02 May 2016
Like current, we tend to take the least resistance path. Whether this be in our social lives, careers or businesses. We tend to procrastinate and do the things that seem easier at the time, or we avoid having that awkward conversation that we really need to have, just to make things easier. What this leads to is a lack of deep work. We don’t put in the concentrated hours needed to get better at something or to learn something that we want to learn. We tend to put in lots of distracted hours and end up with mildly productive days that leave us feeling exhausted at the end of the day or we spend most of our time on our phones under the mask of being connected and we forget about the relationships in our lives that require more attention than mindless typing on a screen.
I started noticing that all my thoughts before and after my classes in college revolved around the activity on these messaging apps. Creativity was at a deep trench and mindfulness was out of the question. Even meals were accompanied by my phone under the table whilst I was talking to my friend about the Premier League.
This made me realise that I am maintaining a harmfully reactive lifestyle and that proactivity levels are way below zero. I had to make a change. I had to detox from this lifestyle. So, I took the plunge. I haven’t had a Facebook account since I was in the 10th grade (sophomore year) and I deleted all instant messaging apps on my phone (WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram and the likes). I have an Instagram account but I never use it and I don’t have the app installed. No Snapchat. No Vine. This leaves me with my email and iMessage on my computer. The latter can be used to only talk to my closest friend (only one who’s bought into the Apple bubble), and the former is finding a bigger part in my life without eating into my productive hours. Here’s how things were affected.
I’m constantly disconnected with everyone now. But my relationships are now deeper and clearer. I spend meaningful time with my friends with things to actually talk about and I’m more fascinated by their lives now that I don’t know what they did over the weekend, which leads to healthier and deeper conversations.
The excitement of meeting new people is back. Intense conversations in which I try to learn more about them in a short amount of time brings us closer than texting in my experience.
More importantly, my relationship with my family has improved. I live with my mum. After she gets home from work, the norm was her trying to talk to me and me staring at my phone trying to talk to someone else and being disappointed by the lack of people in my life. Now, whole other story. We spend a lot of time talking and our relationship is better than ever.
Surprisingly, talking to my friends occasionally over email isn’t so bad. Who would’ve thought?
It has led to me mindfully critiquing the time I spend on things. I can’t think of how I used to spend entire evenings on my phone. Now, if I notice the lack of productivity, I feel terrible about myself and I instantly conclude that I will amount to nothing, and then the panic monster sets in and I spend some time doing something productive. Feels better at the end of the day.
In the mornings, as soon as we wake up, we tend to check our phones for messages and this in turn transforms the rest of the morning into a reactive state. I find that the lack of social media and messages puts me in a calmer state in the morning where I sense a meditative feeling. This calm state ensures that I mindfully think about what I’m doing and what I have to do next. As a result, I haven’t missed a single workout since I descended into this nearly off the grid situation. Early morning dumps are revelatory.
I’m starting to appreciate good music more and I’m now paying close attention to the music that I listen to.
No. I can think of a lot of situations where you just cannot afford to be off of social media. Until two months ago I was the president of an active youth volunteering program and I couldn’t be off all instant messaging platforms. Maybe I could have figured something out if I plunged into it, but the idea of it was daunting. Now, not so much.
I am hugely introverted. I’m not shy and I have a decently large group of friends. But I don’t have to rely on people to get my energy. This plays a huge role if you decide to take a similar path. If I had the mental faculties to recognise social media and instant messaging as just a tool and rely on it so much, would I still prefer a similar course? Definitely. I enjoy how mindful I am of my tasks right now. I wouldn’t trade it for near-benefits.
If such a drastic measure is not to your taste. I would recommend that you take the minimalist route. Delete everything for 30 days. Realistically think about what tools you can’t live without and install them at the end of your experiment.
I’m not living my life through a screen anymore. And it’s better than ever.