Last week, I made the decision to delete the social media apps on my phone.
I've wanted to for a while. Lots of people are really good at disciplining themselves from their Smartphones- of which are addictive by design. Nowadays. not many people are a stranger to the fact that smartphone and social media usage have had a negative effect on mental health- most commonly depression and anxiety. A lot of users get a hit of dopamine when you receive a new like or follow and a negative withdrawal symptom when they check your phone to find a lack of them.
I upgraded to an iPhone earlier this year with the intention of finally having a working phone where I could be more productive with promoting my book. My old Samsung s4 crashed when you so much as looked at it and the photos you took came out practically black unless you were outside in the summer.
The iPhone started off well, but what started out as promoting, turned into zombie scrolling and obsessive checking and feed refreshing. Digital PR is a hard slog and you need to keep doing the same thing each day, even when it feels like you're getting nothing in return. On top of that, I'm on the internet all day for work anyway, so the last thing I wanted to do when I came home to my family was to continue this meaningless habit disguised as productivity.
I started leaving my phone in a separate room as soon as I got home, which was a start, but no cigar. I needed to do something more drastic without plunging myself back into the dark ages. I've considered going completely phone-less before, but I had a family emergency a couple of months back and although it was extremely brief and solved in (The longest) 10 minutes (of my life), I dread to think what could have happened if I hadn't have had my phone on me.
So I deleted Facebook, Twitter and Instagram from my phone, but kept the accounts.
It took a couple of glances at my phone for it to sink in that the apps were no longer there but after that, the benefits were obvious almost instantly. It's worth adding that I started keeping my phone in my bag rather than my pocket too. These are a few of the things I noticed:
- My concentration at work increased
- Less anxiety
- I went to bed on time and slept better.
- wrote and read more
- actually thought deeper about decisions I had been putting off for a while
- Enjoyed hobbies with no distractions
All in all, this was great, so far so good. I felt like Paul Miller leaving the internet for the year. I was now some kind of anti-smartphone guru.
As the week went by, I continued my usual routine of going to work as well as writing in my spare time.
A few blips came up which were kind of weird. I started playing a game I'd long put off- FFVIII. There were some scenes or events in the game that I found amusing and I wanted to take a picture to share this amusement with my friends and followers, but of course, I couldn't. It was weird not being able to share every tiny moment of my life with the world, but I just continued to play the game, distraction-less. The same thing when I took a picture of my new haircut. (Apparently, it's a McDonalds Haircut, but I prefer Cyberpunk Dad.)
I allowed myself to go on Facebook as long as it was via a desktop PC and even then it was just to share articles from this site. It was kind of nice having a build up of notifications rather than one every so often as opposed to the opposite.
During this time I discovered and used Reddit for the first time. It fulfilled all my old school forum, casual nerding needs over at r/patientgamers.
I then started using Twitter again (Desktop only) to share my articles and connect with others also into Video game journalism, or just to talk to folks about gaming in general.
I was having these tabs open whilst working or whilst at home in the evening. You can probably see where I'm going with this and I'm not sure how I feel about it yet, but It dawned on me I was going on the same apps I had on my phone, but only when I was on a desktop- which is a worryingly high percentage of my day.
So the question is, had I solved the problem? Had deleting the apps from my phone made me more productive, or had it just made me go find another way of accessing them? I definitely didn't check these social media networks on a desktop as much as I did when I had them as apps on my phone.
As of now, the apps are back on my phone, but I've gone back to leaving it in a separate room or if it's becoming too distracting at work, leaving it in my bag. The problems I was having originated from obsessing over a certain creative project. Deleting the apps off my phone hasn't changed my life, but it has made me realise that sometimes you just need a break from your phone to start a productive routine and realise what your phone is useful for and what it isn't.
TL;DR: Don't become a slave to your smartphone. Learn to switch off once in a while and remember that Social Media is not a measurement of your worth as a person.