In the past year, I have dramatically decreased my social media and smartphone usage.
When I used to check the facebook frontpage multiple times per hour, I haven’t see it in four months. I used to post “interesting articles” on Twitter at least three times per day. As you can see, the only posts are automated links to this site. I used to like dozens of Instagram pics every day, going from hashtag to hashtag, in the hope of boosting my profile.
This is the same for WhatsApp, WeChat, emails and phone calls. Text me, and I would send a witty reply in seconds.
I was the guy who wouldn’t be walking straight, but rather with the eyes glued to the iPhone screen. In a bus line or a coffee shop line, I would be obsessed on my feed. And I was proud of having gained 5,000 followers on Twitter or getting consistently 50+ likes on every Facebook post.
But I still stopped playing the game. Here’s why:
The Bane of Our existence
Typically, we get a smartphone because we believe it would help us manage our workload, respond faster to emails, have access to the hottest apps and be like the cool kids.
It is clear thought that the smartphone self-induces stress. It blurs the line between home and work. Your client and your boss expect you to respond to their emails and phone calls in evenings or week-ends. It interrupts your peaceful walk in the park. Instead of enjoying the beautiful view, you begin to stress how many likes you can get from Instagram for the pic. The smartphone is actually the most pervasive interruption technology ever made. Many studies find that smartphones challenge our ability to do anything that requires sustained attention, such as reading, creatively writing, working, playing, and conversing.
After several years, it appeared to me that smartphones do not help you manage your workload. They stress you and take precious time from your rest and recovery. Instead of making myself available 24/7, I respond my email once a day, and feel more relaxed !
Social Interaction Anxiety
Social networks promise attention. But is it really healthy?
By making it easy to get a like or retweets, we get instant social gratification, pushing us into an addictive routine.
We also get to be ranked and compared every day. Facebook’s algorithm puts on top the best posts. Look, my high school friend bought a condo. And my old coworker is having a sunny holiday in Cuba. Hey, this guy I met in a cocktail is at a 3-star Michelin restaurant! This creates stress. Expectations are raised. Surely you can do better?
This continues forever. You will loose your sleep. Research conducted at the National Institutes of Health and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine showed that participants who reported checking their social media accounts the most had three times more sleep disturbances, compared with those who checked their smartphones the least.
I realize now I don’t care about achievements done by mostly acquittances, social media marketers and strangers on Facebook and other social networks. And I sleep better!
With its frequent notifications, the smartphone tells you you are alive. It satisfies our need for touch. By constantly fiddling with the touchscreen, we can tell ourselves we are not alone, that our presence matters.
But does it really solve anything? If there is a void in your life, better start working on it. Meditate, exercise, or do something meaningful. You will feel better than constantly touching your phone.
A Barrier in Social Interactions
I don’t mind when someone is all over their smartphone when they talk to me.
That’s ok for a casual conversation. And that’s the way it is for 2016.
What I hate is when it’s a meaningful conversation or a meaningful relationship.
Usually, I can look in the eyes, the facial expression, breathing. Does the person care? Can I trust the person? All of these signs are absent when the person is focused on the phone. The eyes are not vibrant, just reflecting a bright screen. Breathing is tense. Facial expression is not about what I say but what the screen show. It’s quite depressing to be honest!
If you want a meaningful relationship, time to stop looking at the phone!
Biological Clock Impact
The blue light emitted by iPads and smartphones interrupt our circadian rhythm. It prevents the secretion of hormone melatonin. For someone who impulsively check social networks, their optimal sleep time will be delayed by one or two hours and sleep will be light.
Sleep is sacred for me – that’s another reason to put away your phone.
Living day to day
I am not a hermit. I have a job, obligations and a family. So if I don’t respond to smartphone interruptions, I do take family phone calls, email once a day, and Facebook/WhatsApp messages from a few friends. I also use the phone for google maps, read news, wordpress blogs and it’s good for urgent situations.
However, I am not aware anymore what are the hottest events. I have no idea what my social media marketer friends are trying to promote these days. I don’t know anymore about cool movies. You might have liked one of my tweet and I’m not aware of it. Sorry 🙂
Instead, I’m getting distracted less and sustain attention more. Fewer interruptions mean better attention when I work. And I look forward for deeper and more meaningful conversations, relationships, exercise and good nutrition.