I have begun a social experiment.
Over the past few weeks, my hand has been unconsciously reaching for my iPhone every few minutes (if not every minute). As embarrassing as it is to admit, I’ve decided that speaking about it openly will allow me to overcome my addiction. Hey, everyone, I’m Esther. It’s been two hours since my last Instagram post.
Speaking of Instagram, let’s dive into why I’ve made this daring decision. I check Insta as though it’s my refrigerator, looking inside every five minutes as though a new snack has magically appeared. I scroll mindlessly through Facebook even though I’ve seen that meme and that video and that photo album dozens of times. Someone posted a witty status. Another is airing out her dirty laundry for all her “friends” to see. Countless people posting photos of their dogs, babies, selfies. Scroll, scroll, scroll. Are we even interested? Probably not.
Note: I will be turning my phone off in two-hour increments at first, and will gradually increase the dose as needed. When I wrote this, it had been about an hour since I turned my phone off. The first twenty minutes were the most difficult, as I constantly found myself trying to reach for my phone to text my friend, tweet a witty quip, or to scroll through you-know-what. After letting out some steam and writing about it, I found that the urge to check my phone has diminished. Actually, I looked forward to turning it on after another hour, as if rewarding myself. So bizarre.
I’m also one of those people who can’t stand push notifications (the little red numbers that appear on the corner of your app icons, letting you know how many “likes” or comments are waiting for your attention). If I see that there’s even one of those little red buggers, I have an instant compulsion to click through – just for the satisfaction of having a “clean screen.” Once I get rid of that little number, sighing with relief that I’ve swept my screen clean, something shiny catches my eye and somehow twenty minutes have gone by and all I’ve done is stalk famous yogis. As I look up from my screen and try to shake the sense of being hypnotized, yet another push notification appears on the next app. Or I receive an email. Another twenty minutes go by, and then another, and I’ve wasted an hour. Somehow I don’t understand why my eyes are dry and my neck has cramped up.
I’ve made excuses for my social media addiction to anyone who expresses a worry over my constantly bent neck (They’ve been calling it Text Neck since 2012, I’m way behind the times. Maybe because I didn’t have a smartphone then.). My main argument is that I’m “building my brand,” and that takes all of my attention and effort to accomplish. As a writer, I’ve dreamed of publishing a book of my poems one day (working on it), and maintaining a strong presence on social media is crucial to that PR process that will one day make my life a living hell.
That’s technically true. I should be building my brand, staying active on social media and staying true to my “brand voice” (I’m really sorry about all this brand talk, working for a branding agency for a while makes it hard to shake the jargon). But if I’m being honest (which is important, what with my goal of staying true to myself and all), the constant scrolling and posting that I’m doing is not propelling me forward into my grand brand building. It takes me longer to respond to people when addressed, my memory is shoddy, and I’m often looking for the next distraction. What I claim is helping me is actually distracting me from what’s important – forming relationships, succeeding in my career, experiencing the world around me with my eyes and not a phone camera lens. I see a flower and I must snap a photo of it with my (awesome) iPhone camera.
Okay, I’m probably going to keep taking photos of flowers.
But I don’t have to post it! Or, at least, not immediately.