• Kevin Boyle

Three things I've learned after three months without social media

Here are three things that I’ve learned after three months without social media. As the new year approaches, I highly recommend resolving to leave your social media and mobile consumption in 2020 where it belongs.

1. I don’t miss it at all. As I explained in the earlier post, I still go on Twitter and Facebook a few times a week to check on groups and messages. In particular I check one Twitter account I manage that follows a lot of the same people I used to follow. You might think that I’d be tempted to fall back into the old habit. Not at all. When I see the most recent tweets at the top of the page, I literally—I’m not exaggerating—feel a sense of revulsion sometimes bordering on queasiness. “I can’t believe I used to read this,” I tell myself every time I log on. At best I don’t care about what people are saying, and much of it is pretty toxic. Life is so much better, (I hope it’s not too dramatic to say) so much more human without social media. I don’t miss it at all.

2. The actual problem wasn’t (only) social media. In the weeks immediately after I got off social media, I found that I was simply replacing my old scrolling habits with new ones. News websites, YouTube, and email filled the void left by Twitter and Facebook. It turns out that social media wasn’t really the problem. It was just the main way I fed the real addiction which was scrolling through something—anything—on my phone.

3. The real solution was to make my smart phone dumb. The way that I actually broke free of my phone was by blocking the internet on my phone. I’ve long used the aptly named Freedom app to block certain websites from myself across all my devices. But now I block all internet browsing on my phone. Apps still work, which I need for 21st century essentials like Google Maps and the Chick-fil-A app, but Safari and the other browsers are useless. (In fact, Google Maps is now the most entertaining thing on my phone.) Of course, I could download a news app, but thankfully the 30 seconds it takes to search for and download an app offers enough time for self-control to kick in. And months after breaking the habit, today I could not imagine willfully looking at the news on my phone. Similarly, it took me about a month to unlearn the habit of instantly Googling any question I have. Unless I’m at my computer, it’ll have to wait. And surprisingly, I wasn’t frustrated by it at all. Every time I realized I couldn’t Google my question right away, it made me laugh. I am free from the burden of having to instantly search for the answer to any and every unimportant question that passes through my brain. Instead I enjoy the very human experience of wondering about something—unless the question is significant enough to write down or remember later, which, of course, it almost never is.

Bonus: If you haven’t already, at the very least, turn notifications off on your phone! Not just “Do Not Disturb”—get rid of banners, badges, everything. Manage the settings in your phone so that you get notified when you get calls from your family and from your boss and no one else. Everything else can wait till a time, maybe once or twice a day, when you check your messages on your own schedule.

I’ve broken free of my phone and it’s liberating. Now that my eyes aren’t constantly in my phone, I look up and I realize even more how much everyone else is on their phones. Take back your humanity!

Kevin Boyle