I went on a social media detox. Here's what I did instead.
In my previous blog post, I shared about how I went on a holiday without my toddler for the first time. During those 4 days, I also did a social media detox by staying off Instagram.
I am a scroller. It is almost like "second-nature" for me to flip open Instagram whenever I have a few minutes - while walking somewhere, bringing it to the bathroom with me (oops, guilty), in between moments when I'm doing something and get bored. I should probably admit that it borders on obsessive, since I can literally scroll through everything I wanted to see, and yet go back to the app another 15 minutes later. So I decided to give myself a challenge to stay off Instagram for four full days. Just doing so pretty much cut down my phone usage by a good 50%.
It wasn't easy.
Since I didn't have my phone to keep going back to, I had to think of what to do with those blank spaces. I also have to say that I felt some FOMO not being able to "keep up" with whatever was going on in my friends' lives. It took some adjustment and mindset shifts to realise that I was really not losing out on anything much, and to just be in the moment.
When I stopped reaching for my phone, I found that my time expanded. Of course, I was also on holiday at that time without my child, so I had significantly more free time. I didn't want to waste it being glued to my phone. Instead of inching for my phone, I picked up a book instead, and I got through an entire book and start on another. I found the time to journal again - something I always feel would be ideal to do, but never ever find the time to sit down and do so. I used to keep a diary when I was younger, but I was much less emotionally-connected to myself then, and just used it mostly to record things that happened in my life. On this trip, going back to journalling and having the time and space, I found myself being able to go deeper into my feelings, thoughts and have a richer experience through the exercise. It's still not something that is intuitive to me, and I find that I do need to have a considerable length of time to sit down and process my feelings/thoughts to journal meaningfully, but I do think those four days were a good start.
More significantly, without touching my phone as often, I realised that there was no need for me to fill every single blank space. I have been so accustomed to constantly being in a state of "go", that I forgot how it felt like to just not have anything to do. There were moments when I wasn't reading, journalling, doing Pilates, swimming. We were just sitting on the beach and I just watched the gentle buzz of activity around - parasailing boats drifting past, jet skiers, people swimming in the sea. It felt incredibly therapeutic to just look far out into the horizon, rest my eyes for a bit, when I'm always so accustomed to look down at my phone just in front of my face. And just allow my mind to be blank. Have you noticed how our minds are always so occupied with thoughts? I always struggle with mindfulness practices because my thoughts tend to wander and drift away and I constantly have to pull myself back. Do you struggle with concentration too? On this trip, I gave myself the opportunity to have these blank spaces. They didn't last for long, but again, I do think it was a good rest for my brain. And sometimes, I even allowed myself to just drift into sleep. I rarely ever nap when I'm back home, other than when I'm in my first trimester of pregnancy and the exhaustion just overcomes me. Otherwise, I find that I'm never able to relax enough to take a nap, because I'll be jumping up every few minutes when I think of something else that I need to do.
This trip was such a good break. A true rest for my body, mind and soul. And I'm glad that I challenged myself to put away my phone to fully enjoy the moment.
After returning to Singapore, I noticed that for about a week (or maybe less...), I was able to retain my habits of not instinctively reaching for my phone whenever I had a spare moment, and instead just soaking in the free space and observing what was going on around me. But now, a few weeks down the road, I have once again slipped into my old habits. I caught myself picking up my phone after I'd finished my dinner and was waiting for my daughter to finish hers. She was chatting away about something, and I realised that I was barely paying attention. Recognising the moment, I then put away the phone and focused on what she was telling me instead. Whatever she was saying wasn't something big, to me at least, but I know that it mattered to her. Being able to receive our undivided attention is one of the best gifts that we can give to our children.
Now that I'm reflecting on this again, I am determined to once again be conscious of my phone usage, especially when it comes to something as inconsequential as scrolling on Instagram. Will you join me?