I Accidentally Deleted 40,000 Photos On My Phone & It Was Actually A Good Thing

Note: This post is the third post of a year-long series that you can read more about at the end of this post.

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of the English countryside, slightly tipsy from wine, sobbing hysterically, having accidentally locked yourself out of your iPhone and having to delete all 40,000 photos on your phone in order to get yourself back in? No? Just me. OK, that's fair. But that moment was, weirdly, unexpectedly the moment that defined my slightly messy April.

So, yes, April was a bit of a mess for me. But not necessarily in a bad way — just in a so-busy-I-can't-quite-catch-my-breath-but-also-I'm-happy kind of way. The type of way that one minute you're looking at your calendar saying, "Man, how is it April already?" and the next you're looking at you're calendar saying the same thing about May, realizing that all you have to show for April is that one time you went to England and completely lost your shit in a cottage in the woods because you had no phone or social media access. OK, again. Last one is just me. So here's the thing about my April set of non-goal goals — a thing that keeps appearing in my life this year as I work on, well, me: Even though I didn't have time to look for something to focus on that would make me happier, that thing found me, anyway. Here's how.

One of the most unbelievable parts of my already extremely fun job is that sometimes (rarely, but sometimes) I get to go on trips with brands. Sometimes that brand is a hair sponsor of Miss USA and I suddenly find myself at a Pit Bull performance in Las Vegas. Other times, like this past April, it's a hair care brand that's developed in England and I end up in, you guessed it, England. In any case (although Pit Bull is, of course, always a plus), I live for these type of trips. Free travel is one of greatest, most indulgent things in life. So I try to enjoy every second.

I was in England, enjoying learning about the science that goes into haircare and the stunning countryside hotel we were staying at when one night at dinner, my thumb print stopped working on my phone. So in between conversations and sips of wine, I went to reset my thumb print. In order to do that, I found that I had to reset my 6-digit password. So I did. I almost immediately realized that, in doing so during said conversation and sips of wine, I hadn't really paid attention to what I had reset it to. And, so, as is usually the case when something goes slightly wrong and I am four glasses of Pinot Grigio into the evening, I started to panic. What I didn't realize at the time was that once you get your password wrong 10 times, you are locked out. Forever. 

There is literally nothing — no phone number, no help desk, no Genuis Bar, nothing that can get you back in the phone without wiping it and starting from scratch. Luckily, if you're a person with your life together, you probably have backed up your iPhone's contacts and photos on iCloud or iTunes. Or both! In that case, you're good. It'll take a while, but you'll get all your info back. I, however, hadn't done that in about six months. So, well, you can guess what happens next. I had to start over! Well, for the most part, anyway. I was able to save about 200 photos (unclear why those 200 survived, but I'll take what I can get) and contacts, but everything else simply disappeared. 

Every app, every photo, every video. Gone. Poof. But this, what I've know come to only refer to as "The Reckoning," really wasn't what threw me through a loop. Yes, I'm sad about the lost photos — but there are other photos, similar photos. There is Facebook and my boyfriend's phone and everything I've ever posted on Instagram. What really shook me was the five hours that I could not access my phone. I had one bar of Wifi on my laptop, so I was still able to figure out how to even get my phone back and talk to my boyfriend and friends as I freaked out. But still, the idea that I would be totally without my phone (and a camera, and social media) for hours or days sent me into a borderline panic attack. Let me just be clear: This is not a fun thing to admit. Even mid-freak out I still was horrified that it was affecting me so much. It's embarrassing to anticipate an event and feel anxiety that you won't be able to document it via photo or social media.

I felt cut off from so much of the connection that dictates my day-to-day life. Because, like it or not, the truth is that whatever I do, I share. The idea of doing something (especially if that something was spending my days on a very Instagrammable English estate) and not sharing it felt flat-out bizarre. I felt unsettled, anxious — like something was wrong. But was anything really wrong? Of course not. And isn't that just anxiety in a sentence? Knowing nothing is technically wrong, but still not being able to shake the feeling that something really is?

Again, it's worth emphasizing that this is not a cool thing to realize even inwardly, let alone admit to others. But, this year is about being vulnerable and etc. etc. so, I can say — I have to say: when it comes to my phone, I'm a little bit addicted.

And just like that, there it was — what I wanted to work on for April. The sheer panic-spiral I got in the second I was detached from my phone was all I needed to signal to myself that I had to find a better balance with my phone. It's not that my phone makes me inherently unhappy, but not being intentional with it ultimately does. And this is something that I've found in so many things this year: no intention, no growth. Period. And so I slowly, but surely began to change some things. Not all of these are things that I am perfect at, but I have started to slowly implement them into my life and it's made a huge difference.

1. I Don't Use My Phone In Bed

I always used to put my phone on airplane mode before I went to sleep, but I would still scroll on my phone before I went to sleep — mindlessly responding to Instagram DMs and liking photos. Now, 90 percent of the time I turn my phone on airplane mode as soon as I climb in bed. I make an effort to either talk to Jake or read before I sleep now, and not only do I fall asleep faster, but I swear I wake up feeling more rested. It also prevents me from Googling things that make me anxious or getting caught in the Instagram comparison spiral. 

2. I Don't Look At Social Media Before I Leave The House In The Morning

This one has been a little harder. I used to always turn off my alarm (also on my phone, of course) in the morning and open Instagram without thinking. I would immediately reply to DMs or scroll through for a minute or two. When I stopped doing this, I not only saved a ridiculous time in the morning (seriously, everything goes faster) but I get out of bed more quickly and get less distracted as I'm starting my day.

3. I Take Time To Engage On Social Media Instead Of Mindlessly Scrolling

This goes back to a post I wrote last month about learning to feel good about social media again. The number one thing I've used about social media this year is to question why exactly you're using it. April was busy for me and I frequently was distracted, so the phone debacle was a wake up call I needed to bring intention back into things. This meant really engaging with people on social, rather than just mindlessly scrolling. I now take specific time to go through social and share/comment on the things I love, rather than just doing it whenever I happen to be mindlessly scrolling.

4. I Make Myself Do One Thing A Week Without My Phone

This probably seems ridiculous, right? The thing is though, that when you're trying to grow a platform that is built on creating content, sharing your work/life, and connecting with people through social, finding a balance between creating said content and, well, not sharing anything is sometimes hard to find. Am I going to go on a trip anytime soon and not bring my iPhone? No. But I try to at least do one thing a week now without my phone. It helps me re-center, be more present, and feel more comfortable being disconnected.

5. I Plan Grid Posts At Certain Times A Day & I Post At Certain Times A Day

This is another thing I probably only do 85% of the time, and when I'm less regimented/more busy, it is harder to stick to. But in general, I try to only plan and post Instagram posts during my commute to work in the morning and evening. A lot of living in New York is finding depth and meaning in the annoying parts. For me, that's my commute. Planning posts, captions, hashtags, and scheduling posts during these times makes them feel a little bit more productive. And, more importantly, it prevents me from interrupting real life, connecting, moments, dinners, conversations with rushing through a post or caption. If I want to post in real time content, there's Instagram stories! And if not, that's OK, too. 

Social media is tricky. Phones are tricky. Finding a balance that works for you when so much of your job is connected to social sometimes feels impossible. But it isn't. It just requires some work. And, like so many other things, intention.

This year, I'm spending each month focusing on one small thing. No numerical goals. No specific bench-markers or numbers to hit. Just one small thing each month. This is month three, and post four.

Read about why I'm doing this for 2018 here (January).

Read my February recap here.

Read my March recap here

Olivia Muenter