Hi, I’m Tanya and I’m a social media addict.
I’m not being ironic or exaggerating. I wish.
Psychology Today defines addiction as ". . . a condition that results when a person engages in an activity that can be pleasurable but the continuation of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary responsibilities and concerns, such as relationships."
So, yep: I’m an addict.
I sit on my phone for a good seven to eight hours a day. Just flicking between apps. Insta, YouTube, Facebook, etc. I put people on speaker phone as we’re chatting so I can scroll. I’m the girl who will frequently leave the dinner table or an event to go to the bathroom—not to go to the toilet, but to be on my phone.
The only thing that ever has my full attention is my phone.
This is not okay. I know it’s not. But I didn’t realise I had an addiction until I broke my phone. I dropped it in Melbourne recently, and it shattered. I was in a taxi, headed for the airport, when it happened. I was thinking about when I’d be able to replace it when I did the strangest thing. I looked out of the window and saw the amazing architecture. Then I talked to the taxi driver. I read my book at the airport. I chatted to a flight attendant. My heart started to slow and I felt relief. I felt less anxious, felt more present.
I felt I had an addiction. I realised social media was a compulsion and I needed to change.
So, I had a whole week offline.
I deleted all the social media apps from my phone. I got rid of email (except my work account). I set rules: I could receive and respond to texts, but never initiate them; I could make and receive phone calls.
Here’s what I learned in a week without social media.
- Going to the toilet is so much faster without your phone (also, yes, I know I am gross).
- Even though you’ve told yourself you’re not going to use social media for a week, your hand naturally reaches out to use it.
- You realise how much time you actually have. I read books. Went out for dinner multiple times. Went to the gym! (Ha!)
- Time actually slows down (Well, not really. That’s impossible. But it feels slower because you’re not wasting hours on Instagram and then looking up and it’s 1 a.m. and how did that happen?!)
- You actually watch TV. Because you’re not distracted by your phone, you watch the show and then you realise that free-to-air TV is awful when you’re not half watching it.
- You don’t know what's trending but you don’t care.
- You’re more focused.
- You get more sleep. You go to sleep when you get into bed, because, obviously, you don’t then scroll for hours. Oh, and you can wake up later, because you don’t have to allocate time to check the internet after you wake up.
- You connect with your partner more—my boyfriend and I cooked together, played guitar and sang.
- You use your phone as a . . . phone. To call people and talk to them. Groundbreaking.
This sounds hypocritical because I have literally built my career through social media, but, honestly, in an ideal world, none of us would be on social media. We don’t live in that world, though.
I’m back online now; it’s necessary for my work, and I love making videos. And I do think it would be ridiculous for me to step away from social media forever, because I do love it. I just need to learn balance. It's a process and it’s going to take a long time to get there.
Unlike being a heroin addict or gambling addict, where your life is better without it, social media is a part of our lives whether we want it to be or not. So, here’s what I’m going to do to cool it:
- Turn off apps from time to time.
- Have my phone upstairs when my boyfriend is home.
- Use airplane mode more.
And if you’ve read this and thought, f**k, that sounds like me, do what I did. Get your butt offline for a week. If you can’t do that, at least delete your social media apps for a week and see what happens.
But, seriously, if even the thought of being off social makes you stressed, you’re probably an addict.
I should know.
Tanya's book Am I Doing This Right? is out now! Make sure you grab your copy ASAP.