Why I’m taking a break from my phone and social media
Ailbhe used to check her phone constantly, until she realised it was having a negative impact on other areas of her life
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When I was 15, and I just got Facebook and all those exciting new social medias, I was absolutely addicted to my phone. If I wasn’t on it, I was thinking about it and wondering who had messaged me while I was away, how many times my phone would notify me that I was popular, how many people wanted to talk to me. I would scroll endlessly for hours, so much that I’d run into stuff I’d already seen and when I refreshed the page, nothing new would have had a chance to have been posted. I used to have to text people back immediately or I would break into a sweat with panic.
Now, I’m 23 and I’m the complete opposite. I cannot stand being on my phone for longer than a few minutes and texts messages go for days unanswered. Why?
I could no longer hold a conversation in person
Because I spent so long on my phone for years, actually talking to people face-to-face became very difficult and awkward for me. I didn’t know what to say to keep a conversation going because I didn’t have time to contemplate what I was going to reply because they were directly in front of me waiting for an answer.
I also became very worried about what the proper etiquette for conversation in person was. There are so many subjects people will broach in text messages that wouldn’t normally be considered ‘right’ for daily conversation. As a result of this, I constantly felt like I was out of the loop and any comment I contributed to a discussion was strange, out of place and disjointed. All social skills I had perfected up until I was 15 were now completely gone. I was too anxious to ask for help in shops, I couldn’t book doctors appointments over the phone and having to interact at work sent me into a blind panic, all because I had spent years staring at a screen instead of into people’s eyes.
I felt rude all the time
I felt in myself that I was becoming too reliant on my phone as a means of communication. I’d feel my phone buzz with a message, pick it up, read it and reply immediately, regardless of who I was with or what I was doing. As a result, I became, rude, disconnected, and forgot many pivotal parts of my friends lives which they confided in me. Which is ironic, considering I genuinely get so irritated at people who do that now. While I may forget things now, it is because I am tired rather than because I’m not listening.
I was no longer able to properly communicate with people. Going on dates I didn’t know what to say or do and was constantly on edge and uncomfortable, even when I was with people I genuinely liked. If I temporarily lost myself in the moment and immersed myself in the experience, I found it lasting for mere seconds before questioning in my head whether I had replied to someone or checked my Facebook that day. It was toxic, and I missed a lot of important conversations and bonding moments because of my lack of focus. I didn’t like it, but I couldn’t help it. I became miserable and lonely, with only myself to blame.
Now, I am too tired to even text back most of the time
Nowadays, my biggest problem is worrying that people think I’m not as close to them as I used to be, or should be. Why? Because social media has become so prevalent that if you’re not texting back every day, or within 24 hours, people think you aren’t overly bothered or that you’re blanking them. Thankfully, I’m just a natural worrier and my friends are actually fantastic for understanding that I’m just a busy person a lot of the time. They all know I am there for them when they need me for anything serious, and understand my lack of interest in texting.
Most of my reasons for not texting back is I’m either working, interning or studying and that’s the truth. By the time I get home at night, I am pure shattered and unless there’s plans I need to agree to or things someone is upset about and need me, I rarely reply. There is practically no one I text on a regular basis anymore, and I am kind of happy about that. The friends I have are friends for life - most of us are studying, working or busy with other bits of life and truly understand that we’re here for each other regardless. I don’t know if that’s just the way my friends are, or whether that’s grown up friendships in general, but it’s the way it is.
So if you’re worried or think a friend is ignoring you, the chances are they’re in the same boat as a lot of us - tired, stressed and sleeping. On several occasions I have opened messages and left them to reply to later because I got busy at work, and then completely forgot about them. That and a lot of us now at this age have the friends who are close enough to be considered family, who we are sure enough of that we know they’ll let us know if anything is wrong. I think that could have been my problem at 15 too - I think I wanted to be there for so many people, to help so many people and be available all the time that I got sucked into the addictiveness of social media, the likes, and popularity.
Now I have my handful of close friends who understand me and my lack of time for technology, and I have never felt better.