Logging out: The social media detox

Early on a Saturday morning, just after midnight, I signed myself out of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat and hit delete.

This is the start of a five-day social media detox, to free up my time and mind, and see what effect logging off could have on my life.

The impact is immediately clear. After messaging friends to let them know I'd be offline, I wake up to a panicked text asking if I was okay - it's the first clue that disengaging from social media, while on the rise, is in no way the norm.

It felt like something I needed to try. The conviction was strongest when lying in bed, losing track of time and then finding myself hundreds of photos deep in the Instagram explore page, looking at pictures of Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner and Parisian models, my eyes dried out from scrolling.

So for five days I will do without - no social media, no apps to tempt me, and no interaction with my phone other than texts and phone calls.

Day one: With no newsfeed to check, I get out of bed earlier than usual, and it makes for a long day ahead. At a cafe, I wait for a friend, stuck for something to do until she arrives. Once there, I want to show her photographs of someone I'm crushing on, and I can't, because I can't access Instagram. How did people do this before social media?

That evening I meet friends at a bar. I can't scroll through my phone, so when there's a lull in conversation I'm forced to be more present, leaning in instead of tuning out. I take a photo of my friend because she looked cute, but I can't share it, so I jokingly pass my phone around so people could 'like' my photo in real life. Later that night, I have a friend send a Snapchat of us to a friend overseas, which is definitely cheating.

Day two: I wake up early, read the newspaper, go to the fruit and vegetable market, and read some of my book. Mostly, the day passed by without me really thinking about social media at all and enjoying the feeling of being relatively uncontactable.

But by the afternoon I'm bored. I watch two movies. I'm texting people a lot more throughout the day, which feels super old school and like a throwback to high school.

Day three: At work my colleagues are laughing at memes but I can't look at them. I feel lonely, I wish I could laugh again. One of them brings their phone over and forces me to look at the meme on Facebook. I swear I tried to stop them.

Just hours later, Facebook starts sending me emails - somehow they've clocked that I haven't been active on the platform. Creepy.

I'm still reaching for my phone a few times a day, before remembering that there's little I can do on it. I miss Instagram - throwing out likes, watching random people's stories. I don't miss Twitter though - it's quite pleasant tuning out of the world's problems for a while.

Day four: Another email from Facebook. I'm feeling calmer at work, because I'm not obsessively checking Twitter for news or to see what politicians were saying. Admittedly I'm probably not doing my job as well as a result.

I've found I'm reading more at night - actual books, not online articles - which I always plan to do but tend to just check Twitter and Instagram for hours instead.

Day five: It's my last day of social media isolation and my feelings are conflicted. I've been waking up earlier than usual and actually getting to work on time, which has been nice.

But I'm feeling very out of the loop. I want to go on Instagram, I want to send stupid photos with funny voices on Snapchat, I have no idea what's cool or what people are mad about.

I have a sense of reluctance to let go of my newly found inner peace, but an anticipation to see everything I've missed out on. It's time to return online and be reachable again.

The return: I'm back online. I had a bunch of notifications including from a group chat with 105 messages, but to be honest nothing very exciting was waiting for me. There were memes circulating that I didn't understand, and I went on a liking spree on Instagram probably creeping people out by liking photos from five days ago. It's good to be back in the loop.

But I'll miss waking up to and going to sleep beside a quiet phone, and going about my day without the constant itch of needing to check what's happening online.

It turns out a tech detox can clear your mind, and yet that itch to check social media never really goes away.