This weekend marks one week since I took a break from Twitter and Instagram by deleting both apps from my phone. While the first day was a considerable test of will—full of knee jerk reactions to check my streams—by day two, I didn’t feel compelled at all. By day three, I completely forgot I even took a break until the friend who suggested it asked how I was coping. I couldn’t wait to tell him how amazing I felt.
Removing these addictions from my life immediately made me feel healthier. I could sense a “freedom” from their grip and a newfound mental space that was once occupied by these apps. I also lost that guilty feeling I experienced whenever I’d catch myself pulling to refresh, only to realize I just checked a minute ago. Without Twitter and Instagram installed, I reach for my phone a lot less and avoid the trap of checking the time, only to be sucked in by a notification.
The most unexpected benefit of this “vacation” from social is that I feel like I have so much more time on my hands. Days somehow feel longer, and each night, I experience that “It’s only 8 o'clock??” moment. On the weekend, I’m much more proactive to do things, which is more likely related to my effort to not work on the weekend, but I can’t help but think that the extra mental space only makes this easier.
In Twitter and Instagram’s absence, I’ve experienced a personal resurgence in following RSS feeds. I actually take the time to read each new post, and find myself wishing people would write more often. In one instance, I felt compelled to respond to a friend about a post they wrote. I typically use Twitter for this, so instead, I decided to email them directly. This felt much more personal and considerate, like writing a letter to a penpal. For photos that I’d normally post to Instagram, I share them with specific people via text message—a total dad move, I know. Returning to a time before “likes”, however, has been incredibly refreshing.
While the benefits of not having Twitter and Instagram on my phone (or in my life at all) have so far out-weighted the benefits of having them, I do feel like I’m missing out on their usefulness when traveling. I’m currently accompanying my wife on a work trip in Austin, TX. While she’s busy working all day, I’m on my own without an agenda. Normally, I’d use Twitter or Instagram to see if anyone wants to meet up, but without these apps as a way to broadcast, I feel less likely to see internet friends who aren’t saved in my contacts.
Despite these very few downsides, the overall outcome of this “test” has been more positive than I could’ve imagined. While I often long for the time before smartphones, this feels as close as I’ve ever been to it. As much as I celebrate this, there are still plenty of folks around me who are even more addicted than I’ve ever been—taking this break has only made that more apparent. At first, I only expected to take a break from Twitter and Instagram for two weeks, but now I wonder if I’ll ever reinstall them.