Like any true millennial female, I’m addicted to my smartphone, namely, using it for social media.
As soon as I wake up, I check the following apps, in succession: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. This continues on throughout the day and is the last thing I do before I go to sleep at night. My phone spends more time in my hand than in my handbag, and it’s gotten worse over the years. And I’m certainly not alone here. The average person will spend more than five years of their life on social media, according to a study by influencer marketing agency Mediakix. That breaks down to almost two hours (116 minutes) per day, which certainly isn’t far off for myself.
Part of it was due to my former workplace’s expectations of staying plugged in and on-call (news doesn’t sleep, even if it’s fashion, beauty and celebrity-related) and another part was just being plain addicted to scrolling through my social feeds. And even though I knew being connected virtually 24/7 wasn’t healthy, I just couldn’t kick the habit (which may be why some people are turning to ‘Digital Detox’ retreats).
It wasn’t until recently that I truly embraced being disconnected, or, as the Internet now calls it the “joy of missing out,” a.k.a. JOMO.
While completing some online courses during the summer, I went into full-on study mode while prepping for my exams. That meant no distractions, especially in the form of social media. In an attempt to avoid the temptation of checking my apps, I deleted the holy trinity (Instagram, Facebook and Twitter) from my phone.
It was an adjustment. I found my thumb automatically going to those blank spaces where my apps once were. I realized that I was inadvertently using social media as “downtime” in that, when I wanted to relax or do things that didn’t require much thought, I would just scroll mindlessly. I almost didn’t know what to do with myself, and that made me feel uneasy.
More anxiety kicked in when I began to experience FOMO, or the “fear of missing” out, a.k.a. JOMO’s sinister older cousin. Was I missing a really important DM? A potentially-horrible tagged photo of myself that I wouldn’t be able to see until much later? The latest celebrity engagement or Meghan Markle outfit? I also became concerned that my “social media friends” would think I didn’t like their content anymore because I literally wasn’t “liking” it.
But then it hit me. None of these things really mattered. Those important DMs were probably just funny memes that could wait. If someone really needed to contact me for something important, they would find other ways. The potentially-horrible tagged photos weren’t really that big of a deal, and neither were those celebrity news updates or the Duchess of Sussex’s latest appearances. And as for worrying about offending people, well, if they really got offended by not receiving regular “likes” anymore, then they have their own issues to deal with.
Once I got through that hump (it took a few days, to be honest), I started to find other ways to fill my “down” time: reading books, listening to podcasts (Try one of these Canadian podcasts.), playing piano or even journaling. When I was out, I felt more present than I had in a long time, because I wasn’t constantly checking my phone or worrying about capturing everything for my Instagram Stories. I felt more joyful; like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders, and I almost wanted to stay off of social media forever.
Obviously, that didn’t happen, and I eventually logged back on after a few weeks. But now, I try to be more mindful of the time spent on my phone. Sometimes, I’ll set timers for myself — only 15 minutes of scrolling, then on to something else. There are even apps to help regulate how much time you spend on your phone. Moment tracks usage and will notify you if you go over your daily limit. And thanks to features like Google’s Digital Wellbeing dashboard, it’s easy to see just how often you’re using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Netflix. This fall, Apple will introduce its own enhanced time management features with the iOS 12 update. A new Screen Time feature will report on where time is being spent, while Do Not Disturb enhancements help control when notifications are received.
These days, my phone is no longer the first thing I reach for when I wake up. In the mornings, I meditate as soon as my alarm goes off, and tell myself I’m not allowed to check my phone until I physically get out of bed (otherwise, I’m staying there for far too long). And in the evening, I try to read a book, or do another meditation to fall asleep. (Need help relaxing? Visit a meditation studio for a beginner’s class.)
It’s not easy, and I don’t always succeed in these goals. But again, being aware of my phone usage is a good step forward. And truly, there is a lot of joy in missing out, even if it’s just temporary.
Next, find out where Canada landed on this list of the world’s top 20 happiest countries.