On 19th of January I’ve had enough. I was stressed. Stressed mainly because of overusing my phone for both social media (Reddit and YouTube in my case) and for news checking. So I decided to do what everyone else would recommend you to do once you reach this point - delete social media from your phone.
So I’ve deleted Reddit, disabled YouTube (thank you big phone manufacturer that preinstall certain apps on their phones without the ability to uninstall them, only disable) and blocked the only news website I was using (this block included block on PC as well). And I’ve created a fancy tracking calendar, hang in on my corkboard and every day crossed out the previous day, in case I’ve managed to stay away from social media on my phone, which I’m happy to report, I did for 33 days in a row.
In order for it to make sense, I first need to tell you about my relationship with my phone and social media (from now on, when I say social media I mean Reddit and YouTube since I use Facebook mainly for marketplace abilities and mainly on PC, and I don’t use Instagram or any other social platform).
You see, Reddit for me was a feed of “inspirational” pictures. I like Living spaces, I like mechanical keyboard and watches, I like computers and networking gear. So I’m subscribed to /r/battlestations, /r/EDC, /r/malelivingspace and similar - which all are picture based. So when you open the Reddit App you have a nice picture feed of EDC items, battlestations and etc. A great time filler for when you are bored. But then little by little my habits started to slip. I’d finish scrolling my feed in few minutes but was still bored so I started to glance at /r/all or /r/popular which now made me an expert in US politics (and I don’t even live there!) which obviously contributed to more stress (as politics are never rainbow colors). Add to that the fact that my lunch or dinner would be accompanied by the one and only - YouTube. I felt that I was either working or doing something else that involved Reddit / YouTube / New reading.
A word on PC usage. When I’m on my PC, I’m doing one of 2 things - I either do work for my day to day job or work on my hobbies. So I was more mindful about the way I use Reddit or YouTube there. Add since Reddit on PC is not that useful as picture feed, I rarely visited it from my PC.
The “A-Ha!” moment
On a regular evening, I was driving my wife to therapeutic massage, after which she is usually very relaxed and advised not to drive. While she was doing the therapy, I was walking (a habit I’m trying to build) and listening to an audio book. Closer to the end of the 1 hour mark, I went back to the car to make sure that my wife won’t have to wait for me and by that time I’ve finished listening to one chapter of the book and was not interested in starting a new one. I entered the car and started to wait. And at that time, the “A-Ha!” moment, also known as Eureka, came to me.
When people ask for suggestions about phone addiction, and mainly constant Instagram or Facebook scrolling - they are being told to “Just delete these apps. You won’t miss anything”. And it’s true, I didn’t miss. All the important news I’ve “missed” - were filled to me by my friends; the YouTube videos were still waiting for me when I used YouTube on my PC; and the Reddit posts - well.. They are just nice time fillers. And while I agree that being exposed to nice houses or beautiful wardrobes, can shape the way you decorate your house or dress (you can read more about my “dressing up” experiences in this blog post I’ve published - You are not your newsfeed! Or maybe you are?) I believe the good ol’ saying of “Everything is good in moderation” applies here very well. The benefits of nice houses or computers, were overtaken by the amounts of stress I was feeling and I prefer to be stress free rather than having a nice “battlestation”.
So here I was, sitting my car, bored, checking WhatsApp every 20 seconds, checking my calendar every 30 seconds (and no, don’t get me wrong, I’m not super busy CEO whose schedule changes every 10 minutes) - while waiting for my wife to arrive so we could drive back home.
And at this moment I’ve realized - We have it backwards! Deleting social media apps from our phones is like taking pain killers every day because you have a headache - sure the symptom goes away, you are no longer addicted to social media (or have headaches) but the problem stays there - something is wrong with your health (otherwise you wouldn’t have constant headaches) and you still don’t know how to be bored.
See, the reason why I’ve used my phone while eating or when waiting for my wife in the car is because I didn’t know how to enjoy food or be bored. Yes, I’ve deleted Reddit and YouTube and I didn’t use those anymore, but I was still reaching to my phone during those 33 days just to check WhatsApp, look at package tracking or stock prices, a set of absolutely random and useless actions that are the by product of not knowing how to live in the moment, enjoy simple things like a meal or enjoying being bored.
So whats next? I’m done with the challenge. I’ve enabled YouTube once again because I was sick and in bed, couldn’t sleep, so decided to watch some YouTube videos. I occasionally check the news (every block can be bypassed). I still didn’t install Reddit, but I guess it will happen sooner or later. I think this challenge was worth the conclusion I’ve came too. The message of deleting social media for “addicted” people is so strong that it perceived as the ultimate solution for addiction while my experience tells the opposite - its just eliminating the symptoms, but the problem stays. I don’t reach to my phone when I’m truly living in the moment (being in the Flow, having a deep conversation, watching a movie or etc) so the problem is not Reddit or YouTube on my phone - the problem is my relationship with boredom. I guess I’ll have to work on that.
Disclaimer: Obviously I’m not an expert on addictions. My experience might not apply to you and by eliminating social media from your life, you might “heal” your addiction. It all depends on the answer to the question “Why do you use it in the first place?“. I’m not having anxiety because my social feed is filled with younger, more successful people than me, nor I suffer from FOMO as my social apps are not associated with family or friends (like Instagram or Facebook). But if your main issues are stress or anxiety from FOMO or constant comparison to younger (or same aged) people, who “look” more successful than you - then yes, deleting social media might do wonders to you. So as always, your mileage may vary.