This Is What Happens When You Quit Social Media for 40 Days

There was a day in 2013 where I impulsively deleted all of my social media accounts. Upon the release of Spike Jonze’s sentient digital romance opus, Her, the idea of getting the hierarchy of human needs met by a computer freaked me out to the Nth degree. An hour after exiting the theater, I suspended every account I owned. That was 2013. A year later, assuaged by friends, I dipped a toe back in the online water via the launch of a new Instagram handle. My voyeuristic fixation on the idea of real life parading as a filtered work of art remained intact. I had come to view social platforms as theater-in-the-round—a live performance based loosely on true events.

My new feed routinely featured photos of myself jumping on hotel room beds or swimming in pools I do not own. It was reborn as a branded aesthetic. When an editor challenge to ghost from social media completely for 30 consecutive days was proposed at our offices, I tossed my hat in the ring with a cavalier “Make it 40.”

I quietly toggled my profile to private mode on a random Monday night in June, set a calendar alarm for the end of my digital Lent, and told no one. The first step to overcoming an addiction is admitting you have a problem. I brazenly glazed over that part with the assurance my personal social accounts were a complete disconnect from real life. Indeed, I was slightly bummed at the prospect of not watching Caroline Vreeland eat carbs in real time on Snapchat (internet gold). I knew I would miss being spoon-fed inspiration by my favorite tastemakers on Instagram. Mostly, I thought going off social platforms would be a relief. Checking the river of posts was a chore. I took on the assignment with the staunch goal of penning an essay on the triviality of social media. I wanted proof the addiction wasn’t all that real. This is not that essay.