I deleted my social media apps simply because they were turning me into an idiot

Giving Instagram and Facebook up made me realise I had been using them to block out emotions that were genuine with wants. But I couldn’t help going back

From my cellphone, I deleted all the social media programs in January because they were turning me into an idiot.

I ’d been avoiding engaging with stress inducing or anything challenging. Tax bill prickling at the back part of my mind? Open Facebook. That despair I thought I’d piercing that is processed at me again? Evaporate into the domain of likes and follows and push the feelings away. Distract. Binge. Escape.

With social apps so reachable on my smartphone, this had turned into compulsive checking. Statistica research demonstrates that 47% of UK adults use social media daily, and a GlobalWebIndex report found that at the end of last year folks were spending a worldwide average of nearly two hours a day on social and messaging networks. I was one of them.

Hours of my evenings, train lunchtimes and journeys were spent jumping from one program to another, cruising in the type of likes for attention. I’d open Facebook, then Instagram, afterwards Messenger, as well as in the time it had taken me to look at the latter two there was a chance that something might have happened on Facebook. So back I’d go and open it. Afterwards Instagram. Afterwards Messenger.

It was significant focus I had been seeking – if social media weren't forthcoming, I’d dip into work email, and even my banking use, in the hope of finding something new there. I just craved something – anything – in the type of a brand new telling.

Daniel Gerrard, founder and family interventionist of Addiction Helper, considers that social media addiction is a procedure addiction that is certainly comparable to gaming: “ the more you block out the external world, along with The more you take action, the more you need to take action. Therefore whether you lose or win, you get that high feeling. And the more you get it done, the more you block out what’s going on.”

I didn’t believe I 'd like an addiction, just habits that are powerful. I could, nevertheless, understand the pull of social websites as an escape from the real world.

I use social websites, but I wanted to make sure it wasn’t always with me.


With my apps, I realised that I used to be feeling bad more frequently than I’d believed. All of a sudden I needed to deal with emotions that are tricky. I'd lie with racing ideas, making stress lists to test and slow down the anxiety on the bed in the evenings. It affected my relationship: my boyfriend would be offloaded on to by me, and ask for more assurance about niggling thoughts. I’d watch a movie or sit back on the couch, thinking I didn’t quite possess the energy to read a novel and come home in the evenings. So I’d reach for my telephone, then realise wonder what I had been going to do with the half hour I needed to kill, and there was no plaything there.

‘Deciding to dive down a digital rabbit hole to be able to be mindless didn’t appear to be a good alternative to being making in my 30s.’ Photo: Frederic Cirou/Getty Images/PhotoAlto

Worse still: the attempt involved made me self-conscious – selecting to dive down an electronic rabbit hole to be able to be mindless didn’t look like a good alternative to being making in my thirties.

If I could say that after initially fighting with stepping away from digital frivolity, the clouds immediately cleared and it made me more functional, it would be a fantastic story. But it wasn’t that simple.

Being proactive gave me a greater sense of control and confidence in my ability to overcome small obstacles. But I also missed the management I was given by the programs over my disposition. Some research has indicated that a few of the success of the latest social networking sites is to they manner in which they cause you to feel down. An academic paper by Mauri et al demonstrated in 2011 that the encounter of Facebook was different to some state of relaxation or pressure, but that it had its unique core flow state. While averting problems that are outright isn’t always a sensible method to approach life, making time to feel good is – and to some level societal uses gave me more control over my immediate disposition.


One way heavy social program use unambiguously crapped all over my feelings, however, was the guilt that came with the time-wasting. Studies by Tobias Greitemeyer in 2014 and Christina Sagioglou indicated that using Facebook can lead to low dispositions after, and a feeling that you haven’t spent your time doing anything significant. Inside my case, this was painfully authentic. I had n’t sorted my living arrangement; I ’d lost touch with friends, I’d avocations that are disregarded, I was going out less than I used to. I hadn’t read a book in six months. I’d become a slob that is mental. This wasn’t all down to social use, but it was eating up plenty of my time.

Dr Ciarán McMahon, a Dublin-based academic writing a book on psychology and social media, remarked this sense of time-wasting is an issue for Facebook: “They do want one to stay there the entire time, but it might force you to feel like you’ve realised nothing. It’s rather a feeling that is pleasant, a flow state pretty much like reading a book. But after reading a novel you can say you’ve read 20 pages, but if you spend the same hour on Facebook, you have no awareness of achievement.”

After I deleted Twitter, Facebook and Instagram from my cellphone, I had been alarmed at the number of complimentary time that suddenly appeared. I used to think I was way too busy today, to read. But within a month I listened all in the free time when I have been prowling around social apps searching for validation and read two novels. I could have to see the whole of the Man Booker shortlist, plus 14 other novels, if I’d made this change in, say, June. In the moments before bed, while looking forward to my boyfriend to finish brushing his teeth, rather than assessing Instagram, I put a drawing pad and pencil on my bedside table to sketch out photograph notions.

Beyond this, I also found that in moments of boredom, I’d relatives or text or e-mail friends I hadn’t spoken to for some time. I phoned some people for a catch-up, which felt weird in the beginning. The need to interact, which can be challenging in a big city, was no longer taken care of through a display existence that was passive. Find out, and I’d have to actively get in touch if I wanted to see someone was. With although it felt a lot more significant, especially with elderly relatives, who were likely on an identical page – on social networking, although not on it a smartphone app.

Falling back in

Section of the reward of the latest social media is the sense that you will be significant. “You may be alone in your house but have Instagram pals or a million Facebook – it can set you in a reality that is false,” Gerrard says. Learning, creating, communicating felt more wholesome compared to the narcissistic cesspit of followers, likes, selfies and favourites.

‘At the Women’s March, social media wasn’t merely enjoying someone’s cat picture – it was a method for huge numbers of people where they stood politically, to communicate.’ Photograph: Andy Hall for the Observer

After I went on the Girls’s March by the end of January I shared the same values me, felt the same and wanted desperately to connect with other people – friends or strangers – who were also present. The most immediate way to do that was to redownload search and the apps and share. Therefore I did. Social media wasn’t just enjoying someone’s cat picture – it was a means for huge numbers of visitors where they stood politically, to convey. I’d additionally missed Twitter and Facebook as instantly accessible ways of looking at multiple news sources, which, in the age of Trump and Brexit, felt like something I shouldn’t do without.

I'd like to convey that I let the apps back into my life but simply to use occasionally, for purposes that are wholesome, while continuing to nurture relationships that are offline and reading lots more.

But it’s hard to handle the pull of compulsive checking account. Unlike other bad habits, or dependence, abstinence isn’t socialising, news and an alternative – work is now contingent on this technology.

Two months on, things are … complicated. It hasn’t been quite the same between me and the programs since the big break. But just like returning to an ex-lover, it’s easy to fall back in the same dynamics that is old. I love being connected, but casual use shortly can easily become compulsive checking account, so when I catch this happening, I go nuclear and delete them. But I’ll check if anyone’s attempted to contact me, or be outside and want to post an image on Instagram, so I’ll redownload. And the cycle continues.

I’m not certain whether this ritual is any more practical than what I was doing before. It’s disconcertingly simple to leave when you understand that you can go back whenever you would like. I do detect more quickly when wasting time is ’med by me, nevertheless. And it stresses me how easy it is to fall into the trap. It worries me that these networks are encompassing everyone I know supply empty, addictive benefits for pointless behaviour.

facebook twitter social media