Digital Detox

Now that we’ve started in the season of Lent, perhaps now is a good time to think about a digital detox: to reduce or even give up altogether our social media addictions.

First, we need to ask if this is really an addiction. Only you and those around you can really answer that question. Has social media become something you think you can live without? Is your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or what-have-you the first thing you check when you wake up in the morning? Is the glow of your phone or tablet the last light you see before you sleep at night? How many times in an hour do you check your timeline? It doesn’t matter what reason you concoct — even if you claim that you’re checking for orders or inquiries (have you ever worked this hard in your life, that you have to constantly check for orders on your phone?) — if your life is tied to your social media account, then you’re an addict. Only ruthless self-examination can reveal the truth to yourself.

Next, you have to have a good reason why you want to go on a digital detox. Maybe it’s the realization that you are an addict and now you want to stop. Or maybe you’re in denial that you’re an addict, but some time away from the drug will let you see whether you really are or aren’t. Maybe you’re unhappy with your life and deep down you know it’s social media that’s the source. Maybe you just like the challenge of going dark from the Internet. You have to have very clear reasons because, if you really are an addict, this is going to be one of the hardest things you will have to do.

The difficulty with this type of addiction is that the medium is an integral part of daily life. The way we live nowadays, it’s almost impossible to go without a cellphone or the Internet. We need it for communication, for research, for business. But it just so happens that this is also the same mode of delivery for social media addictions.

In the main, the trick is to make access to social media difficult. The methods I propose are all practical, doable, and, well, obvious. Here are my suggestions:

  1. Uninstall all social media apps from your smartphone: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. This removes the easiest means and the most immediate temptations to bring them up.
  2. Set your social media accounts to private mode. Not only will this dissuade stalkers, it will also dissuade you from checking your own account once you’ve logged out.
  3. Change your social media passwords to something long and difficult to type. It should be a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, symbols. It should at least be twenty characters long and difficult to remember. Perhaps something like Yu5V@TtXoC7!*%FfjUhZ. Write it down and store someplace secure for when you actually need it. Now you’ve just defeated your muscle memory for logging into your account (and you’ve also made your account more secure.)
  4. Log out of your social media accounts from your browser and clear any saved passwords. In case you find yourself automatically typing the URL on the address bar, you’ll be met with the login page…for which you don’t remember the password.

    Advanced tip: On my Android smartphone, I’ve replaced Google Chrome with Firefox Focus, because it doesn’t remember logins. On my desktop PCs, I’ve installed uBlock Origin, which is normally used to block ads, and added my usual social media sites to the blacklist. I can bypass these limits, but the added steps make it more tedious.

  5. Leave your gadgets outside your bedroom when you turn in to sleep. Need an alarm? Get an alarm clock. Need something to read to fall asleep? Read a book.

These are techniques I’ve used to wean myself of my own social media addictions. For the most part, they’ve worked for me. Sometimes I do stumble and cave in to temptation. When that happens, I start over again. Yes, I am an addict. But I don’t want to be anymore.