Eighteen days.

That’s how many days I have gone without “liking,” “posting,” “commenting,” “tagging,” “reacting,” “following/unfollowing,” or “tweeting/retweeting” something on social media, and it feels awesome.

It amazes me how silently and effortlessly social media can shape and take over your life.

Everywhere you turn, if you so happen to be looking up for a change, people — of all ages — are either talking, texting or fidgeting with their phones. They have become another appendage and when it stops working, panic ensues.

I knew the “cold turkey” approach to going off the social media grid was going to have its challenges, but I didn’t realize how it would affect my kids. For the first few days they took it harder than I did, believe it or not.

There were tears and tantrums because I wouldn’t let them take pictures and play with various “filters” or watch sped-up recipe videos. They were so used to seeing me with my cellphone in hand that it kind of blew their minds when I suddenly didn’t have it.

Technology has some wonderful benefits and I would never argue against the responsible use of it.

However, that being said, it is becoming increasingly obvious that our world is developing an unhealthy attachment to it. For example, according to the Pew Research Center — a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world — 84 percent of cellphone users claim they could not go a single day without their device; 67 percent of cellphone owners check their phone for messages, alerts or calls — even when they don’t notice their phone ringing or vibrating. Studies indicate some mobile device owners check their devices every 6.5 minutes and my personal favorite, some researchers have begun labeling “cellphone checking” as the new yawn because of its contagious nature.

This “fear of missing out,” or FOMO as the millennials have coined it, has been recognized as a recently emerging psychological disorder brought on by the advance of technology. The premise is simple: Our social media streams are ever-filled with everything happening all around us. Nowadays, we even see what our friends are doing live. Within this constant stream of notification, our fear of being left out continues to grow, an even better reason to power down.

At first, it was weird to wake up and not check out my various social media accounts, because it has become second nature. Instead, I put the phone away in my night stand and started my day. As I was putting the phone away, for a few seconds I felt this weird magnetic connection to it and wanted to pick it back up, but as soon as I shut the drawer, it was like I severed the connection.

During this technological fast, I learned something about myself. I learned I am far more addicted to technology than I would have guessed. As is the nature of addiction, we can never fully realize our level of our addiction until the item is taken away. For me, the only way to truly discover technology’s controlling influence on my life has been to turn it off, walk away and sense how strong the pull is to turn it back on.

The longer I go without constantly checking my phone, the easier it gets. Obviously my phone is still accessible, because at the end of the day I am still trying to sell this house and need to keep an ear out for a phone call from our agent, but other than that, the phone has been out of sight and, honestly, out of mind.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been times when I was tempted to kill time on various apps, like waiting for our names to be called during an emergency room visit or when I couldn’t sleep, but not being able to access social media has forced me to be more present and find alternate ways to amuse myself.

When I first made the announcement that I was “logging off,” I’m pretty sure I broke the Internet. I was flooded with emails, messages and texts from friends either begging me to reconsider, cheering me on or letting me know I inspired them to also take a step back from over-sharing with the world.

Honestly, I thought this would be a lot more difficult, but it’s been so liberating. I’m sleeping better at night, the pain in my thumb (from how I would hold the phone and scroll) is gone and my overall mood has improved.

It’s so refreshing to not be plugged in and know so much about what’s going on in other people’s lives. It sounds funny to say that, but it’s true. Instead of wasting time looking at other people’s lives and allowing it to affect me, I’m investing more into my own life.

So what have I been up to now that I have so much spare time on my hands? I’m reading real books again, organizing, purging and cleaning my house so I can totally own this PCS move and, as crazy as this may sound, just sitting still with nothing in my hand and enjoying the sound of my kids sleeping.

Life, at its best, is happening right in front of you. Our world may be changing, after all we managed to elect a celebrity as president, but the true nature of life is not. These experiences will never repeat themselves.

These conversations are unfiltered and authentic, but if we are too busy staring down at a screen, we are going to miss it and you can’t rewind real life.

Vanessa Lynch is an Army spouse, mother and a former metro editor for the Killeen Daily Herald.

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