I Deactivated The Social Media Apps On My Phone. Here's How It Changed My Mental State

Written by Kate Garrett Kole

Photo by Helene Cyr

I took spring cleaning to a whole new level this year. It started with my overflowing closet, admittedly more out of necessity than a true desire to declutter. I had broken one too many hangers while trying to force new space to appear in an already-crammed storage area. Heaping loads of tanks and leggings onto my mattress, I began to sort piles according to three designated categories: keep, donate, and trash. One item after another, I saw my belongings dwindle before my eyes. It felt good, freeing, refreshing, almost therapeutic to let go of the things I no longer used on a daily, monthly, or even yearly basis.

After seeing the progress I’d made in my bedroom and feeling its surprising and liberating effects, I was hooked. I moved on to other areas of the house. I even ventured so far as to clear out the Tupperware cabinet, which had forever served as more of a hassle than it had been purposeful. Opening the door to find one piece was like playing a game of Jenga, just praying that the entire collection wouldn’t collapse onto the kitchen floor.

I spent months dedicating any free time I had to my new project of shedding all the excess I’d accumulated throughout my life. I counted as I bagged and boxed my items and, ultimately, gave or threw away over 1,000 things.

Yet even after sorting through each room, drawer, and storage container, I still felt a sneaking suspicion in my soul that I had more work to do. Other areas of my life deserved the same mindful consideration as my home.

I glanced at my phone. One social media app after another stared back at me.

At first, the cons of social media outweighed the pros.

Almost instantly, I knew that this was my next step. I’ve forever experienced a bit of a love/hate tug-of-war with technology. In ways, it helps my relationships. I’m able to keep in touch with family and friends who live thousands of miles away. I see their status updates and feel connected to them despite the distance between us. In other ways, it fuels negative feelings within me: ones of shame, hurt, comparison, and of course, FOMO. Before I can catch myself, I’m scrolling away and consuming every bit of information on my glowing screen.

I’m a sensitive person, and I know that the environment around me, including what I see, read, and absorb online, greatly affects the feelings within me.

Eventually, I close all the tabs that I’ve opened, but by this point, I’ve surpassed any element of moderation. I feel stuffed past my brim. It’s as if I’ve opened the freezer, grabbed a container of ice cream with the intention of taking a few delicious bites and instead have eaten myself into a sick-to-my-stomach sugar coma. The combination of feelings the rabbit hole causes are hard to reconcile. What began as an attempt to keep up with the people in my life so quickly and unknowingly became a wave of overconsumption.

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So I began a gradual detox.

Like I do when any behavior gets to be too much, or, in the case of my closet, I simply feel in over my head, I began a gradual detox.

I modified my feeds, followings, and usage. I created my own set of parameters that made sense to me, like no scrolling after dinner and removing the apps from my phone. After getting my toes wet for a couple of weeks, I waded in a bit further and deactivated my Facebook and Twitter accounts. As a former psychology major, I viewed it as my own little case study. What would be my biggest and most noticeable take-aways?

Here's how deactivating my accounts affected my life.

To be honest, I wouldn’t classify the elimination of my pages as life-changing, but I will say this: It’s reframed the way I view and use social media going forward. Its absence from my life has shone a light on the things I miss, like cute family photos and funny status updates, and it’s also revealed the things I don’t miss at all, like petty arguments and polarizing remarks. Beyond everything else, it’s reminded me of the importance of reflecting on how the things I do on a regular basis make me feel. I’m a sensitive person, and I know that the environment around me, including what I see, read, and absorb online, greatly affects the feelings within me.

My designated time away from social media has allowed me to deliberately consider how the people and pages I choose to follow and connect with affect my quality of life. It’s encouraged me to ask the question of whether the things I scroll through and soak in on a regular basis drain my energy, inspire me, create confidence, and bring out the best version of myself. And ultimately, it’s reminded me of my greater purpose: to live meaningfully and intentionally, in all areas of my life, including online.

Sound like you? Here are five signs you need a social media detox. Plus, here's what happened when a mega-influencer stepped away from her 325k-follower Instagram account for a month.

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