And now, a thing that only a Millennial could say with both narcissistic pride and sadistic pleasure: I just took almost a full month off of the Internet. (AND LIVED.)
I quit all of my most potent Web thangs — Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Gmail — for a whole 14 days, most of which were spent wandering around the mountains of northern Vietnam. I spent another 1.5-ish weeks slowly getting back online. Before my digital detox, I was terrified, ashamed of my terror, and dehydrated. But mostly, I was tired.
I don’t get no sleep cuz-a y’all
I was tired of getting on the Instagram hamster wheel, losing a shit ton of time, and walking away exhausted thinking of all the things I’m not doing. I was tired of jogging through my Facebook feed and doing emotional leaps from new-baby joy to political outrage to Share This And Type ~~Amen~~ For GOD’S BLESSINGS!!!!!!! in a matter of 15 seconds.
And I was tired of looking around at any given social situation and feeling like just another phone drone, staring at a rectangle in my palm and effing up my posture while fully ignoring, y’know, the whole actual world in front of me.
Spoiler: It was obnoxiously life-changing.
I might bore the shit out of you with all of my emotional findings in another post, but to summarize: It was real fucking necessary, and real fucking transformative. It was like soul surgery with an ego liposuction and an inner-voice boob job. The joyful and painful things I learned (from my own finally-quiet insides!) are already changing my daily life for the better, and I plan on doing it every 3 months.
I hear all y’all going, “Ugh. I need to do that one of these days.” My only regret is that I didn’t do this sooner. Stop making excuses, friend. This is Millennial self-care at its best.
If this is something you want to do, here’s exactly how I did it.
How to Quit the Internet (Temporarily), HeyBerna Style
Before your break:
- Plan for your break to last at least 10 days. I’ve taken shorter breaks, and they were fine. 14 days is my longest, and it was holy shit yes.
- Plan this break at least 6 weeks in advance, and block that shit out on your calendar as if it’s a whole vacation on an island with no electricity or running water. Let work know. Let friends and family know. Defend that time like you’d defend an all-inclusive bachelorette to Tahiti.
- Spend 10 minutes thinking about why you want to take this break, and come up with a short Because sentence. Is it because social media makes you feel insecure and crazy? Is it because Pokemon Go is shitting on your social life? Mine was: I want to take this break because I’m tired of always thinking about productivity, about achievement, about what I can do and make for other people. This will help you in your weakest, but-my-phone-is-right-there moments.
- Draw up detailed rules and boundaries for what you can do (Hell Yeahs) and cannot do (Hell No’s) during your break — and start with the Hell No’s first, because chances are they’ll sort of freak you out.
My Digital Detox Hell No’s:
- No social media. Ever. No Instagram, no Facebook, no Twitter, and not even the side-shit that I never use, like Pinterest and Tumblr. And by no, I mean, mother-effing hard no: Delete the whole app, log all the way off, create browser blockers using Chrome plug-ins like Timewarp, and never, ever, ever peek or cheat.
- No self-help shit. No self-improvement books, blogs, podcasts, niente. I was giving my poor working brain a vacation. I didn’t want to consume anything that would inspire me to hustle; nothing that would make me think, “Ooh! You know what I should do to make myself eEeEvEn BetTer…?!”
- No creating. No blogs, no videos, no scripts, no posts. This was hard as shit, but necessary. I didn’t stop myself if the impulse came to write out my feelings about something, but I did stop the second my brain started going, “And here’s how I’d format this into a blog post / video script / Instagram caption…” SKRRRRRT. Anything I did was for me, and me only.
- No to-do lists. No lists at all. Jiminy H. Cricket the Third, this was a hard, too. But again, I needed a time-out for my inner taskmaster. If you’re like me, the second I start making a list, this rabid “What’s the most efficient way I can do the most things” meth gerbil starts running around my brain and flipping unmarked switches and touching shit. I needed no directives, no plans, no lists.
- No making any long-lasting decisions about my life or my work. My goal for this break was to finally do nothing: Make nothing, create nothing, lead nothing, and decide nothing. I needed that break because my brain felt deep-fried. So I trusted that if I gave myself some actual quiet time, I might have some internal wisdom hiding that could help me confidently make decisions later.
It’s like losing a rabbit in a mansion: You just need to sit down and shut the hell up for a second. Then maybe, slowly, wisdom will come crawling out to find you.
And, equally as important, my Digital Detox Hell Yeah’s:
- Yeah to reading fiction. So much motha-effing fiction.
- Yeah to podcasts that have nothing to do with my “work,” my “craft,” or even money. Yes to the ghost story, Greek mythology, pop-culture-draggy ones.
- Yeah to journaling my ass off. Daily. Hourly.
- Yeah to listening to old & new music, and dancing around braless/pantsless/f**kless.
- Yeah to loving on Peter. Listening to him better. Additionally, yes to more real-life conversations with strangers in Hanoi.
- Yeah to Skyping your friends and family for hours and hours.
- Yeah to finally cutting and deep-moisturizing my hair with stuff from Vietnamese grocery stores. Yes to spa days. Several spa days in a row.
- Yeah to sleeping when you’re actually tired.
- Yeah to doing as much Yoga with Adriene as your body will allow.
- Hell motha-friggin’ yeah to finding a digital detox buddy. I told my best friend, she joined the cause, and knowing she was goin’ through it thousands of miles away made this feel less like prison and more like a Very Good Thing.
During your break:
- Write your future self a letter. You’re doing this for you, and no one else — writing a letter to your post-break self is almost like signing a pact with yourself that you’re in this thang, foreal. Also? So effing fun to read it afterwards. Growth, baby.
- Delete the apps. It isn’t enough to trust that you’ll avoid the Bad Tings; take them out of your world entirely. The world won’t end. You can download them again. You’ll have desperate moments; don’t give yourself a chance to cheat.
- Use a browser blocker for websites. I used TimeWarp to make it so that whenever I tried to even type in Facebook, Instagram or Gmail, I got this:
And juuust one final post-break rule:
Make a re-entry plan that is very, very nice to your lil’ heart. Do not plan on just getting right back on the Interwebz at 12:01am of your last digital detox day. More likely than not, you’ll need to re-enter the digital world in doses — or else every piece of peace you’ve found will foof out the window, flushed out by your old bad habits.
My break officially lasted 14 days, but was purposely vague in telling folks when I’d be back online, so no one would be knocking on my door on day 15, when my head is still full of coconut milk and meditation mantras. Around the end of the month, I said. And the kicker? No one gave a shit. Everyone was supportive. Everyone said, “That’s dope, I support it, take your time, holler when you’re ready to talk again.”
Giving myself a solid week after my break to go slow, to use the Internet again in teeny pieces each day — plus using the Moment app to limit my phone usage to 90 minutes per day — are the sole reasons I still feel peaceful and in control weeks later. It gave me a chance to start better habits while my brain was quiet, before my old, ratchet ones crashed the party.
And come October, when I’ll be doing this all again? If you need a digital detox buddy, let. Me. Know. (Seriously).