Are you considering quitting social media? I did and here’s what I learned.
Do you find yourself scrolling through social media feeds while watching TV, sitting on the train, sipping coffee in a cafe or waiting in the doctor’s surgery?
Have you ever considered whether you go online intentionally or is it more out of a habit, maybe boredom or just to satisfy the urge to remove those annoying ticks and notifications on your iPhone?
While you’re scrolling do you habitually compare yourself and your life to others’? Your thoughts go something along the lines; ‘I need to change my life, my career is a shambles, I can’t afford that holiday, I want more – clothes, shoes, good friends and love.’
Ironically, I was inspired to do my own social media detox while scrolling aimlessly through my Facebook feed. Or maybe it was Instagram…or perhaps Twitter. I don’t remember where I stumbled on the article or who wrote it but phrases like ‘you’ll be happier’ and ‘you’ll feel free’ gave my index finger cause for pause during its 7.30am autopilot scroll. You know the one – vanilla latte in one hand, phone in the other, head down walking to work hoping no one will bump into you?
Scroll. Blink. Yawn. Scroll…reasons to quit social media
Like every other morning, somehow 48 minutes flew by. I was in my bed. Then I was suddenly at work. During this time, I read about women with ‘perfect’ eyebrows, marveled at several #nofilter pics and liked @HealthyHappyGirly2017’s aesthetically pleasing bowl of oatmeal with blueberries. I was also notified that my ex-boyfriend had purchased a puppy with his new girlfriend. Note to self: remember to activate ‘see fewer posts like these’.
Of course, social media can be used for brilliant things. Truly brilliant – such as staying in touch with loved ones, sharing happy memories and networking to grow your business.
But how much social media is too much?
No matter how good it is, if you were to eat triple chocolate gelato all day, every day you’d start to feel a little off.
Alternatively, if you were to sweat it out in the gym Monday through Sunday without rest days, you’d wind up pretty tired.
So, what’s the negative effect of exposing yourself to too much social media? Aside from aching thumbs and sore eyes, more serious side effects include insomnia and increased anxiety and depression. According to Dr Paula Durlofsky, the aimless scroll encourages irrational comparisons and a delusional sense of normality. Yikes.
Social media reflects highly curated versions of our friends’ and acquaintances’ lives. I know this (in theory) but this doesn’t stop me from comparing their highlight reel with my ‘daily hustle’. And, of course, by definition my hustle never meets the heady heights of a highlight reel.
The real problem is, it’s not real.
Why I decided to take a social media break
It’s not just a morning phenomenon; at 3am I find myself in bed scrolling aimlessly through my feed – I know that I will be exhausted in the morning and grumpy all day. Despite the side effects, I persevere – that bright blue light scroll is addictive. A catchy headline convinces me to consume the next article –
‘You never know’, I tell myself, ‘it might be the answer to all your problems.’
It was during one of these midnight scrolling sessions that I decided something had to give. Enough was enough.
I was pouring precious hours into a virtual black hole – consuming irrelevant misinformation and (mostly) trivial crap. I knew I could and should be using my time more wisely, rather than Facebook stalking and gawking at people, people I don’t even know, pixelated, resting in my hand.
So, just as somebody might give up drinking or smoking at the drop of a hat, I deleted all my social media accounts, cold turkey.
I’m quitting social media. ‘Looooord help me’, I thought.
I deleted all my social media accounts
‘I’ll detox for one month’, I told myself. No Facebook, no Instagram, no Twitter, no Snapchat, no dating apps. Nada. I told my friends, ‘If you need me, call me.’
I was excited to embrace a version of myself that would be, as the article promised, more content, more present, less anxious. But as I stared at my lifeless, empty phone a surge of panic set in. I wondered, ‘will I feel lonely and disconnected?’ ‘Will I miss an important event?’
I kept a diary to record the ups and downs and pledged to write something each day for 30 days.
Here’s how it played out.
My life without social networking
My phone (and life) feels bare. I wonder what everyone is doing…Did my old school friends go out last night? Did my second cousin sleep through his alarm and record it via a witty snapchat? What did Kayla Itsines eat for breakfast today? I should check to see whether that nice lady (I don’t remember her name) I met at Sarah’s dinner party last summer had her baby – I wonder if it is a boy or a girl…
This commute is endless!
