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Self-Experiment: Dropping all Socials.

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

By Ashley Sinclair

I used to think the saying, “Breakups are hard” was silly. But I’ve come to learn that it is true. Breakups suck! You end up missing your ex dearly and inevitably all you end up doing is scrolling through their Instagram profile. The feeling is cruel. Looking at it and seeing what they’re up to. But it is a common tactic used to get through the intense aftermath of ending any relationship. As I went through the process myself, I had an idea. Why not go off social media for a week? That way I won’t see what they’re doing and maybe I can try to avoid shedding more tears than I already have (insert laughing and crying emojis here). 

My social media detox was from Feb. 17, 2023, to Feb. 23, 2023. Overall, it was mentally challenging. Of course, there were times I thought about my ex, but cutting off all socials in general was a challenging task. My phone would send me notifications almost every minute of the day from Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, etc. It felt like I was constantly being poked to look at my phone and see what was happening online. Before starting this challenge, I didn’t think I had a social media habit or let alone an addiction. I felt like I was an occasional social media user, but not consumed by it. I went into the week feeling like it would be a walk in the park. 

Friday morning I woke up at 5:30 a.m., immediately reached for my phone, and opened Instagram. Oops. I remembered the social detox and sadly put my phone away. I desperately had to convince myself that I’d see what Kendall Jenner posted next week. Then as soon as the clock struck 7 a.m. my phone started blowing up with Twitter notifications. I was tempted to look but told myself, “Stay strong, Ashley!” I went into the settings app and turned off all social media notifications. By 7:05 a.m. I realized that I was an avid social media user. I created a habit to check Instagram and Twitter every morning. To learn about celebrity fashion trends, breaking news stories or just to watch baking videos. One week soon began to feel longer and longer.

I leaned on the TV to get my mind off of social media. Saturday morning, instead of going on my phone I watched three episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. Probably not the best thing, but if you‘ve watched the show then you’d understand. For the rest of the day, I read a book, went for a walk, chatted with friends and family over the phone, and watched more TV. I found plenty of distractions, and was very tempted to open Instagram. Sunday seemed a lot easier. I woke up and reached for my phone but quickly put it down and walked into the kitchen. Instead of scrolling for hours, I took time to make a nourishing breakfast and get ready for work. Afterward, I ended the day with Grey’s Anatomy and went to bed early.

Monday was the best day of the week. My new routine involved the following: I woke up early, had breakfast, worked out, showered, wrote a paper, watched TV, studied, and went to bed.

By Tuesday my social media itch had somewhat relieved itself. I was focused on my “Hot Girl Walks” (Highly recommend doing this. Romanticize your life! You’ll feel fabulous releasing those endorphins). Tuesday night I went out with my girlfriends, lost my house key, didn’t have a car, and had to reschedule a meeting, which is a story for another time.

On Wednesday I had a late start, but I went on another “Hot Girl Walk,” I wanted to take a cute mirror selfie in my gym/walking fit and head out, but I didn’t. I put my headphones in and walked off the temptation.

Finally, it was Thursday! The last day of my detox. I woke up, and a little too eagerly opened Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Immediately I looked at Kendall Jenner’s posts and also thought, “I wonder if the ex has posted,” but I pushed the idea away (insert clapping emojis here). Although, this made me think, since I immediately went on my phone, was the detox worth it?

I spoke with Dr. Shannon O’Grady, Ph.D., a licensed psychotherapist. She said that this “challenge” of mine was a great idea. She shared that going off social media is especially important during the breakup process and shortly after. “Love is kind of an addiction. It creates a dopamine rush in your brain and sometimes it serves the same function when we’re breaking up. It’s getting off of a drug, alcohol, sugar, or any habit you’re trying to break. So, if you’re getting off, let’s say sugar, you don’t want to sit there and look at sweets every day and with love, it’s the same way.” O’Grady said, “Watching what they’re doing for a long time is just feeding that part of yourself, it takes up a lot of real estate in your brain,” she also said. I shared with O’Grady that I was guilty of wanting to look over the ex’s socials and that I felt like my brain was trying to hurt me more and we both laughed. She expressed that my feelings were normal, telling me that it was because we have a connection with that person. I asked her if it would be smart to remove them from social media and she shared that she asks her clients to block them on everything: phone numbers and social media. She told me that you have to go through 100% withdrawal and even though it sounds harsh it’s beneficial because as soon as you have that hope of, “I want to get back together” your heart is telling you one thing and your brain is telling you another.

O’Grady stated that going off social media and blocking someone’s number for five days is a great way to try to detox and fill that time doing something else, “Get more interested in your life because what are you going to do in your life? Let’s make you the center of attention rather than him or her.” I then asked her, what are the next steps when you return to social media? and she added that you have to stay disciplined and see what works for you (being off social media or on it). Further in the conversation, O’Grady and I started talking about the pain of relationships and she shared that going out with girlfriends, joining a gym, and joining a new club are all like band-aids. I then asked her how to ‘bounce back’ from a broken heart and she told me to, “Feel the pain…The more you meet the pain, the more you process the pain, being present with the pain…You can light a candle in your room and you sit and put your hand on your heart chakra and you just feel your pain, ‘I’m in pain. I’m in hurting’ and you just focus on the hurt, and it’s really sad, and of course, you’re going to cry, but the more you focus on the hurt the sooner you will heal.”

She also said, “You have to ask yourself if you want to move on, you have to do these things. If you’re kinda like ‘Well, I still want to be involved, and I hope we’ll get back, or I still want to see what he’s doing. You have to do it for yourself. Think of what it does when you don’t have it [social media]. It creates space in your world. Almost boredom sometimes, but boredom can be a great generator of great creativity.” She continued, “social media is like those adult coloring books, the lines are already there, and you just kinda fill in everything and that’s not nearly as pretty as if you had a blank canvas. Now you have to think ‘wow, what’s life like? The deeper thoughts come in, what happens when I’m not connected to everybody? What happens when bringing those deeper thoughts, like we’re born in this world alone we die alone, what’s it like just to be in silence and be me? Who am I? Who am I when who I am is not being reflected to me by the whole world on the internet? Those are the thoughts, I think, everybody should have at some point. I think that a breakup, a painful traumatic event, often opens a door to a very sacred space, and if you’re willing to go through it and have the space to go through it, and the desire, a lot of growth can happen.”

By the end of the week, I noticed that I felt better. Maybe it was catching up with friends and family, getting Vitamin D, or not looking at a phone screen before bed, but I slept well. My chat with O’Grady left me feeling extremely empowered, independent, and strong. I felt like I was talking to one of my besties. Our conversation was comfortable, fun, and educational. O’Grady opened my eyes and taught me that it’s healthier to feel your emotions rather than bottle them up and find distractions. She left me feeling motivated to enjoy being on board and to take the time to let creativity grow in that area of doing nothing. All Breakups are hard and if anyone needs help navigating through it and wants to talk to someone, I strongly recommend Dr. Shannon O’Grady.

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