Meghan Markle, now the shiny newest member of the British royal family, has followed their lead and removed herself entirely off social media. It is a curse to bear for being the next U.K princess - or is it? Could it be less of a curse and more of a cure, liberating her from the social media shackles we’ve suddenly all found ourselves stuck in? One minute we were playing snakes on our Nokia 3210 just happy to own a phone, the next we’re downloading every app possible and scrolling until our finger joints hurt. For those young enough to have never owned such ancient artifacts like Nokia 3210s - you missed out.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at the Invictus Games Toronto 2017 (Photo: AFP)
So, to see just how easy it is (or not as the case may be) for Meghan to withdraw from the online world, I put myself to the test of one week without any social media. I am, happy to admit, rather attached to my social platforms. I post every day, I scroll on auto-pilot and I stalk people I didn’t even know I knew. For me, this was a challenge but I was excited - I thought of all that time I’d be gaining back, the joyous feeling of liberation and I was hopeful of something ‘clicking’ in my mind that changes how I approach social forever. Not to mention the time I’d have to concentrate at work.
But then it’s just one week, so how hard and 'life-changing' can it be anyway?
After a farewell Instagram post (could I be any more dramatic?) I prepped myself for seven blissful carefree days. Here’s what went down.
I woke up to a stream, as per usual, of the notifications from my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. I mention that I woke up to this because the first thing I do every morning is check my phone. My immediate reaction was to read through them all, but having remembered this challenge, I just swiped them all away. I felt good!
By the afternoon, I stopped feeling good. I had run out of the feel-goodness shizzle already. I was getting notifications all over the place, seeing my friends have tagged me in something or private messaging me and I couldn’t read any of it. I felt more distracted not looking (oh the irony) because I was thinking about all of the stuff I was missing out on. I found myself picking up my phone only to just put it back down again.
In the evening after work, I did relish being able to put my phone away after speaking to my boyfriend (got myself a long distance relationship over here) and just focus on the movie I had chosen. It was refreshing to have my full attention on just one thing - refreshing and relaxing too.
All I wanted to do was check my apps. It was becoming increasingly frustrating to have constant notifications that were just tempting me, so, I logged out of all my apps in the morning. This will definitely change things I thought. No temptation, no issues.
Oh how wrong I was.
I had to stay logged into Her World social media due to my work, so ended up mindlessly scrolling through that feed. It was genuinely auto-pilot. I ‘came to’ at lunch thumbing through the Instagram feed realising I am so addicted to the act of social media itself, I was scrolling for the sake of scrolling - had no idea who any of this strangers were, I was just looking at random pictures.
By the end of the day it felt like I had been banished for months, not hours. I would look at my phone as I walked home with nothing to do. I started texting my friends and family lots more than normal, just to ‘interact’ with my phone. It was as if my phone had become more than a phone - it is now personified and I missed communicating with it. I even worked out I ‘social scroll’ when I am on the loo. Yes, you read right.
By lunchtime I was bored, frustrated and wishing I had never even bothered trying this challenge. I felt completely cut off from the entire world, from my friends and global news too. I didn’t realise how much I relied on my Facebook feed to read articles from publications.
Oh, and I had at least eight carefully crafted selfies taken and stored on my phone with nowhere to go and nowhere to be posted to. What was going to happen to my Instagram account minus my face every day? Would I lose my followers? Would I suddenly become old news?
More importantly, why was I even so deeply concerned with something that was as superficial as posting a selfie?
Wanting to prove to myself and my work colleagues that I wasn’t addicted, I powered through to the evening. I say powered through as if it was difficult to simply not look at my social - but that’s exactly what it was. I couldn’t believe how not posting photos bothered me, how not being able to react instantly to my friends’ posts and general notifications grinded my gears, and how I was totally free and totally constrained at the same time. Ironic right? The freedom of no social made me feel even more chained to my social.
I lasted, nay endured, until 3pm until I announced to my office team that I was quitting quitting social - I had been ‘scrolling’ through Her World’s feeds so practically cheated before anyway. I was done. Absolutely done. I was so ashamed to admit I couldn’t last seven days, which I first arrogantly assumed would be a breeze.
I logged back into my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and immediately delved into my 4 lost days of tagged pictures and memes, image comments and tweet replies. It was instant gratification and just sheer relief. Within ten minutes I posted my selfie and I felt like I could resume my normal life again.
So what did I learn?
Am I addicted to social media? Clearly, yes I am.
Are we all addicted to the ‘likes’ and ego-boost that social media delivers to us instantly? Yes - but we all probably knew that deep down anyway.
Am I not fit to be royalty, because I’d fall at the first hurdle? You bet.
Has social media taken over our lives? Absolutely.
Is this a good or bad thing? I’m still undecided on this one. It made me realise how I rely on social to stay connected to my friends and family which is great, but the realisation that I was constantly bored, angry and frustrated when I couldn’t access it was frightening.
Would I ever want to live a life without social media? Hell no.
ALSO READ: HOW TO DEAL WITH SOCIAL MEDIA ENVY