Do you ever feel like social media is weighing you down?
Back in May I started to get The Feeling. The seeping, creeping feeling only social media can provide.
Checking my Instagram feed constantly. Absent-mindedly scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed. Documenting my life on Instagram’s Stories. Refreshing Twitter, trying to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Feeling pressure to post, use hashtags, and build my platform. Seeing others’ posts – friends, family, and acquaintances – and wondering if I matter to them.
Oof. I was sailing through life on autopilot and I didn’t realize it until that last thought popped into my head. Do I matter to these people?
Just thinking that thought twisted my stomach into knots. Do I matter to them?
When I couldn’t come up with an answer, the words came into my brain faster than I could say net neutrality: I’m going off of social media in the month of June.
So of course I Tweeted about it.
The idea of a detox was both exciting and terrifying. I clearly needed a break from it: it was causing me a fair amount of emotional distress. But on the flip side, I’m trying to build a brand. I just launched a podcast. I’m planning on writing a book in the next couple of years. Would taking a month away from my feed hurt my presence?
I decided I didn’t really care. If this was someone else, I’d be encouraging them to throw all of those ‘what ifs’ to the wind. Sometimes, you have to do you.
On May 31 I downloaded an app on my phone that would prevent me from opening any apps or websites I designated, and got the same extension for my browser.
The adjustment was tough
The first morning, I went to open Instagram at least five times before 8:30. FIVE TIMES. By day eleven the urge to open any social media app was gone, because I’d replaced it with a different distraction: games and the news. Solitaire, Freecell, Spider Solitaire, Rummy 500, Scrabble…An improvement over the pressure I was putting on myself about social media, but not exactly the unplugged existence I was picturing. Over the course of the month my preoccupation with games wore off, thankfully.
Time seemed to slow down
Instead of feeling like time was constantly slipping away, I felt like it was in abundance. Without all of the scrolling, posting, and planning, I’d apparently freed up a lot of time.
I started to wonder about the people I enjoy following on social media
Some were actual friends, some were long distance internet friends, and some were people I followed quietly from a distance. What were they up to? What was going on with them? It was a good reminder to get my head out of the phone and into the real world: to spend actual time with my people.
I’m more in the moment
I don’t mean living a carefree spontaneous life, but when something happens I’m fully invested in the moment. Whether it’s my dog doing something EXCESSIVELY cute or a car running a stop sign and trying to kill me, the outside world has my full attention. I’m not distracted and I don’t reach for my phone and start recording or take a photo just for the gram. Nine times out of 10, I forget I even have my phone and the option to document a moment. When I do reach for my phone to take a photo, I find that I end up with pictures I actually want to look back at instead of dozens of pictures I took for the sake of sharing. I jokingly asked my husband, “If you take a picture but you don’t share it with anyone, doesn’t it even really exist?”
I’m more in tune with my thoughts
Less time looking at my phone for big chunks of time has inevitably meant more time spent inside my own head. I’m already a really introspective, inquisitive person, and more quiet contemplation has let me get a better handle on what I’m feeling, thinking, and why. I’m still a complicated human being, but I feel more level headed. It’s been helpful for navigating the gut churning, “Do I matter?” question.
Where I am now
Two thirds of the way into my social media detox I started to wonder if I even wanted to go back. With all of the good stuff I gained in the first three weeks, I was feeling loath to revert back to my old ways. Then my thoughts went to my “platform.” What about your book? Your podcast? Your writing? The people you want to help? Can you get a book deal if you’re not a social media superstar influencer with 798k followers and 17 posts a week? No, not really. But my podcast and my writing don’t depend on my platform. I control those entirely. If I want to say it or write it, I can post it. I don’t need anyone’s approval or endorsement. And hey, if people like it and find it useful? That’s what I need more than anything else.
If nothing else, my month away reminded me of what I’m on this planet to do: write and help people.