We’ve all been there. That gut wrenching, heart pounding moment you realise you can’t find your phone. You frantically pat your body up and down, hoping, praying that it’s lodged deep within your pocket. Know what I’m talking about? Not nice, is it?
Anyone who knows me knows that I love social media. I struggle to go a day without uploading a Snapchat story and often am guilty of uploading more than one Instagram in a single day. I know; social suicide! My social media addiction often acts as a great source of entertainment for my friends. “Oh, there she is! Social media queen! Make sure to get a Snapchat of that, Hannah!” … the jibes are endless but (as us Northern Irish like to say), completely ‘fair enough’.
So, when the battery in my two-year-old iPhone 6 decided to completely cut out during a celebratory post three assignment deadline trip to Dublin, I was phoneless. You can imagine my despair. I hadn’t lost my phone, but holding it in my hand while it refused to turn on, smugly replaying the apple restart logo with the somewhat aggressive “CHARGE YOUR PHONE” symbol constantly appearing on the screen, almost made me wish I did. I wanted to throw it out of the car onto the M50. A weekend exploring a perfectly decorated Grafton Street at Christmas, walks along Malahide’s beautiful coastal path, copious portions of poached eggs and smoked salmon for brunch, pints of Guinness in Gibneys and all without a single Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook post. In fact, I was so quiet on social media that my friends actually started to express genuine concern for my wellbeing. A digital silence? Nope. Not for me.
Once back in Belfast, I was on a mission. An urgent visit to Three and I had managed to bag myself a new phone. I took my brand-new rose gold iPhone SE home and eagerly awaited my social media fix… Until…
“To verify your iCloud account, a code has been sent to your device ending in *********06.”
Sorry… what? My number ends in 54, not 06! Great.
To save explaining every boring, intrinsic technicality, I’ll just cut to the chase; I was locked out of my iCloud (and subsequently all apps on my new phone) for a grand total of THREE WEEKS as the wrong number had been verified to my account. That’s right. Me; girl who can’t leave her phone alone for three minutes has 0 access to anything other than texts and calls for three weeks.
So, what did I learn?
- The gym is a terrible place to be when you’re phoneless.
I never realised how much I rely on music to keep me motivated during a session in the gym or how loudly I stamp on the treadmill when I run and… let’s not even talk about the heavy breathing. Sorry fellow gym members.
- The memories you gain from real life experiences are long-lasting, even when they aren’t documented on social media.
Don’t get me wrong, I think social media is an excellent way to capture and record memories and I will continue to do so. I now know, however, that I don’t have to photograph or record everything – something I’m sure my friends will be pleased to hear!
- I could focus on my work more
Whilst I might enjoy receiving Snapchats of my housemates attempting to sing or of them scaring each other in our flat while I’m in the library (sometimes a little too much when I struggle to hold back uncontrollable laughter in the McClay), I did find it much easier to concentrate on assignments without my phone.
- I could focus more in real life
Without the subconscious distractions generated by nonstop notifications, I was more engaged in day to day life. I wouldn’t zone out of a conversation because a message came through to my phone and I would take in my surroundings when walking from A to B. It sounds silly to say but I started to look up and around me, rather than down at the HD screen in my hands.
- I was far more sociable
I managed to have better conversations, with the people that mattered to me. Not over text, not on Facebook, Snapchat or WhatsApp, in person.
- I didn’t miss social media as much as I thought I would
If I was told three weeks ago that I wouldn’t be allowed access to my social media accounts for this length of time, I would not have been happy. Social media has become an integral part of our lives and I couldn’t possibly entertain the idea of being off it for so long. But did I really miss it that much? Honestly… no. I enjoyed the much needed detox!
Recent research published in The Times claims that social media is bad for your mental health. Academic studies continuously suggest that intense use of social media is linked to depression, low self-esteem and feelings of depression.
Maybe a break from it every once in a while would be of benefit to us all?
Now I’m not going to start anti-social media protests outside the City Hall, nor am I going to deactivate my accounts, in fact I’ll probably be back to annoying my friends very shortly, but now, at least I know the positive benefits and the headspace going digitally teetotal can bring about.
Hannah Martin is a final year Bsc student in Communication, Advertising and Marketing at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter @HannahMartin596, and Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/hannah-martin-b31334112/