Contributed by Just Go Abby
Social media has been a part of many of us for many years now. With them, we can easily access up-to-date information, see people’s activities, and share things about our lives even from our smartphones. It made us keep up with each other’s lives even from a far distance.
With the outbreak of COVID-19, it also became a source of overwhelming information, from heartbreaking news to political controversies and personal rants. Although there are still positive updates to lighten up the day, they are easily buried by negative ones, too.
Why I quit social media
As of this writing, I haven’t been on social media for more than five months already. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, social media became a toxic place to be in and unfortunately, I also became that toxic person who complains a lot about the situation.
For months of being locked up at home and still having an alarming rise in positive cases, I couldn’t help but put my frustrations on social media. For me, the more cases there are, the longer it takes for us to get out from this dark tunnel we are stuck in. I became very opinionated in a bad way by constantly battling with people I don’t even know on the comments sections of news articles.
Things got worse for me when I saw my friends’ posts overseas back in June. They could already do non-essential travels domestically and to nearby countries because the borders are already open for them. I know that FOMO should not be present at this time of the pandemic. But as much as I am happy for them doing fine and having the freedom to roam, I pitied myself for not being able to step outside. My mental well-being and productivity were affected badly. I realised I had to do something about it. So, I quit.
How I did it
I considered a lot of things before quitting such as where to get updates and information. After all, social media is now the fastest and most accessible source of up-to-date information. I still want to be informed, so I’ve been watching the news on TV and reading articles that appear on my Google app. I also subscribed to a local news blog in my hometown that regularly posts announcements, including scheduled power interruptions, from the mayor’s office and the regional Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF).
As I didn’t want to just “disappear” online, leaving my friends wondering what happened to me, I posted both on my Facebook and Instagram that I will be taking a break from social media. I apologised in advance for any messages that I won’t be able to read but I assured them that they can reach me through my phone number.
Right after that, I uninstalled all my social media apps including Messenger and WhatsApp. I decided to include my messaging apps to experience living offline even more.
What happened since then
Constant debate whether I should go back to social media or not
The first two weeks involved a continuous argument within me if I should reinstall and log in to my accounts again. I was worried if I was getting enough information or I have been missing out on important ones. However, when a close friend mentioned how stressful it is to open Facebook, I figured out I was on the right track.
I ended up logging back in twice
I had two “cheat days” on my social media cutback. On days 6 and 24, my two close friends from overseas had their birthdays, so I reinstalled my Instagram to send them my best birthday wishes since it’s the only way we can connect.
Upon receiving their replies, I immediately uninstalled the app again. That way, I could save myself from any post that could trigger me because, to be honest, I was not yet confident that I was mentally and emotionally stable to deal with everything that was happening at that time.
But I got things done
In a short amount of time, I was able to have my anti-flu vaccine, visit my dentist, and take my glasses to my ophthalmologist. These are essential appointments I put on the back burner believing I didn’t have time.
But the truth is, I often just got distracted by the social media notifications that would appear on my screen. I would spend hours and hours browsing on social media right from when I wake up and in between my daily tasks, not realising how much time was already wasted. When I quit, I got more time for meaningful tasks to be done and build a more productive routine.
My phone’s battery started lasting longer
Since my social media detox, the main function of my phone has become an alarm clock for work. I still receive messages from work through Skype and e-mails so I use it to communicate with my boss and some friends. I also use it to read news from Google and watch YouTube videos in my free time at work.
Surprisingly, I only charge my phone once in two days. I never expected my phone battery to last that long. In the past, when I used to live for social media, I needed to plug my phone twice a day and carry a power bank everywhere.
I’ve been watching TV a lot
Since I started working in college, I was too busy to sit down and watch TV. I haven’t been a TV person for 10 years now. In the age of social media, we can say that TV is no longer a necessity because we can now access everything on the Internet. Even the news can now go live on Facebook or YouTube.
But, when I decided to live offline, the only entertainment I have is the TV in our living room. I was able to watch Filipino and other Asian dramas dubbed in Tagalog which I keep track of every episode. I also regularly turn on the TV at noon to watch a noontime show that features inspiring stories of people in this time of the pandemic. I discovered how I like to watch more on a bigger screen than the small one on my phone.
I’ve read a ton of books
I’m a reader. I grew up reading encyclopedias, dictionaries, and even the Guinness Book of World Records. I also have a good amount of books sitting on the shelves that were handed down to me by my friends and family. However, when social media took over my life, those books ended up collecting dust and have never been touched simply because I preferred to read blogs on social media. Plus, I got drawn into videos more.
When I left social media for a while, I got fascinated by how fast I am at reading. I was able to finish three books in a month and go through all those books I have. I also became a regular customer of a Booksale store near my place.
Something I love about reading print materials is that it takes me to a different world where I don’t have to worry about what’s going on. I just have to go with the flow of the story I am reading and just look forward to the ending. It helps reduce my stress and anxiety.
I renovated my place
On the second month of my journey, I got inspired by all the videos of room makeovers and house tours that have been popping up on my YouTube feed. I decided to go all-out and change the look of our house, especially my room.
For the past years, I never paid attention to my place simply because I have been constantly travelling and was never at home most of the time. With the community quarantine that is still ongoing, I have been forced to stay at home so I witnessed how our house was falling apart.
With social media out of the way, I’ve had more free time to nitpick the things to be done at home including the smallest details that needed repair. I even used my travel fund to convert my old room into a functional bedroom and workspace! I never thought that I had a creative side when I handed my design to the contractor for the renovation. This is by far the most productive thing I did during the whole quarantine.
I found cleaning to be very therapeutic
I’m a clean and organised person, to begin with. But throughout this journey, I got myself into doing more cleaning and household chores. With my excess time, I have been able to double the amount of housework I do. I would regularly clear and dust every corner of our house and clean the bathroom twice a week.
Cleaning became my daily home workout. I would feel better even after getting rid of dirt. It also made me feel accomplished when I would go around the house with dry and dust-free counters, tables, and floor. This task continues to be my escape from the negativity and all that that has been going on. It keeps me focused on making my place better without thinking of anything else.
When I reinstalled my apps, including my messaging apps, they almost exploded with messages from friends who showed their concern for not hearing from me for quite some time. Although I’m better at handling things I saw online now, I would still not be as active and I would log out from time to time to make way for more productive tasks and projects I am working on.
My absence in social media made me build a productive routine that I religiously follow. There is something peaceful about not knowing anything. My social media detox also made me realise a lot of things. For one, social media is not bad at all. It is just how I dealt with it in the past. I handled the things I saw badly. I focused more on the negative side than the positivity it brings. I let my insecurity win over things I should be grateful for, such as staying healthy and still having a job.
Along this journey, I had deep thoughts and evaluated my relationship with social media. I figured that I am okay and can totally get by without it. However, I also missed so many things about it. I missed seeing and liking my friends’ posts. I missed keeping up with them. It even felt so weird when I logged in again for the first time in many months. I was totally clueless about what happened to them, especially when two of my friends got married and I wasn’t able to congratulate them. I started reaching out again to them, although I am not as active as before.
I also wanted to go back to reading useful articles about travels and watching entertaining videos. When stumbling upon news articles, I realised that the comment section is a huge trigger to me especially when it comes to controversial informati on, so I decided to quit reading and leaving comments on articles. This has so far made my life at peace and also allowed me to save my time. These days, whenever I see a controversial article, I just skip it to reserve my energy and remain unbothered.