Remember the 90s?
Smartphones didn't exist.
When you were in a different country, you'd pay to check your AOL account at an Internet cafe.
The best part? You could collect all your experiences on vacation without being attached to your phone.
When I went to Europe this summer, I wanted to recreate the experience of going "off the grid."
No social media for 2 weeks. Dun, dun, dun....
The first couple of days? I looked at my husband smugly when he checked his Insta. And I read two books in one week.
I was getting the hang of this whole not checking my phone thing.
I walked around Greece without pulling my phone out every three seconds. I enjoyed long conversations over feta cheese and olives.
I questioned why I ever spent so much time on my phone.
This ain't so hard.
Day 10 - it was my husband's birthday. Only 4 more days left of my self-imposed social media cleanse.
After a long boat ride, we arrived back at our hotel.
The only problem? The room was still spinning...I was majorly seasick. (I'll spare you the unpleasant details).
I crawled into bed with a bag of Starbursts -- the only thing my stomach could keep down -- or so I told myself.
After lying there for several hours with nothing to do, I saw my phone out of the corner of my eye.
It was like an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other.
Check your phone -- it'll make you feel better (devil voice)
Don't you do it! Power through (angel voice)
A wave of energy rushed over me. It was game over.
I got up from the bed, snatched my phone and downloaded the Instagram app.
Ahhh -- bliss -- there it was -- all the photos and stories I'd been missing out on for days.
My thumb moved quickly as I took in all the bright, shiny stories from friends and celebrities.
It felt like dieting for 3 days and then bingeing on a bag of cookies. I scrolled as if my life depended on it.
A reprieve from the room spinning and listening to my own thoughts. It was just what I needed.
A wave of guilt washed over me though. Why didn't I hold out for 4 more days??
Why did I cave?
The next morning, I did a post mortem on my "I'm going to check Insta to hell with everything moment."
It dawned on me:
I use my phone to take the edge off.
When I'm feeling: bored, irritated, anxious or uncomfortable I reach for my phone.
My seasickness was too much to take -- I wanted a distraction.
And I do that a lot with my phone - waiting in line, feeling bored, anxious, lonely, whatever it is.
And I get lost in a little device that allows me to not feel for a bit.
And this by itself isn't a bad thing. It's just something to be curious about.
You might do this, too. If you're around a lot of people, feeling anxious and you hide in the bathroom to check your phone (not that I've done this).
Or you're waiting in line for something and using it to avoid that irritation brewing in your chest.
Being on your phone isn't "good" or "bad." It just is. And you can grow and be curious about what you're feeling by checking-in with yourself.
The next time you're on your phone "accidentally" for 30 minutes (I do this all the time, btw), ask yourself:
"What am I feeling?"
When you pose that question -- you're making a commitment.
You're letting yourself know you're interested in what's truly going on in your mind and body.
It's a fast track to going below the surface. Quick, simple and surprisingly powerful. And my favorite part?
You don't have to *do* anything when you get your answer.
You can keep scrolling or keep eating Starburst - whatever it is.
You're one step closer to remaining in touch with yourself. No social media cleanse needed.
From my heart to yours,
Devon McLeod, LCSW
PS I read these awesome books when I wasn't cheating on my social media cleanse :)
1 -- Three Women. So engaging. I was shocked that it's based on the lives of three real women because it's such a page turner.
2 -- Circe. If you love Greek mythology, you'll love this one. Written from the perspective of Circe, daughter of the Greek God Helios. Loved.
Remember the 90s?