Social Media Detox – By Tom Watson

I recently wrote a post for Tom Watson’s website, Get a Grip on the importance of connectivity and Tom very kindly offered a piece to me to publish on my blog. A candid documentation of his social media detox, something I found very admirable of him for doing and documenting. See his fascinating observations taken during his time away from the screen below. Thank you Tom.

I recently wrote a post for Tom Watson’s website, Get a Grip on the importance of connectivity and Tom very kindly offered a piece to me to publish on my blog. A candid documentation of his social media detox, something I found very admirable of him for doing and documenting. See his fascinating observations taken during his time away from the screen below. Thank you Tom.

SO……Just to set the scene.

Taking just over 2 weeks off social media was refreshing, to say the least, and taught me a fair bit.

  • Social media statistics
  • For context, as of May 2019, total worldwide population is 7.7 billion
  • The internet has 4.4 billion users
  • There are 3.499 billion active social media users
  • On average, people have 7.6 social media accounts
  • The average daily time spent on social is 142 minutes a day
  • 91% of retail brands use 2 or more social media channels
  • 81% of all small and medium businesses use some kind of social platform
  • Social media users grew by 202 million between April 2018 and April 2019!
  • That works out at a new social media user every 6.4 seconds.
  • Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp handle 60 billion messages a day

In a world where we are more connected than ever, we are SO disconnected in many other ways.

We get so preoccupied with documenting our lives to share often skewed versions of what is actually going on.

I pose two questions;
If we can’t meaningfully and authentically connect with ourselves how can we connect with others?
What we have gained in digital ‘connectivity’ what have we lost elsewhere?

In my opinion ’time’ is the most valuable resource we possess and the amount of time that can be lost to our phones is phenomenal. (143 minutes a day on average on socials) The flow of information is overwhelming to say the least and everyone’s fighting for our attention!

What time are we leaving to be alone with ourselves and others for authentic connection? We rarely take time to breathe and be alone with one’s thoughts and actually ‘feel’.

Cal Newport author of ‘Digital Minimalism’ stresses the importance of periods of solitude. ‘Solitude’ is freedom of input from other minds’

‘Many people mistakenly associate [solitude] with physical separation—requiring, perhaps, that you hike to a remote cabin miles from another human being. This flawed definition introduces a standard of isolation that can be impractical for most to satisfy on any sort of regular basis. As Kethledge and Erwin explain, however, solitude is about what’s happening in your brain, not the environment around you. Accordingly, they define it to be a subjective state in which your mind is free from input from other minds.’

My personal experience with this ‘digital detox’ experiment twinned with bouts of ‘solitude’ through being alone and my meditation practice allowed me to be more present with myself/others, realign my goals and reflect on what has been going on.
I read more, I started enjoying my training more and I felt more!

For me, it all reinforced this idea of connectivity which is what ‘Project Get A Grip’ continually challenges through the podcast and its ‘projects’. On a deeper level, I think when we go through bouts of depression & anxiety we do disconnect and it can be really scary/lonely.

When my anxiety was at its worse some years ago I would experience a strange sensation of depersonalisation which is actually a diagnosable condition under the anxiety umbrella where you can go through periods of feeling disconnect of detached from one’s body and thoughts. Not something you want to experience when spending time with your family and friends.

This actually happened to me on a shopping trip with my family who came to visit me at university many moons ago and it was one of the worse days of my life. It was more guilt than anything that I couldn’t be present with them because my body and mind were so over sensitised and disconnected. Now, this didn’t have anything to do with social media but certainly required me to take action to lower my anxiety levels and feel the world and my relationships more.

I think to reconnect and ‘get a grip’ we need to practice being more ‘human’ and staying locked into a phone for 143 minutes a day doesn’t necessarily achieve that. With Artificial Intelligence just around the corner who knows how more disconnected from our human instincts we could get!?

Get outside, ask yourself difficult questions, show vulnerability, laugh, cry, breathe, feel, fail, push your body & mind and find out what your made of and who you are. This is a constant pursuit for me and I stress should be for every human being too.

Since coming back ‘online’ nothing has really changed all that much and life still went on. I didn’t really feel like I missed out on anything all that significant. People have their own shit to deal with and don’t think they were overly worried what I was doing. (Those that mattered would pick the phone up or drop me a message). People honestly don’t care as much as you think they do!

A few things I learned to keep social media in my life but maintain a healthy relationship with these little addictive communication devices for them to serve me but not let them intrude is;

  1. Less ‘social snacking’ when waiting/killing time
  2. At least one day off social media a week.
  3. Setting reasonable daily limits on the phone.
  4. Phone away/out of sight in meetings & interactions.
  5. First and last hour of the day with no socials.
  6. All badges and notifications off ( I decided when I want to check not the other way around)

Yeh, I will probably have a wobble and find my ego getting the better of me. But we can always try to be a bit better than yesterday and form healthier habits.

Ask yourself….What’s your relationship like with Social Media and how can you better connect?

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