Stage One: Admitting I Have a Problem
"Hey, are you OK, Chantal? You haven't Snapped yet today so I just wanted to check in." That's an actual text I get from a friend the first day of my detox. It hasn't been 24 hours and my friends are already concerned something tragic has happened to me to keep me from Snapping. "Man, that's going to be a great think piece," my friend responds when I explain that I've just begun a digital detox. "Millennial in Existential Social Media Crises."
Have I really become that cliché? Let's examine. I've caught myself planning Snaps on the way to parties, pre-meditating Instagram captions before I even arrive at picnics, and texting my friend Ali to like a picture when it's still stuck in the under-eleven-likes zone. A dying phone battery is my biggest fear, and my bedtime has become later and later as I get into the habit of mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter—and then back to Instagram again to see what I've missed—before falling asleep. Yes, I'd say it's time for a self-intervention.
Stage Two: Getting Help
I decide to take a dramatic approach: no social media at all for 30 days. I say my virtual goodbyes to those near and dear to me, hold my finger down on each app to make them wiggle, and x out of my social media presence (and, lately, life as I know it).
The first morning of my detox I sign up for a Daybreaker event—it's a dance party on a boat that sails around Manhattan for three hours, leaving the dock at six in the morning. It's one of those events practically made for Instagram, so I figure it's a bold place to start. Halfway through the party I look down at my white sneakers on a dance floor covered in confetti and glitter, and think, "Damn, this would be such a good Snap." Never in my life have I been so sure of a need for change.
I roll into work that morning to the strangest thing: none of my coworkers have any idea that I've been up since 4:15 a.m. dancing on a boat—because I have nothing to show for it. To them it's just another uneventful Friday morning. It's both disconcerting and thrilling to tell a story and know for certain that the other person is hearing about it for the first time—not piecing together first-hand information from stuff they've already seen on social media. For once, "Hey, Chantal, how was your weekend?" became a genuine question.
Stage Three: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
I'm going to skip the part where I talk about how liberating it is to be independent from my phone—that's a concept you can find in every other social-media detox story. Instead, let's fast forward to the point when I've finally re-balanced my inner dialogue to focus on things other than the perfect VSCO filter, and I've started to realize what I'm missing out on by not being on social media.
Social Media Asset No. 1: Keeping in Touch With Friends and Family
My youngest sister is starting a new year at college, one of my best friends has just moved to Michigan for grad school, another to London for a new job, and another is wrapping up a trip to India, and I can't follow along. Sure, we text and Skype and call, but I'm totally out of the loop when it comes to their day-to-day discoveries and adventures—the small moments worthy of a Snap but not of a text—and it makes me sad.
Social Media Asset No. 2: Reminding People You Exist
My social life dwindles. As I fill my newfound time with hobbies—learning embroidery, taking up yoga, riding my bike—I spend less time with friends. I realize that ninety percent of my social invites are from Facebook. It's 2016—if you're invited to a party on Facebook but you don't see it, no one is following up on your RSVP status with a personal text. Out of sight, out of mind.
Social Media Asset No. 3: Knowing What's Going on in the World
It wasn't until my social accounts were gone that I realized just how much of my news comes from them. Links shared by friends and trending topics are how I stayed up-to-date on the fly. In their absence, the New York Times app becomes my best friend, but I'm still missing my friends' commentary on world events and hearing their different viewpoints. I watched this week's debate surrounded by friends, but being back online and knowing the Twitter world was also collectively freaking out about a candidate's response along with us was comforting.
Social Media Asset No. 4: It's My Job
I work at Sweet. It helps if you have Snapchat.
Stage Four: Reentering the World and Embracing Reality
I cut my detox short because I decide the point of my detox had been made, but it's not the one I had been expecting. I'm focusing on lessening my unhealthy obsession with posting 24/7 (so it wasn't all for naught!), but I'm no longer going to view social media as a necessary evil. I have often laughed at the irony of the term "social" media, when I felt like it was making our generation anything but, however I realize that it's quite the opposite. Like everything in life, social media just requires balance, moderation, and the occasional rose-colored filter.
Want to try your own detox? Have questions about mine? Add me on Snapchat and Instagram @chantagold and ask away! I'm back ;)