How my dog helped me get through a 7 day social media detox

How my dog helped me get through a 7 day social media detox

I woke up to the noise of the alarm and my dog barking outside my room door. I just needed ten more minutes before I got up, so I snuggled back into bed and cuddled with my smartphone. With one eye squinted, my ritual began by clicking on the Instagram icon, scrolling through posts followed by checking Snapchat and Facebook. Sound familiar?

A recent study suggests that the average person spends about 9 hours a day on social media and in front of digital screens. Physically this means 9 hours of blue light emitted from the screen of your device. A Harvard study has highlighted the harmful effect of blue light, which includes damage to light-sensitive cells in the retina. The damage that blue light causes resembles macular degeneration, believed to ultimately cause permanent vision loss.2 Additionally, chronic exposure to blue light before sleeping has been shown to inhibit the production of melatonin, a hormone regulating sleep and hence can lead to disruption of your circadian rhythm.3

Regardless of the negative physical effects of social media on our vision, social media has been a great source of information helping us connect, learn and educate. However, we are also regularly confronted with unpleasant information on these platforms that can cause us pain. Rationally we know what information is important but emotionally that’s not always what you take in. For example, rationally we know a lot of the images that we see on social media are photoshopped, be it the girl in the bikini or that beautiful holiday. However, emotionally we can feel envious, anxious and upset that our life is not like that of Sonam Kapoor or Kim Kardashian.

Like most people, I too have felt envious, annoyed and unhappy with my situation. Although, I often feel like this when I’m scrolling through social media, I still find myself addicted to my phone screen. During my lunch hour, coffee breaks and commute, I’m mindlessly looking at a social media platform. For my mental and physical health, I decided to embark upon a 7-day social media detox, only using my phone for making phone calls. Here’s what happened:

Day 1:

Old habits die hard

Old habits die hard As my alarm goes off, my shaky hand reaches out to the phone on the bedside table. Chewie (my 9-month old dog) starts barking outside my room door to let him in. I refuse to get out of bed until I checked all my social media stories. “Ughh!!” I completely forgot that I was on my social media detox. So with no time to spare, I quickly get up and rush to work. During my commute to work I managed to listen to my favourite podcast and squeezed in a 5-minute meditation session. I was feeling pretty good about myself having a productive morning. As the day goes on I find it tough not to check my phone, and unconsciously I picked up the phone and touched my smooth, clean, cold screen. So I slipped up a few times during the day but before going to bed I made it a point not to touch my phone.

As I lay in bed, I feel restless, as if something is missing from my life. It was separation anxiety from all those people, a lot of whom I don’t even know but are a part of my life though social media.

Day 2:

Stalking is not my only hobby

Alarm goes off and Chewie starts barking. Its time to get up. I groggishly open the room door to find my little pet wagging his tail, so excited to see me. He runs past me and jumps on the bed. I go back to bed and snuggle with him after a very long time. I start petting him and feel the warmth of his body close to mine. During lunch and tea breaks, I found myself touching that cold smooth screen. However, this time is wasn’t to check social media, but to show my colleagues pictures of Chewie.

Day 3:

If it was easy then everybody would do it

If it was easy then everybody would do it Alarm goes off and I bring Chewie into bed with me. He’s in the mood to play and starts licking my face and nipping on my ear. So I quickly run outside and hide behind the dining table. We are playing like Tom and Jerry all morning until it was time for me to get to work. During my coffee break I decided to step out to get a drink and found it very tough to not check my phone while waiting for my drink to arrive. So I decided to have a brief chat with my server, and he recommended I try the new matcha latte instead of my regular chai latte. Its now my new favourite!

Day 4:

I’m not anti-social, I’m socially selective

I’m not anti-social, I’m socially selective Alarm goes off and Chewie watches me as I sing and get ready for work. With some extra time to spare, I read the news this morning. (add a line on some current news story). As I’m on my way back from work, I noticed that the building on the corner of my street is finally close to completion. I ring the doorbell and Chewie comes greets me wagging his tail. I put my bag down, change into my trainers and decide to take him out for a walk. As we were half way through our walk, I felt a little drizzle. If you’ve lived in Mumbai, you know a little drizzle turns into downpour as fast as a Tesla car goes from 0 to100km. I look at Chewie and we make a run for it, his tongue is sticking out as we run and I’m smiling from cheek to cheek.

Day 5:

Fomo (fear of missing out) to Lomo (love of missing out)

Alarm goes off and Chewie starts barking.

Day 6:

Disconnect to reconnect

Disconnect to reconnect Alarm goes off and Chewie starts barking. No work means its baking day! I’ve always been into healthy eating and so I decided to try baking some healthy treats for Chewie. 4 hours, 3 recipes and 4 batches of burnt cookies later, I gave Chewie his treats to try. He is the fat kid that loves cake, and gobbled up all my terrible treats. I must admit, I did have the urge to put my baking skills on social media and to share my day, but instead I called my parents and told them about it. I’m sure this is going to be the new story for all the holidays.

Day 7:

Offline is a state of mind

Offline is a state of mind Alarm goes off and Chewie starts barking. It’s the last day of my social media detox, and for some reason I don’t even miss the feeling of the cold screen touching my fingers as I used to scroll through social media. I spent the day reading a book that I bought 5 months ago with Chewie curled up next to me on the couch. I guess both of us were having a Lazy Sunday.

So after 7 days of the social media detox, I physically started feeling more energetic, my vision felt sharper, and had less neck pain. Emotionally I felt less anxious and more appreciative about things around me. Reconnecting with Chewie helped me disconnect with all the meaningless people. I spend so many hours following on social media. So even though I won’t be cutting myself off from social media, from now on, I will be more mindful of the way I use my free time and social media. The icing on the cake to this experiment is I also shielded my eyes from all of that deleterious blue light!