The Results Are In! My Year Long Social Media Detox Experiment

How have I possibly survived? Read on to find out.

A wise person once said: “never before has a generation so diligently recorded themselves for doing so little.” And how right they were. Social media has warped our sense of reality, distorted our humanity and ticked off everyone trying to hold a conversation with us while we upload an “urgent” new tweet at the dinner table. It has made us lazy, good-for-nothing cry-babies whose sole purpose in life has been to achieve as many “likes” as possible, at the detriment to our sanity, health, friendships, family and – perhaps most destructive of all – our very existence as we used to know it.

We are rapidly becoming machines, having the life force sucked out of us by our constant, screaming need for attention online, and we have forgotten what it’s like to exist in the real world around us. And yet we revel in it, gild ourselves in the vacuous cheap success we achieve when our new hairdo gets thousands of thumbs up, a small pay rise is exaggerated to make everyone else feel miserable, and we pass a milestone of Instagram followers because we put glasses on a cat. And like a gambler who can’t walk away from one more bet – we keep coming back for more.

working at the pool in Thailand

Soul Sucking Social Media

As you might have gleaned, I had grown extremely weary of the social media sphere, after over six years of aggressively pushing an online presence. It had become an exhausting, daily struggle to maintain interest, promote our blogs and rake in new followers. Real life began to take a back seat, and I had forgotten why I was doing all of this in the first place. And the soul-destroying didn’t just stop with my own online actions.

Agness and her phone

Social media can be a breeding ground of negativity, and insecurities will feed on others successes like a parasite, with constant, disparaging thoughts that go hand in hand with comparing oneself to others. And of course – everyone out there is living perfect, incredibly blessed lives! Everything is going their way, they’re loved by millions, and not a hair is out of place. Nothing could be further from the truth, and I was tired of the fake pretenses, status updates, and photographs I was bombarded with every time I logged on. Nobody is perfect, although they try to make you believe they are! Something had to give. I decided to follow the more wholesome path of a social media detox. Or at least try to! Easier said than done! But here we are, 365 days later after I ditched the digital and took my life back. So, how did I get on?

Laptop and the Colosseum

Did I Make it out Alive?!

To put it short – it has been an amazing decision for me, my life and the direction I want to be going in. That’s the “in a nutshell” version, but it’s more complex than that. I began to find myself again, to rediscover the joys of being alive without the pressure to conform, look beautiful all the time or get validations from strangers. Without the need to constantly take photographs and post status updates on all the major platforms I was free to manage my time much more effectively, and this I did with aplomb. I was doing the things I love to do the most – travel with Cez, actually see and take in the world around me and make meaningful, real-world connections with creative people.

Blue Mountains trip, Australia

I soon forgot those anxious, stressful feelings of comparing myself to everyone else online, which became a thing of the past quite rapidly. All you have to do is unplug yourself!

Astounding Revelations

The pressure to be online evaporated. Those horrible FOMO feelings (Fear of Missing Out) that we all get when we’re not checking our notifications every ten seconds – they just disappeared. Suddenly, the world became a bigger place again.

Visiting the Hobbiton

My horizons expanded, my attitude changed. I was breathing clean air. I wasn’t posing for pictures and forcing a smile even if I wasn’t feeling great. Plus, I didn’t feel I was being judged – and in turn – I wasn’t judging others. I took pictures in my head and committed them to that wonderful hard drive – the brain!

There was no need to upload anywhere else to get someone’s opinion. It was personal, it was memorable and it was mine. The best experiences I’ve had this past year have come without a phone in my hands and with no access to Wi-Fi.

Cycling in Vienna

Becoming Human. Again.

And with that came deeper, more empathic, human connections. I was actually talking to people! And people are interesting! Instead of sitting on some chat program with my eyes crossing over from staring at a computer or phone screen too long, I was engaging in real-life discussions! You might laugh at it, but it’s amazing how much difference it makes to step away from “social” media and actually have social interactions outside the digital realm. People are living their lives online – with avatars taking over their mortal, physical selves!

Agness, Cez and the hitchhikers

Detaching from that is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. I’ve opened up more and listened more and learned more – and it’s been a spiritual and cathartic experience. Let’s not forget what you can possibly accomplish in ditching the social media and getting out into the world again. Since I gave it all up, I’ve traveled to 32 countries, launched 2 new blogs (atuktuk.com and fittravelling), established my first company – eTramping – with Cez in Gdańsk, Poland and developed working relationships with 100+ travel brands and tours across the world.

Working in Prague

I was on more than 50 flights, drank 1640 liters of water and 783 cups of coffee (but who’s counting), and became my own personal trainer and nutritionist. I even managed a bungee jump and stopped my diet soda addiction. That last one is the most surprising of all! If I’d not given up social media, I’d probably still be sitting in a dark room somewhere, zombified by a computer glare, having not accomplished anything.

Agness and coffee

A Confusing Paradox

I don’t mean to share this with you now to make anyone feel bad – because that would be defeating the purpose and very confusing! I would just dearly love to encourage and inspire those of you out there who can’t put social media down – or struggle with a more damaging addiction to it – that it is possible to leave it behind and get back to being the you that you desperately want to be.

