We’re addicted. To the internet. Nothing new here, but it’s a darn tough addiction to beat because it’s not like a modern human can function within society without consuming it. Luckily, it’s not the internet that’s the addictive substance, it’s the apps and services on it that get you hooked. What does this have to do with cell-service? Well…
In the past months I’ve experienced several prolonged periods of time where no internet and/or cell-service was available. And I got to experience how it is to feel that urge to do what you always do. Pick up the phone to check if there is something new, like a message, a like, scan a certain (news) website for new things, and then repeat it within a few minutes.
What’s cool about this is that when you don’t have internet (and you are aware you don’t have it), you can feel the stupidity of those routines and then sit with that feeling. I did exactly this. Sitting with that uncomfortable, restless feeling and evaluating it. And when I did that I could conclude two things:
1) Life goes on fine without a connection for a couple days.
Because these breaks from the online world were not within the context of an average daily life, it was easier to place it into a much bigger perspective. The river I was sitting next to still kept flowing, nothing changed. The birds still chirping and the clouds were still moving. It might sound a bit cheesy but when you are physically sitting in a natural, moving and living environment It feels so stupid that we often seem to think everything ‘stops’ without being connected.
2) I’m doing fairly okay at keeping the addiction at bay.
A few years ago I slowly started to question the benefit I was getting from using social media in particular. I’d be on SnapChat, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and probably a few more. Without realizing it, I started a big experiment: I deleted my SnapChat account and would tell nobody about it. I think I only told my best friend about it. I was interested to see how many people would ‘miss me’ there.
Big surprise: nobody, except (I vaguely remember) one person would comment on it one time.
So, if nobody missed me there, what social interaction did I actually have there in the first place? So it was a big success. I don’t recall feeling really relieved from it or anything, but I just didn’t miss it at all. So about half a year later I deleted my Instagram, which I would scroll through quite a bit, Also without telling anybody and seeing who would comment on my account being gone. Who noticed it there?
Big surprise: nobody
After that I deleted twitter, which was more of a formality, I didn’t use it much anyway. But the one platform that really had me in its grip was Facebook. Because I had studied in the USA in 2018 I met several people there with who’m I kept in touch via Facebook, along with that I joined several groups about different subjects, like local trading groups and also a couple ‘vanlife’ groups. After a long time of thinking about keeping or not keeping it, I formulated a guideline for myself which I still stick to.
If the ‘friend’/connection and me care enough about keeping up with each other we will use other means to communicate. If not, we just didn’t care (enough).
In practice this means that I will be in touch with people in one-to-one conversations or I won’t know about their whereabouts. This might seem bad but I’d argue it’s much much better because: When you talk to somebody one-to-one, your conversations will be much more interesting as everything they tell will be new and unique. At the same time they/you can express the experience in a more realistic way than any social media post ever will.
So, with this guideline held against Facebook, it was obvious to me that it didn’t benefit me at all. I had already deleted the Facebook app itself for a long time but now I could push through and close it off altogether. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss it a single day, but I rarely miss it. Only sometimes, a bit, for practical reasons like somebody sending me a link to a useful post, company pages or sometimes for just looking up a person.
The net result is a big positive, because now I don’t have any feed-based social medium anymore, except LinkedIn (for business purposes). I combining that with turning off notifications wherever I can (like email, why on earth do we need to know about every email right away…?). I now often have days where I’m not really receiving any notifications and I’m loving it!
Have I lost any friends? No.
Do less people know about my whereabouts? Yep, but if somebody is interested, let’s chat, call or have a drink!
Did it reduce stress? Absolutely! I feel way less pressure to assert online that I’m having a good time. And also, for example, when I don’t have any cell service 😉
Okay so the second one got a little bit long. What I try to say is that that uncomfortable feeling will probably always be there, but It can be reduced and managed. I receive very few notifications now, which greatly reduces the opportunities to pick up my phone in the first place. I still do mindless loops in my phone, but because it’s no endless feed-scrolling anymore they’re more obvious to myself when I’m caught in one. This makes it way easier to recognize and break the cycle.
So: Please evaluate for yourself if any of the big tech companies deserve the time you spend on them or if you, your friends and your relatives deserve that time.