Social Media 30-Day Detox Experiment

I did it. Finally. After months and months of complaining about social media — and this is from someone who works in the media industry — I decided to put my cynical self to the test and deprive myself of everything digital (with the exception of WhatsApp, which serves to be my SMS app replacement). And what better time to begin with my experiment than when I went back home to Syria before Ramadan, the place where I usually unplug from the online world? With your run-of-the-mill social networking applications hardly accessible, self-control and restraint should have been easy.

Should have been.

Though in Syria I tend to spend my time completely offline, this visit was a bit different and more often than not I had an impulsive urge to share what I was doing with everyone, especially stories that my grandmother narrated to me on the balcony as we observed the streets and prepared Freekeh. Yet I was completely disconnected — and other than email on my mobile phone, I was completely cut off from the outside world.

The first week I suffered from severe withdrawal symptoms. I had dreams of shrinking URLs and twitpics. I created conversation scenarios in my head and lived them, whether they be on twitter or Facebook. Quite sad, right?

When I accepted the fact that I could not use social media, I was flown back to Dubai. Armed with my new-found self confidence that I can remain unplugged for a longer time, I deactivated my Facebook (quite a dumb thing to do as I use many services with the FB login, but that’s another story) and uninstalled all applications (twitter, G+, etc) from all my devices and browsers.

And I came to this conclusion:

  • It is so w-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l to be away and focus for once in my life! To have the time (shock) to read books and go out and do other things! To not have to deal with links about Google Plus on Google Plus!
  • Living without social media is d-r-e-a-d-f-u-l. I miss how enriching interactions are and how I felt I was part of a community.
By then it hit me that these are just services and I am the one in charge. I can allow myself to use them the way I wish, or be abused by succumbing to the addiction. I have the willpower to work from 9-5 and drop by on my breaks. I have the choice of what I can post and where. More importantly, I have the choice of what I want to read. It all seems silly, but for a guy who considers himself to be on the inquisitive side, I tend to feel obliged that I have to read everything.
I wanted to conclude with something else but I have this request to make instead: FOR THE LOVE OF EVERYTHING HOLY, UNLINK TWITTER FROM THE REST OF YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA SERVICES! NO NEED TO REPLY TO @myexgirlfriend ON TWITTER AND FACEBOOK AND G+ AND LINKEDIN!
  • Mich

    And it is so good to have you back.I missed you so much during that month! :-)

  • Anonymous

    You’ve been missed as well! Good to be back :)

  • Mohammad Badi

    That’s wonderful, I admit. I’ve done that already and felt the joy of being away and not sharing a singe piece of info. Well, it makes “more” sense when you stop tweeting about yourself and that’s what I’ve experienced and loved lately.

    One of the reasons I think what you are saying is great is an article I’ve read a couple of weeks ago mentioning that Twitter is all about self promoting. It’s not a disease, but it’s bad to fill the gabes of our lives online instead of living each moment as it should be. 

    I’m still tweeting, but with reduced usage (probably -98%) and that’s awesome.

    Good luck :)

  • Isobel

    I have to do this when I go up to the cottage. Not only does my Blackberry not work up there, but there is absolutely no phone line and no tv. I do bring my computer to “write” offline (there is electricity!) but after several days of jittery withdrawal, I settle down and find I prefer writing in a notebook. It seems apropo for the setting. Too bad you didn’t jot down those moments with your grandmother…you know, with pen and paper, even as a memoire just for you. Anyway, glad to see you back in the world of social media. Maybe we’ll get to read more about your trip home?

  • Ali H.

    Good for you.  I could never have survived.  Seriously, I went one day without the internet and I felt lost.

  • Anonymous

    I felt lost for the first bit, but if you put yourself in a situation where you simply can’t access anything, you’d find it easier to accept and control.

  • Anonymous

    There are many reasons as why we tweet, but yes, tweeting less is very healthy.

  • Anonymous

    I have a couple of audio logs of my grandmother telling me stories :) I should invest much more in noting down everything before it’s too late and before the stories are gone forever; my mother does not remember most of them neither does she narrate the stories in the same way my grandmother does (maybe she will, to her grandkids, but they will be different stories).

    There’s not much to write about my trip back home to be honest; it was mostly for medical reasons. But suffice to say that though there’s no unrest inside the main quarters of Damascus, the energy of the whole city is affected.