my activities on my phone and I was completely surprised by the result. Right after I installed the application, I discovered that I was spending around 30 hours and 25 minutes per week on my smartphone, and the top three apps I was using were YouTube — 5 hours and 23 minutes, Facebook — 4 hours and 38 minutes, and WhatsApp — 3 hours and 33 minutes.
Apart from all these shocking numbers, I started to be more aware of my attitude towards my phone, as well as how I feel about it. Thus, I realized how much the notifications are stressing me out and the level of curiosity — which kind of turns into anxiety — I experience when the notification light is on and I’m not checking them.
So I counted how many apps I have on my phone and the result was 128 out of which 41 I rarely used. All these apps were sending me notifications on a regular basis, interrupting my work and constantly distracting my attention.
Since I was really surprised by all these numbers, I started to slowly reduce the time spent on my smartphone and to reduce the number of apps from my phone. But that wasn’t enough. Even though my smartphone usage dropped to approximately 16 hours and 46 minutes per week in 5 months, I considered that I still spend way to much time on this device.
I unlock my screen 499 times per week! I open my Instagram 594 times per week! That’s what I call an addiction. Grabbing my phone, unlocking it and checking Instagram turned into a reflex. I surprised myself many times intending to check out the weather for example and to open my Instagram instead, just because I’ve seen the icon.
So, I firstly turned off all the notifications (including email). Secondly, I made a major cleaning in my phone, deleting all the apps that I don’t use often. And finally, I started a severe smartphone detox.
I am not calling it social media detox, because I want to reduce not only the time spent on Instagram, YouTube or Facebook but also the number of times I’m unlocking my screen, the number of pictures I take and the number of times I’m just grabbing my phone for no reason at all. So, one week, I used my phone only for the alarm clock and for calling via phone — not WhatsApp, nor Facebook.
How did that go?
The good side of not using my smartphone: even though in my first days without using social media I felt a strong need to check my phone several times per day, now that I have a week since I started using the device again, I check it only a few times per day.
During the week without my smartphone, I felt bored many times a day, but I was also much more productive. I felt more focused, I managed to complete more tasks during a day and my days seemed much longer than when I was using my phone.
One thing that really grabbed my attention was that I got really annoyed when my friends or colleagues were spending their time on the phone during the lunch break or after work. There were these awkward moments when they were on their phones and I wasn’t able to do the same. Also, I charged my battery once per two days, as opposed to when I was using my phone I was charging it once in the afternoon and again in the evening.
I definitely felt more organized because I use my small breaks during the day to plan my after-work activities such as grocery shopping, what I was going to cook, or what needs to be done at home. Also, I felt less lazy and I wasn’t procrastinating as much as when I was using social media all day.
Finally, one of the most important discoveries I’ve made that week is that I remember more. When I am constantly distracted by my phone, I tend to ignore many things that are going on around me, ending up not remembering much or being distracted. After a week without social media, I realized that I was more present and aware of what was going on around me.
The downside of not using my phone: being on social media is part of my job. So, staying a week away from it was a challenge from this point of view. Besides the fact that I had to schedule all the social media posts for the company I work for, it was quite a challenge to find content for my work.
By being inactive on social media, I missed many events that I would have liked to attend. At some point, my friends were informing me about different events that they considered I would like to go to.
I realized it was very difficult to contact people — especially my international friends because I was using Facebook or WhatsApp to keep in touch with them. Also, I noticed that I don’t have the phone number of many people that I usually contact on Facebook Messenger.
During the week without social media, I realized how important it is to be able to create group chats. It was so difficult to organize a meeting with my friends because I had to call or message every person individually, spending so much time instead of simply writing a message on a Facebook group.
Conclusion: It’s definitely not healthy to be addicted to a device, letting it rule your life via notifications and applications. Our mind is more focused, calm and less tired when it’s not constantly interrupted by our smartphone. However, when we are not using it, everything takes more time, we are missing out on so many things and communication gets more and more difficult.
After this detox, I try to use my smartphone less, I turned off all my notifications and I don’t check it as much as before. I am more mindful when it comes to my social media usage and I spend more quality time away from my smartphone — reading, discovering new hobbies, writing, or meeting my friends without grabbing my phone and checking social media while I am with them.
P.S.: It’s not always working. In rainy, lazy Sundays I am watching YouTube videos, I do post sometimes on my Instagram and I definitely share my articles on Facebook :D.
How to find out if a smartphone detox would benefit you?
Step 1: Find out how much time you spend on your device (there are many apps you can install on your smartphone that track your activity).
Step 2: Discover which applications you use the most.
Step 3: Decide if the time spent on your smartphone is used wisely.
Step 4: Ask yourself what else could you do with all that time spent on your smartphone.
Step 5 (this is a little exercise you can try out): Turn on the sound and notifications on your smartphone while working and place your phone behind you. Try to focus on what you are doing without checking your phone for 2 hours. If the notifications are stressing you out, you consider they are too many, they are distracting you, or even making you anxious, a smartphone detox can help you realize how different your life is without all that stress.