It is August 2nd as I write the beginning of this entry. As ashamed as I am to admit the following: I spent 25 percent of my waking hours thus far glued to my phone, it’s a common routine I find myself in lately. That could have been three hours spent checking in with family, cooking, reading, learning new things, or — god forbid — working out. Instead, I was in bed laughing at Tiktoks and ooh-aah-ing at proud plant parents on Instagram.
That same day, I looked up “digital minimalism” on the interwebs, a buzzword I’ve read somewhere recently, and came across a podcast episode about a book entitled exactly that, Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. TL;DR, in the episode, Newport recommends digital detoxing for 30 days and talked about the benefits of doing so, including better ability to focus and higher productivity, all of which made sense and are qualities I feel I’m currently unable to maximize.
Verywellmind.com describes digital detoxing as the process of refraining oneself from “using tech devices such as smartphones, televisions, computers, tablets, and social media sites.” And furthers that this process is often seen as “a way to focus on real-life social interactions without distractions.” Sounds extreme, right? I agree. In the podcast, Newport so graciously offered alternatives when a complete detox is not accessible: set parameters instead. And that’s what I’m doing. So I immediately got to work.
BAKIT? NGANO? WHY?
San Francisco is well on its way to its fifth month of sheltering in place (works similarly to MECQ in the Philippines), and I realized… I am a boring person.
My day to day roughly looks like this: typically, I try to work out before starting work, then I’m on the clock from 9-5:30 (on a good day). I enjoy decompressing with a show or movie after work, maybe I’ll meal-prep for the week depending on how much food I have left. Sometimes I read before bed. Maybe I’ll call friends or family, or water my plants -- but that’s pretty much my heavy rotation.
And one more thing: between these routines, I am constantly. On. My. Phone. An hour or two could go by and all I’ve done is look at people’s stories, not really engaging with anyone, or just thumbing through my feed. I’ve also caught myself a handful of times being more engaged with my phone than the people around me. And yes, even during COVID, when human connection and face-to-face interaction are scarce.
This made me realize that social media is one of the biggest frauds of our generation. We all feel so connected yet we are often oblivious about how our friends are doing beyond the screen. How much truth is there to that smile in the selfie my friend posted? Are they coping well as we navigate the unchartered waters of this pandemic? Maybe you do, but I feel that I don’t have a genuine sense of how my peers are doing except for their response to a brief “how are you managing” or some variation of the question.
Here’s my sitch: I’m not trying to get all up in anyone’s business nor am I trying to disconnect and go off the grid. The opposite, in fact. I am digital detoxing in the hopes of freeing myself up of time spent on social media and using that to intentionally connect with friends and family -- not just sending them memes I randomly found or passively ask how they’re doing and forgetting to follow up to their response. I also hope to explore potential new hobbies that I’ve felt like I never had the time to pursue pre-COVID.
TERMS AND LIMITATIONS
I conceded early on that the purest form of digital detoxing may be impossible for me at this moment for these reasons: (1) I work in the digital advertising industry, which crosses out the possibility of not using a computer, or accessing emails, or being on the internet. (2) We are in the middle of a pandemic that limits our ability to leave the house, which means there are only so many ways I can make life novel - so I’m letting myself watch the darn TV. (3) I live far from my family. My mom, stepdad, and brother live in Florida, while my dad lives in Manila. FaceTime and Messenger is currently our lifeline.
With all that laid out, I am left with taking out social media apps off my phone except for Facebook Messenger. Similar to my direct family, I use Messenger a lot to stay in touch with family back in the Philippines (where my 93-year-old grandma still kicks ass) and also with a lot of my friends. This made me realize that I don’t have many of my friends’ phone numbers because we’ve heavily relied solely on social media to stay in contact. As soon as I decided I was doing a month-long digital detox, I temporarily deactivated my Facebook account, deleted Facebook, Instagram, and any dating apps off my phone. I’ve also deleted the LinkedIn app but allow myself to check it once a week on Mondays through my laptop.
WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?
The eleven-year-old me was a lot less boring: I explored various sports, dabbled in different forms of dance, played the piano, I even enrolled in baking lessons. I want to have the same excitement for learning new things again, utilizing the time I’m hoping to regain from being off my phone.
Oddly enough, my instincts for this would’ve been to put up a poll on Instagram and ask folks what I should be doing, but that’s not an option this go around. Below is a non-comprehensive list I came up with on day zero that I hope to grow and accomplish in the next thirty days during my no-social-media-August. I’ll emerge from this challenge on September 3rd and I hope to come out of it a better, more virtually responsible, and intentional version of me. ‘Til then, I’ll fill up my time with the list below:
Read at least two books in its entirety.
Learn how to cook at least 3 Filipino dishes.
Explore and make at least 3 diet-restricted baking recipes
Learn how to draw (the Lord did not bless me in this department).
Learn chess (this is more aspirational).
Keep a journal of this process.
Go outdoors more.
Workout more consistently
If you’ve read this far and found yourself wanting to do the same, here are a few resources to start with:
For your ears
For your eyes
SAY HI AND STAY CONNECTED WITH PATTY