Most of us are familiar with social media. Some of us spend more time on it than others, and that’s fine. However, lately I –Kirstin- have been noticing I tend to grab my phone all the time – even if it’s not what I really want. More like a thoughtless action that’s become an automatic response to stress or boredom. Somehow, I expect my phone to help me relax, but often it does the exact opposite and I end up with a hasty, distracted feeling. Could it be different? How can we use our phones without being too immersed in them?

A friend of mine used to put down his phone every Sunday. I read a book of a guy that takes a total day off every Friday to Saturday sundown just to enjoy life and company. In a random magazine, a woman shared her experience of living in the seventies style, using a landline instead of cellphone. These stories inspired me to keep my phone off from Friday to Saturday sundown and invite Eef to do the same. Even as I’m writing this, I’m chuckling a little bit. Because what do 24 hours even mean in our busy, filled-up lives of 365×24 hours every year? Still, those 24 hours offline taught us some lessons. We’ll share them with you in this blog.

First up, Eef:

For me, my own need to use my phone excessively was a reason to put my phone aside for a whole day. I myself was less familiar with the experiment, I heard about Kirstin’s idea the same day, and it seemed like a really good test to see if I could do it. And most importantly: how I would feel about not being on social media for one whole day. That sounds easy right? What struck me was that I found this super difficult to do. In particular, I really found it a challenge to leave WhatsApp and Instagram alone. Those are my go-to apps.

I was curious about doing something like this, because I am really into self-improvement. But I also really like celebrity news. Sometimes I hear reports of well known Hollywood stars limiting their social media time (they do this because they face a lot of backlash and scrutiny on social media). For example, they only go on social media in the weekends or they give their passwords to their good friends (compared to this, one day off social media doesn’t seem that big of a deal right?). So I was really excited to use this experiment to learn more about the influence of my social media habits on my life.

What I have learned from this challenge:

How much calm I experienced in the morning without turning on social media and looking at it. In the morning I usually turn on my WiFi on my phone right after my alarm clock goes off. Then all notifications and notifications start flowing in, making my head running wild. I noticed how soothing I actually found it, not to have it in the morning. Because then you are immediately in operative mode. But without social media, I felt nice and relaxed at the beginning of the morning.

I lived a little more in the moment. I noticed this especially in the evening and early in the morning. When I turned off my phone on a Friday night during a get-together, I found it took me back to the moment. During the evening I noticed that my friend actually was looking at her phone quite a lot. That really struck me for the first time. I remember me just sitting there looking at her while she was looking at her phone. That was really interesting for me to see, because normally I’d join her and be on my phone too.

I noticed for the first time that continuous checking is actually quite a waste of time. I actually see no problem in checking social media at all. In my opinion, it only starts to become a little bit of a problem when someone has a constant need to look at it or post on it, out of a sort of strong habit or maybe an addiction. It becomes a problem then, because you become restless and being controlled by it.

Social media is here to serve us, not the other way around. Make sure you control it, rather than it controlling you. How you do this? Maybe setting boundaries or rules for yourself is a good start (for example, no social media during the week or on the weekends, unfollowing certain pages that don’t make you feel good, mostly using (for example Instagram) for sending meme’s to friends instead, turning off the notifications that go to your home screen with certain apps, etc.). After this experiment, I am thinking about more often doing social media free weekends and I am mostly using my personal Instagram to look at funny and interesting/inspirational posts, so it adds to my day.

To summarize my experience: I really liked this experiment because I felt less tense and more calm, more grounded and I was living in the ‘real world’ that day. Especially the morning and evening I felt better. I didn’t notice any differences while sleeping, but I did feel different during the day, and that made me happy. It seems to me a challenge to do this more often in the future, just to turn off your phone for a night. Weirdly enough, since the experiment, I noticed I sometimes do this automatically now when I feel a bit restless. Even when I am sitting in front of the TV, it helps me to just minimize the stimuli and turn my phone off! It helps me to relax and be mindful so much. I highly recommend doing something like this or turning your phone/notifications off for longer periods of time.

“And every day, the world will drag you by the hand, yelling, “This is important! And this is important! And this is important! You need to worry about this! And this! And this!” And each day, it’s up to you to yank your hand back, put it on your heart and say, “No. This is what’s important.”
― Iain Thomas  

And lastly, I’ll share my thoughts as well:

How I (Kirs) experienced my day without my phone
When the moment to turn off my phone was near, I was already looking forward to being away from the constant notifications and feigned urgency. At the very start of being separated from my phone, it took a moment to let go of a rushed feeling. When sleeping that night, I even dreamed I accidently turned my phone on again. But after that short, weird phase, I felt perfectly at rest and more able to enjoy free time which does not have to be ‘filled’ with new notifications/messages/news articles/memes all the time. I so enjoyed the timeless feeling that made me feel it’s okay to not do it all, but instead do very little. It felt like a breath of fresh air. And at the same time, I did so much in the ‘real’ world that day. I connected with my parents, painted a wall, planted seeds and repotted plants, sat in the sun with my sister, went for a drive with my cousin, met two of his friends, and enjoyed an amazing meal with good company. And the very best thing was that I could give them my undivided attention. In the evening, I got on the train to go home. I already was ‘allowed’ to turn my phone on again, but I didn’t want to – not yet. Instead, I watched the sky change colors after sunset and felt grateful for the past day.

“I told Miyazaki I love the “gratuitous motion” in his films; instead of every movement being dictated by the story, sometimes people will just sit for a moment, or they will sigh, or look in a running stream, or do something extra, not to advance the story but only to give the sense of time and place and who they are. “We have a word for that in Japanese,” he said. “It’s called ma. Emptiness. It’s there intentionally.” Is that like the “pillow words” that separate phrases in Japanese poetry? “I don’t think it’s like the pillow word.” He clapped his hands three or four times. “The time in between my clapping is ma. If you just have non-stop action with no breathing space at all, it’s just busyness, But if you take a moment, then the tension building in the film can grow into a wider dimension. If you just have constant tension at 80 degrees all the time you just get numb.””   ― Rogert Ebert on Hayao Miyazaki

I want to make more space for that intentional emptiness in my life. Like allowing myself to just breathe and enjoy life around me, giving myself the opportunity to process and rest my busy head. I don’t think I’ll be doing this every week, but for sure I will do it more often on weekends or holidays.