I have a lot of time to think. This isn’t so bad. Social media is quite tragic, really.
My phone battery lasts so much longer! I don’t need to remember to take my charger with me to work – one less thing to forget.
I’m enjoying this. It’s genuinely refreshing.
I’m chatting to my friends and family more. I have started to enjoy my commute – I’m more aware of the people around me and the scenery zipping by. People watching is totally under-rated.
Maybe I’ll never sign on to social media again…
Today, I’m fighting the urge to download Tinder. I should really be putting myself out there if I want to meet new people.
Urge diffused. I can meet people the old fashioned way.
I’m checking the Met Office weather app more than usual.
I’m getting through my reading list and feeling more productive.
Who am I connected with online and what do I hope to get out of these ‘relationships’?
By participating in social media, what am I trying to prove to myself and to the world? That I have a good life? That I am worth be-friending? That my photos and updates are worthy of ‘likes’?
Do I need this constant external validation? I never used to, why now?
Usually if I set myself a task, I always complete it. But on day eight, as I read back on my detox diary I realised that I no longer missed social media. I felt quite happy without my Instagram fix and I no longer fought the urge to check my phone for Facebook updates or Snapchat notifications. I felt empowered to decide when I would go online and for how long.
The benefits of quitting social media
Other benefits I experienced from tapping out of the virtual world for a week included better sleep, increased productivity and increased phone battery life. I also felt accomplished and fulfilled for getting through books I’d been meaning to read for years, like Matt Haig’s Reasons To Stay Alive – it’s simply astounding, a must-read.
Others who also undertook some form of social media detox felt the following benefits:
‘After day five of quitting social media I totally got it: I don’t have to constantly keep up with what I am exposed to online – having more, being more, achieving more and all the time being thinner with a nice ass and better hair. It doesn’t matter. None of it.
Does it matter or affect my relationships with my partner, family, friends or work colleagues whether I am up to date on my socials? Nope. I need to put time into what matters and to be present with the people who I have real connections and relationships with.
I am never going to look back on my life, or on my year, and think, I wish that I had spent more time online. By day ten I felt completely empowered.
I am in control of what I do and when, and I have the confidence to be online and not addicted.’
‘My productivity, attention span and clarity of thought all increased greatly with living without social media for a month.’
‘Leaving social media behind for a while can give you the space you need to stop obsessing and actually move on with your life.’
Life after my 7-day social media detox
I didn’t want all of the ‘quitting social media’ good go to waste, so although I’m technically ‘back on’ social media now, I’ve certainly learnt some handy ways to ensure I scroll in moderation.
- I’ve deleted my Facebook app from my phone, so now I only log in when I really want to, rather than having those tempting notifications throughout the day, and to prevent that ‘aimless scroll.’
- I say no to social media past 8pm! Instead, I am enjoying snuggling up with a book. This helps me sleep better.
- I keep my phone on the other side of the room when I go to bed. This prevents the anxious 3am article reading / email checking.
- I put my phone onto airplane mode when I’m on the train during my commute. Instead of stalking people’s Instagram accounts and wasting my data, I sit back, listen to music and enjoy a nice snack.
I honestly can’t recommend a 7-day detox enough. It is a great way to enhance real relationships and it is a fabulous way to think, relax and get excited about the future. The real future.
Forget the juice cleanse, try a 7-day social media detox with the help of these tools
If you decide to embark on your own 7-day detox, here are a few helpful tools to keep you on track.
StayFocusd Chrome Extension – This is the ideal tool if you use Google Chrome as your web browser. This tool restricts the amount of time you can spend on particular websites. Once your allotted time has been used up, the sites you have blocked will be inaccessible for the rest of the day.
Self Control App – this is similar to StayFocused, but works all browsers.
Facebook News Feed Eradicator Chrome Extension – this tool limits your Facebook usage by removing the News Feed and replacing it with a quote.
OurPact – This tool blocks social media apps on your phone! It’s designed for parents to control their kids phone usage, but it’s also great for adults who have limited self-control in the aimless scrolling department…this worked well for me!
Are you curious to see what would happen if you quit social media? There are compelling reasons to give it up, but is quitting social media actually possible in your line of work?
Does quitting social media make you happier?