In light of the social media catch 22, where it’s increasingly becoming both more controversial and more essential to business as well as everyday life, we challenged the Spindogs team to try a social media detox for a week.
Would the challenge improve their mental well-being? Would it increase their productivity? Or would they simply hate it? Could they even manage seven days without social media? Read on to find out their experiences:
THE WEEK OF ENDLESS FIDGETING, Emily Lewis, Digital Marketer
When I first accepted the challenge to go a whole week without using social media, I truly believed that it was going to be pleasant. I’m more of an Instagram lurker than a publisher on my personal accounts anyway, so how hard could it be? Bring on my new sense of productivity! I’ll read more books, go to the gym, perhaps pick up a new hobby. Oh, how wrong I was!
Even without social media, I was still glued to my phone. I was just using digital in another way, namely to do a ton of online shopping. The whole week, I felt that I was wasting my time because I wasn’t spending it the way I wanted.
Okay, so I would have normally binge-watched makeup videos on YouTube. Some people may think that’s a waste of time, but that would have been my preferred entertainment. Instead, I watched trash TV programmes I didn’t remotely care about.
I also ran into another issue when I wanted to learn how to do something. As a visual learner, I use YouTube video tutorials to learn new skills. The thought of reading a long page of instructions panics me, my eyes glaze over, and procrastination whispers, ‘I’ll read it after’. Even finding text- based tutorials proved difficult, as YouTube videos were often embedded within the articles.
Social media can help us learn new things, find information quicker, and it’s completely personalised. My social media accounts automatically show me recommended content based on my interests. It’s unique to me. Personalised content is how you can easily end up realising you should have gone to bed two hours ago.
At the end of the week, I’d made three key discoveries: social media is inextricably integrated into our lives, I use YouTube as a video-based alternative to TV, and I can definitely find other ways to put off going to the gym.
Taking my social media away isn’t going to trick me into going to the gym, or motivate me to make change. But after getting YouTube back, I started to get inspiration again from the things other people are doing, or wearing, or how they live. For me, watching someone’s weight loss journey on YouTube is way more inspirational, and more likely to nudge me to make a change than taking away my social media apps.
THE NEWS BLACKOUT, Fabrizo Carollo, Graduate Digital Marketer
You could say the first few days were the hardest. Mainly because I failed two days in a row by checking my feeds first thing in the morning! However, I was determined to complete the full seven days of the challenge, so I started again and I managed to complete it this time around.
The most agitating aspect of giving up social media for me was not being able to interact with my friends as I normally would. I couldn’t check out the videos or images they sent me, as these were shared from YouTube, Reddit or Imgur, and all these have a social comments section.
This was especially frustrating because I have many international friends that I do not get to see or hear from that often, and telling them I couldn’t look at the things they sent me often killed the conversation outright.
I also felt very much out of the loop, as I use Reddit and its various subreddits as news aggregators to keep myself up to date on current affairs as well as my hobbies and interests. This meant that I had to find alternative sources of information, which was very time consuming, much more difficult and often left me unsatisfied due to the inferior quality of content.
I also use comment sections to deepen my understanding of a topic, as users often offer different points of view from the author. In comparison, reading just the article was quite unsatisfying, as I couldn’t dive into the broader debate.
The main upside of this challenge was having more time to dedicate to my hobbies. As I don’t really use social media for entertainment, I didn’t see any negative impact – in fact, the effect was quite the opposite, with extra hours of the day freed up for offline activities.
Overall, I wouldn’t class my social media detox as a positive experience or recommend it to anyone. We live in a very fast world oversaturated with content to take in; I find social media helps me cope with the speed and save time by highlighting the essential information I need to know.
THE BIG SOCIAL DECLUTTERING, Claire Swindell, Director of Client Services
Noticing my appreciation for some social media platforms was wearing thin, yet my phone usage was increasing, I leapt at the chance to do a social media detox for this piece, turning off all my social channels for at least a week. I’ll admit I got a bit carried away from the moment I started deleting the little squares, and deleted most apps on my phone bar WhatsApp, my banking app and anything work related.
I knew that I could be a mindless scroller in the evenings and my phone time was creeping up, so it made sense to remove anything I may be tempted to browse, including the likes of IMDB and ASOS, as well as anything that had become a convenience crutch, such as Amazon Prime.
The majority of my productive phone use is to take photos of my daughter, so I wasn’t putting my phone down any time soon, but I quickly noticed how frequently I went to click on apps such as Instagram, entirely on autopilot. I always have a long list of errands to run and taking away my means of procrastination was inevitably going to end up with those things getting done quicker. And, to be fair, more washing got done, but I’ll be honest, no routine change was going to trick me into hitting the ironing pile!
There were two things I noticed in the first 24 hours:
- I have a lot of conversations with friends within the apps themselves
- I consume a lot of my news via social media
I had to make a conscious effort to seek out other news outlets and text friends, which meant my actions had more intent and I had more time to engage properly with what I was watching, reading or working on.
My main concern with turning some of the apps off completely would be the prospect of cutting off my connection to old school friends – I think it’s lovely to celebrate each other’s milestones through the years, even if we don’t speak very often.
As for Instagram, my appreciation mainly revolves around my love of interiors and the inspiration I draw from accounts dedicated to home decor or interior design, so I will be reinstalling the app on my phone. There are other apps, however, that won’t be returning.
I didn’t feel like any social media apps were having a particularly negative impact on my life when I went into the challenge, but my phone usage time felt uncomfortably high, especially considering that not all of the content I was consuming had any added value for me. It was great to reflect on what content I really enjoy and kick some of my mindless scrolling habits!
If this Spindogs experiment has inspired you to switch off social media, good luck! The rest of you can follow us on @spindogsdigital for all the latest team and project news.