Bold headline Em, and absolutely no authority with which to back it up. ‘Atta girl.
I have never had a social media detox, not a deliberate one anyway. Since I’ve been using a phone with a knackered battery for the last few months I’ve inadvertently detoxed when out the house for a long period of time, but have never had to consciously remove apps from my phone or train myself not to Instagram my breakfast. (Namely because I have the same thing every day and it always looks a bit rank).
I’ve never detoxed before for a few reasons. In part because it’s my job to be online, in part because I can’t really see the point and then, mostly, because I really don’t think I have a problem. Or at least, I don’t think that my problem is a problem, if you know what I mean.
When I got a bit sick last year I was told I had to give up caffeine for what turned out to be six months, I wrote a blog post about this called Giving Up Caffeine: the good, the bad, and the really bloody ugly, and found the biggest shock came from discovering that I had an addiction in the first place.
Can you be addicted to something and not even realise? It turns out yes, you absolutely can be.
In the morning, I drink coffee. It never occurred to me that I might need my coffee, that I might be addicted to my coffee. As it transpires, when you get out bed desperate for something first thing in the morning, you are probably addicted to it. With that in mind I think I’d be a bloody fool to deny a social media addiction, there hasn’t been a day gone by, I don’t think, over the last ten years when I haven’t checked at least one site.
If you were feeling generous you might pass it off as a habit. But then, no one’s that generous.
So they are both addictions, but if I’m honest, I’m totally fine with that- probably why I’m in no rush to give either of them up. I’m enjoying them, and they’re not exactly hurting anyone.
I do have one more addiction though. And no, sadly, it isn’t running, or yoga, or boxing. It’s one that I am actually ashamed of, and that’s my addiction to cigarettes. That is an addiction that I don’t love, namely because I know it is bloody stupid, a waste of money, and absolutely terrible for me. But at least I know I’m not going to do that forever, I don’t want to at least.
One day I hope to kick that habit and live a fag-free life. I will beat that addiction because I want to and not much will change, other than the fact I’ll be healthier and have more money for shoes. There’s a good incentive, I have a reason. My health, my future kid’s health yadiyadiyadar.
I label it an addiction, I know it’s a problem. One day soon, I’ll sort it out. I really have to sort it out. Smoking is bad, stop it and you’ll live for longer. Simple.
There is no such incentive with social media, just like there wasn’t one with caffeine, which is probably why I was crap at giving it up.
I can’t envisage a life without social media, I don’t think it’s a conceivable notion. I can see my life without cigarettes, clearly. Nothing ultimately will change, other than my body temperature as I’ll be allowed to spend more of my life inside. A life without social media though? I’ll be unemployed, lonely and, well, an outcast.
Of course some miserable old bats who have nothing better to do than whinge about the good old days are quick to tell us how social media is a ‘breeding ground for a selfish, self-indulgent and self-obsessed culture’ but, come on, let’s be honest Susan, it’s just not that simple anymore.
Social media, much like coffee, is a huge part of Western life. Of my life. I pour myself a cup of coffee, I scroll through Twitter. I order a cup of coffee, I upload a photo of it to Instagram. I see a video of some edgy coffee shop using only recycled petrol cans (or something equally ridiculous) on Facebook and immediately I need one. My addictions feed each other.
And since I enjoy both things so much, I’m not in a rush to acknowledge either thing as a problem that warrants me worrying.
Not least of all, because the minute I treat it like a problem, is the minute it actually becomes one.
When I gave up caffeine and alcohol last year I became scared of them, despite not having even the slightest inkling of a problem with drink, I started to overthink both things and ultimately, it depressed me.
I was depriving myself of things and I didn’t really know why I was doing it. The ever elusive ‘it’s for your health’ was not enough of an explanation for me. I worry that if I were to banish social media completely, similar things would happen.
I also know myself and my overwhelming urge to do something the minute I’m told I’m not supposed to do it.
Don’t press the button…. BUT WHY?
Perhaps I’m lucky that I don’t see my relationship with social media as a problem. Living online does come with it’s problems and it’s widely acknowledged to be detrimental to mental health. Nevertheless, I am very able to go through long lunches, movies, walks around the park not using my phone. I’m not glued to the thing, in fact, a lot of the time, I really hate it.
But I think the minute you told me I couldn’t upload that adorable photo of Bua to Instagram on a whim, because I was d-e-t-o-x-i-n-g, I’m sure I’d create a problem over nothing. I’d get myself into such a state of frustration at not being able to upload a photo of my pup to the internet that it would take away more fun than the five minute posting process would ever have done.
A detox isn’t the answer for me, on the contrary, I think it would create more problems in the long run. In the same way that diets have ruined my relationship with food and sobriety created a problem with alcohol, a social media detox would probably take away all the fun that I had online.
If you give up gluten when you don’t need to, within a few weeks you’ll develop an intolerance and ruin your relationship with bread forever. As someone who can’t eat gluten for other reasons, I can tell you that’s not a risk I want to take with Instagram.
When my little online world gets on top of me, rather than boldly remove it from my life forever, I do what I’d do if I accidentally had a fifth cup of coffee: I’d get off my arse, into the fresh air and shake it off.