Guide to Sydney

Did you know that they’ve developed internet addiction clinics in China?! It’s a real problem! We live in an age where this is part and parcel of our lives – but it needn’t control us! Social media does have its place and it’s not all bad! I’ve established some wonderful contacts and friendships during my time dancing across the interwebs, forging lasting connections and enjoying some unforgettable experiences along the way. It just became too draining and it was time for a break. Everything in moderation, right?

Visiting the Hobbiton city

Help is at Hand

For those looking to give a social media detox a go, I’m right here to support you. Anyone who is interested in my experience or would like any further help can drop me a line anytime and I will do my best to get back to you. But I wholeheartedly encourage you to try. Start small – Rome wasn’t built in a day. Step away from the computer or leave your phone at home. Go for a walk, see something you’ve never seen, do something you’ve never done. Talk to people and listen to them. If it helps, give your digital devices to someone you trust for a while. Have a member of your family or a good friend deal with them.

On a boat from Male to Thulusdhoo island, the Maldives

Cez became the keeper of my keys when I entrusted him with my social media accounts. At first, he was a little petrified, worried I’d come screaming at him with a knife demanding access to my channels when I had withdrawal symptoms – but everything was fine! Honest! Friends and family should be there to help.

Into the Unknown

So, what about the future? Will I be coming back to social media? The simple answer is yes. Yes, I will. But not anywhere near the quantities of time I was wasting on it, or allowing it to have anywhere near as much impact on my own health and sanity. As I mentioned earlier – everything is fine in moderation and social media has its place. It’s just not going to have the hold on me it had before.

Working with a laptop on a bed

I’ll be keeping my presence there to the bare minimum, because once you stop sharing everything online, switch off your machine, step outside and look up – you really start to appreciate life again.

Have you had any experiences with social media addiction? Maybe you’ve done a detox too? Let us know about it!

More from Agness Walewinder

10 Ways To Take Unique Travel Photos

Do you actually know how to take your best shot when travelling?...
Read More

26 Comments

  • I was wondering how this went. I’ve been careful about social media as well, especially since now I’m a blogger and want people to follow me so I can get out there.

  • ahhh you did answer the big question! Actually most of my social media addiction is blog related I think. But i’ve never really pushed it. I went through a period of tweeting my posts like a madman, using tweetdeck to schedule them and so forth, but now I just publicise when I post and thats about it. welcome back to social media! :)

  • In the end I think you’ve nailed it – moderation is key. I have actually had improved relationships with people as a result of social media – people I met online and then met in real life, we became friends, we visited one another… I live in rural France and I’m surrounded mostly by cows and mountains so social media is a lifesaver for me. What I DID notice as I tried to track my usage is that I spend too much time on it, not at once but as my “default” position… I would write something and then would peek at social media, “just in case”. That’s over now. I have a schedule, and I only look at social media three brief times a day – when I wake up, to make sure the world hasn’t gone to war overnight, during lunch, for no more than five minutes, and a quick look at bedtime. All in all I now spend less than half an hour a day on social media, compared to my former 2-3 hours minimum. To me, that’s balance and moderation.

  • Totally enjoyed reading this, Agnes – and you’re so brave to do that. Honestly, though, my recent travels made me realise how much FOMO lies beyond the phone and the interwebs – ie you’re missing out on seeing the world – like how the sun sets beautifully across mountains or how kids grow up before your very eyes. It’s setting a priority of what matters most and what you’ll remember in your heart.

  • When my phone broke last year while I was traveling I spent six days without a phone. I must say it was the perfect way to begin a social media detox. It’s as though my phone was suppose to break so I could stop spending so much time on it. Since then I have been on my phone less and less and it has been nice.

    https://dreamofadventures.com/

  • Well done Agness!

    I have such a busy life (husband, child, job, 2 cats), that I have no time to be addicted! One thing that I’ve never done, and I’m very glad of it, is join Instagram, which I think is where people have the most issues!

    I’m not the type of person to be easily coerced, so when all my blogger friends were like “you MUST come to Instagram,” I was like, “I don’t have the time for it. Sorry!” And it’s true. I’m on FB (but I don’t have a business page), G+ and Twitter. I prefer Twitter ‘cos I just need to write a few witty lines, and I’m done.

    I only write once a week, I don’t engage at the weekend (unless I’m travelling), but somehow my blog still seems to be quite popular! I mean, if I get invited to a private event with Prince William & Kate Middleton, I must be doing alright!

    You look healthy, and sound so much happier. Keep it up!

  • Now I know why you didn’t respond to my Instagram message last year! I don’t blame you, though. I disconnected from nearly all social media back in 2012. My wife hooked me back into Instagram briefly last year, but I’ve more or less given up on that too.

  • Good for you for taking such a long break and coming back with a new perspective. I think people are seeing through the fakeness of social media. Hopefully it will become more authentic.

  • Hi Agnes, I like to do this for a weekend and just disconnect from it all. I’ve done it briefly once on vacation too and you are right – you let go of that anxious feeling. I didn’t know they had such detox clinics in China – but I’m not surprised either. (That could be a good business to get into!)
    It’s really become an addiction to many. We get so caught up in it, like those likes and shares will validate our existence – NOT!
    Thanks for sharing your awesome experience about this Agnes, have a great day and weekend ahead.

    • Thank you for sharing, Lisa. I couldn’t be happier after I took a year off social media. It was very beneficial for my business, my mental health and my social life :)

  • My goodness the discipline involved to accomplish this is enormous. Cheers to Cez for keeping you accountable.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.