This is a reflection on 20 days without social media or any internet usage. I will be using iMessage and phone calls because I live in Thailand and very few people (mainly my family and a couple of team members here) iMessage me. I decided to write this diary of sorts to show the effect that this social detox has on my emotional, mental, and spiritual life. I’m 23 years old and, while I have taken breaks from social media, I have never gone this long without internet. Quite honestly, I don’t know if I know how to do day to day life without it. I guess we’ll find out pretty soon….
At 10:30pm I found out that our corporate social media fast will also include all internet usage. Over the next hour and a half I had a millennial meltdown of huge proportions as I tried to fathom all the things I would need from the World Wide Web for the next 3 weeks. It wasn’t pretty, and I honestly didn’t do much of anything productive, I mostly just freaked out. At midnight, I deleted all my apps: Facebook, Messenger, Netflix, Youtube, Instagram, Snapchat, Gmail, all games… and more. My phone looks empty.
If you don’t have time to read everything you can go ahead and skip to “Final Thoughts”.
It’s my day off today, so I slept in. When I started to wake up, I rolled over to check my phone. Besides a text from my dad, nothing. I flipped across the iPhone home screen, no apps to open. Normally, since Thailand is 12 hours ahead of America, I wake up to many notifications and emails to catch up on. Not today. And it’s kind of nice. But I don’t know what to do with myself… go outside?
As I was journaling I got a sense that this will be three weeks of quiet. Quieting myself, quieting my life, quieting all external voices that influence my everyday life without even having a presence in it. A little quieting will probably be good for me.
But no matter what we have access to, we can always fill our lives and our spare moments with distractions. Being truly quiet, being still, is not easy. I am experiencing that today, I don’t like to just sit in the silence. I pick up my phone, flip through pictures and songs. I feel like my brain gets bored, its moving too much for stillness.
Today I listened to a song and transcribed the lyrics for my Voice Class. It pained my millennial do-everything-in-the-most-effective-way mindset. The internet was just a click away but I had to do it the hard way. That was pretty much how my first day at work was with no internet. The nice thing is, some tasks that I have been putting off for their tediousness, I was able to accomplish. I also spent more time with people. I had to wait to ask people questions in person. And when things came to a standstill I left my office and went in search of real live humans.
Another amazing thing worth noting is my sleep. I went to bed early last night (because I wasn’t binge watching Netflix) and was able to wake up at 4:40am!!!!!!! (If you know me you know that is a miracle.) I made it through the whole day with no caffeine and, while I had a few slow moments, I felt good!
Also worth noting, I never remember my dreams, but the last two nights I have had Prophetic dreams that I’ve remembered. I hope that continues.
People don’t understand why we would make our lives harder by not using the internet. It seems almost wrong and selfish to cut ourselves off from communication. The fact of the matter is, before there was internet many people communicated only through telephone, and before there was telephone, people communicated face-to-face or not at all! Hard to even fathom in an age where we all carry around devices that allow us to be accessible at any moment through more then one method.
I got a text message from Facebook today saying, “Your request is being processed.” What request?! Did someone hack into my account? Guess I’ll find out in 17 days! I feel like there’s so much going on in the world that I don’t know about. Like I’m just zoomed in to a small piece of it and I’m not as widely connected as I’m used to. But it’s kind of good. I’m fully here. My life is slower and simpler, yet I’m getting more done.
I cheated today. I used the internet 😱 But I think I had a pretty good reason: a woman I am teaching about Jesus asked to watch the second half of the Jesus Film. I thought about what I’ve been reading in the book of Matthew about Jesus and He never did seem real fond of religious gestures at the cost of being His love to the world. He delights in obedience more then sacrifice.
I’m starting to wonder what I spent so much time on the internet doing. If I’m able to do a lot of what I do without it, how much time have I wasted just surfing the net? I mean I get a few important emails and I need to look stuff up occasionally, but I wonder if it consumes more time then it helps to save?
My mom and sister are here in Thailand visiting which means lots of adventures and lots of pictures that I can’t post! Also my mom is taking a bunch of pictures and I don’t even know what is making it to Facebook! Plus, of course they have things to do on their phones and family to stay in touch with…. so I’m noticing what it’s like to be spending time with people on their phones.
There are definitely moments of boredom when I’m with people who are able to use the internet and they are on their phones. I think that’s honestly when I miss social media the most; it’s a useful tool to escape real life awkwardness! A place where I can monitor and control my social interactions. I’ve forgotten how to live in real life awkwardness without that escape.
I hit a span where I was feeling pretty good without internet and social media. It definitely has felt good to detox from it. My mind and spirit feel clear and less distracted.
But now, as I realize I just have a few days left, I’m getting excited to have it back. I think it will be good for me to make some healthy boundaries and guidelines for myself going forward so I can have a more balanced experience with the internet. I definitely don’t want to stay out of touch with the world, but I also want to live in the moment, fully grasping life and relationships as I have learned to do these few weeks.
Tomorrow I break the silence and I’m afraid the voices will be too loud. I’m more worried about my own lack of ability to monitor my media usage. I know it can start slowly and then just creep up on me until my time and thoughts are consumed.
I believe that things aren’t evil, it’s what we do with them and the intentions of our hearts that can be evil. Some of the older generation thinks that the internet and social media are ruining our generation; yet our generation is excited about the innovation and possibilities we have with these things. I say, yes and yes. Technology is incredible and I utilize it in my everyday life, but in some ways it is pulling us away from the raw and beautiful moments in life.
Many of us millennials get defensive when it comes to our phones. We highlight the benefits of technology and think we have it all under control. We don’t want anyone to tell us to put it down or that our technology habits aren’t healthy. But the anxiety I felt on Day 0 reminded me of something: the TV show Intervention. And I realized I was due for a detox.
The question I want to ask is this: Am I master of my phone, or is my phone the master of me? Am I using it, or is it using me?
I want to use technology for the Kingdom of God, instead of allowing it to consume me with the concerns of this world.