Seven days screen-sober

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By Freya Scott-Turner, The Croft Deputy Editor

The Croft Magazine // A self-declared social media junkie reflects on the highs and lows of a detox.

Last week, as I checked my metallic fifth limb for the 666th time that day, I received a bit of a jolt: ‘Your screen time was up 21% last week, for an average of eight hours, seven minutes a day’. Shame washed over me. Is this how the Hulk felt, surveying the destruction left in the wake of his last outburst? Good God, I’m out of control! I knew something had to change. So, armed with my self-loathing and lack of content for a new article, I committed myself to a seven-day social media detox, vowing to chronicle my experience.

I completely appreciate how, for a phone junkie like myself, only deleting social networking apps seems very much like half-arsing it. But frankly, I was scared. Cold turkey can be debilitating. So in order to set myself some achievable parameters, I deleted the mindless scrolling black holes that are Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Hinge, Tinder… the list goes on. Essentially, I left myself only contactable via text or Facebook Messenger.

The night before deletion, I put my affairs in order. I informed a few group chats and told my mother I loved her. My mind was swirling with so many questions. Will I regret this? Will people forget who I am? Maybe I’ll finally start my dissertation? Maybe I’ll take up macrame? Maybe, with reduced exposure to radio waves and the mind-numbing hubbub of Instagram stories, my brain will go into a sort of synapse-connecting euphoric state and I’ll become a… genius?

In spite of my optimism, the first few days were very hard. Pushed by the little devil on my shoulder whispering ‘must scroll, must scroll’, I spent the first day stalking my old classmates on LinkedIn (not including it in my purge was definitely an oversight) and seeing how they did in their A-Levels. On Tuesday, I finally achieved the 2048 tile. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about then you were probably a lot less lame than me in Sixth Form, good for you.)

But productivity did creep into other areas of my daily routine. By the third day, I noticed I was engaging more with the world around me, swapping my morning Snapchat story-induced FOMO for a scan of the headlines on BBC News and pausing for a chat with an old flatmate across the street who I might not have noticed. By Thursday I was really in the groove. Eliminating those ‘five’ minute TikTok breaks, I ploughed through my dense seminar reading the same way I would an episode of Made in Chelsea. My conversations at the pub on Saturday night felt more organic, not interrupting them, as I’m prone to, with mindless message-checks at constant intervals.

Despite these improvements, I couldn’t kick the niggling anxiety that I was missing out. With Snapchat out of the equation, I hadn’t sent my regular voice notes to a friend abroad, and I missed the highly amusing retellings of mundane goings-on back home that my group chats provided. There were points when I really wanted to cave. Without thinking I’d search up Facebook on my browser or look down and find I’d started re-downloading Instagram. It turned out that a social media detox wasn’t the panacea I’d believed it to be, and while I’d gained in some areas, I was definitely missing many of tech’s little perks.

So, I’ve concluded that phones themselves are not the enemy. These magical little hunks of metal enrich our lives in so many ways, we just need to remind them who’s in charge. Find out what works for you. While many people I know have gone tee-total and banished social media for good, I’m re-entering the virtual world with some ground rules. No more stories. Instagram and Snapchat have allowed me to keep and form connections with so many people I hold dear. But with all this time saved not watching people pierce their poached eggs with a fork, I might finally start my dissertation.

Featured Image: Epigram / Freya Scott-Turner


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