Recently, I have been acutely aware of the gap between who I currently am and who I aspire to be. This realization came this past spring, when I would need to diffuse all the notifications on my phone before bed. It would start out watching a few snapchat stories. Then, like a ritual, Facebook needed to be checked, then Instagram, then email, then texts. It got to a point where I couldn’t sleep until this process was complete. And when I woke up, I would reflexively check all these platforms once again.
I am embarrassed to admit that some form of social media addiction lead me to be inseparable from my phone. This spring, I permanently deleted my Instagram account. Over the summer, I deleted my Snapchat. Recently, I deleted the Facebook app from my phone so I no longer get notifications. This week, I installed this chrome extension that hides my newsfeed when I log into Facebook.
In slowly detaching myself from social media, it’s become painfully clear how a focus on building and maintaining an online self can decrease the quality of in-person interactions. Curbing my technological addiction has made me recognize the extent to which I used to rely on my phones in social settings. Be this at brunch (when everyone pulls out their phone for pictures), in awkward lulls in conversation (when you check your phone to fill the silence), or the “pics or it didn’t happen” mentality, I felt an erie sense that the quality of my in-person interactions was declining.
This isn’t to say smartphones or social media are bad. Indeed, there are many wonderful uses for these platforms such as reconnecting with old friends or sharing family photos. But this wasn’t the way I was using it.
I have friends who admit, embarrassed, that they have had their day made or ruined by the number of likes on a posted picture. When we amass all those clicks, notifications, and messages, what does it produce? I am doubtful that I am a more fulfilled, more complete individual because of an online presence. I refuse to believe that my friends — if they are the true friends I believe them to be — would allow our friendship to decline upon quitting social media en masse.
In this vain, I am making more of an effort to go analog. Surprisingly, I do not feel a need to reactivate any of the accounts I deleted. But I’m not yet comfortable enough calling people on the phone. I’m still not comfortable leaving my smartphone for hours at a time, or spending a full day without checking Facebook. This is not healthy. This is not who I aspire to be. I want to be truly free from notifications, apps, badges. Perhaps an analog life is one lived more freely.