Updated: Oct 10, 2018
A month ago I decided to take a digital detox to focus on writing my thesis and things did not go to plan.
5 minute read
In the past I've taken a day offline here and there, but this time I really wanted to go for it so I planned to take a whole week off of social media to get my focus on. It turns out I got a real taste of what happens to us on a visceral level when we use the technology that's designed to connect us in 2018.
I've been posting on my Instagram page for over a year now. The page started with 100 followers and last time I checked it had reached somewhere around 7,000. I started the page as a comfort zone challenge to put myself in front of an audience and I wanted to inspire others to improve their mindset.
I made myself accountable to post a video and a quote every day without fail to push myself. When I started the account I thought to myself "If I can inspire just one or two people then it will all be worth it." I remember I received a message from someone who told me that one of my videos had helped them get through their day, this was a very humbling moment. My hard work was making a difference and I felt motivated to give more. As time went on I was getting messages like this daily.
The good news... I got to connect with thousands of people everyday and I became comfortable putting my content out there. My posts began to pick up hundreds of likes and comments and some of the biggest pages on Instagram started to notice my account and share my content. Awesome right?!
The bad news... I began to notice something strange. Once I had posted I would log out of my account and carry on with my evening, but then I would experience a nagging thought in the back of my mind. I couldn't help but wonder if something exciting was happening online and if I didn't log back in to check I would miss out. This became really distracting.
"When I took a week off I got a real shock."
The time had come for me to write the thesis for my Masters in Psychology. I knew it would be challenging work and I wanted to do my best. If I was going to produce high quality work I knew I would need to focus intensely for long periods of time. Aside from meditating daily I wanted to step things up and reduce all distractions, so I decided to take a week off social media. When I took a week off I got a real shock.
I went cold turkey, no posting and no checking my account. The first day I had a few urges to check in and see what was happening, but I resisted. By day two I started to feel a little bit off . By day three things stepped up a notch. I experienced what I can only describe as an anxiety attack. I had an uncomfortable wave go through me and I felt so bad I had to go home and lay down. I had a headache and I felt like I had no energy. I'm someone who is very self aware and this was not like me, at all. The next few days were tough and I didn't feel myself.
I did some research as I wanted to know what was happening and I began to connect the dots. It turns out I was experiencing dopamine withdrawal. Logging in every day and posting had become a well ingrained habit and that meant my brain had become used to receiving all the likes and comments which stimulate the reward chemicals in the brain. Turning this off had caused my mind and body to experience a feeling of panic. When you mix this with the fear of missing out it can have some powerful effects. It turns out I got the full force of these effects. I was curious to see what would happen, so I pushed on.
"I was curious to see what would happen, so I pushed on."
As the week went on I started to feel better and by the end of the week I felt amazing. I had only planned to take a week off of social media but things were going so well and my energy levels were incredible so I extended it. The weeks rolled by and I got in the zone writing my thesis, which I handed in and I felt a real sense of achievement. I started to forget about what was happening online and I was way more focused on what was going on right in front of me in my life. I was more present with my work and more importantly I was more present with the people I love. It's a great feeling.
My mind has never felt more clear. I'm much more calm and I have more time and energy to focus on what is important to me.
If I can impress one thing upon you, it's that our mind is the most valuable tool we own and it's our responsibility to make sure we are mindful of what we nourish it with.
Will I go back to using social media every day? That's a question for another time, but what I can say is the insights I've gained from the last month have been invaluable.
Try my one week digital detox challenge and let me know how you get on.