Why did I take 1 month off social media? As my social media screentime increased this year, I noticed a deterioration in my mental wellbeing. Now, I am not here to bash social media. Social media, when used correctly can inspire and connect people. During the lockdown, I started doing the workbook, The Artist Way by Julia Cameron. This involved journalling as soon as I woke up every morning. Three pages of brain dumping whatever came to mind. When I was reading back through some of my journalling, I noticed a common theme when I was having a bad day/week. My social media consumption was higher than usual.
Why Go Offline?
I have been trying to reduce my screentime since the start of the year. However, these apps are designed to be addictive. They have infinite scroll feeds that constantly refresh with new content to keep you on the platforms longer so they can sell to you/keep you off competitor apps. These companies have developers who design these apps to purposefully target vulnerabilities in our brains to motivate action, oftentimes without us even knowing it. We leak accessibility with these apps and can be accessed around the clock by anyone at any time.
It can take 21 days to create a new habit and 90 days to make it a permanent one.
So, I decided to remove these completely from my phone and go cold turkey for one month.
Here are just some of the things I noticed when my screentime was high.
- Reduced concentration and a racing mind.
- My attention span was lower and my ability to focus on something long term was harder.
- Comparison and feelings of loneliness.
- Absorbing others energy and dramas as if they were my own.
- Disruption, the habit of picking up my phone and checking it.
- Information overload, my brain felt fried, whether it was a stream of funny cat videos or a political video. I couldn’t absorb any more info.
- Increased anxiety, especially with fake news and clickbait headline articles.
Just like the fashion industry and its fast-fashion culture, I noticed a trend over the past few years to fast content. The rising pressure to constantly be updating feeds, creating new content, to being accessible online every day can be exhausting. When we log on to our feeds we want to see new content, new articles and new ideas.
Hustle culture was widely encouraged with Gary Vee saying, “I’ve been really lucky because I bleed out of my eyes every day and work my fucking face off”. Now, I am a fan of Gary Vee, I have read some of his books and even seen him speak at a conference. I love his no bullshit attitude. However, I wish I had found the voices that promoted self-care and the dangers of emotional burnout when I was consuming his content.
Before we went into lockdown I was under pressure with work. I felt relief the day the government announced the closing of the country because I was mentally exhausted. The 1st two weeks of lockdown were great, I was able to finally catch up on jobs around the house, empty my mind and rest. However, when I was scrolling online and checking in on my accounts, I would log back out and feel the pressure. I was watching some of my fellow creators using their newfound time wisely. Some were creating and launching courses or digital products, others were increasing video uploads and doing live streams. I could barely do the minimum. I was so happy for them but at the same time, I felt why am I not doing that? I went from working two jobs to none and all I wanted to do was watch Tiger King.
We all share our highlight reel on social media, myself included. I keep my bad days and intimate chats for the people around me. It is good to remember that we only see a tiny fraction of what someone wants us to see at that given moment. There is no right or wrong to this either. I believe you should share what makes you happy and what you love. However, I know when I am consuming content that it is only a small part and not the full picture.
I have learned a lot about how I work this year. One of the big learns has been to work in seasons, to see what season I am in with a project. That it is unfair to compare my Autumn season to someone’s Summer. Creativity needs a rest too.
Cancel Culture and Spilling The Tea
A common theme I am seeing online for 2020 is shaming. Call-out culture reminds me of medieval times when someone would be brought to the town square and publicly beheaded for something. Now, thankfully we are not in medieval times but that same public shaming energy is still lingering. Whether people are being shamed for queuing for shops during a pandemic, to not sharing political information on their feeds. I am exhausted just seeing it all unfold.
Earlier this year we had the tragic death of Caroline Flack, the #bekind started trending on social media. A few weeks later that seemed to be forgotten about with vile comments full of shame left under peoples posts. Online hate forums increased in popularity as people sought out like-minded gossips to “spill the tea” with. Sadly I have seen some creators leave their platforms due to this level of anonymous abuse.
“Other people don’t annoy you, you annoy yourself through other people”.
What you dislike in someone is YOUR trigger, not the person you are attacking. You are annoying yourself through this person. When people start to pause when they get triggered, go inwards and find out what emotional trauma needs to be healed, I think the world will be a better place.
Its easier to shame someone for not doing something than actually looking yourself in the mirror and asking, “what is it I am not doing and want to”? Heal your shame before shaming others.
Its time more of us took responsibility for the content we consume. We have the power to mute, unfollow and not click on content that we do not enjoy. Each news feed is unique, based on the content we engage with. My news feed does not look like yours. Algorithms dictate what shows up on our feeds, based on what we interact with. If you are interacting with accounts you dislike, you will see more of them in your feed.
Also, maybe when we are triggered, why not lean into that trigger and ask why? Get the journal out when you’re feeling something. Keep asking yourself why, until you get to the root of it and then let it go. You’ll feel lighter, more self-aware and maybe you won’t be triggered by that person anymore.
The Effects Of 1 Month Off Social Media
If I am being honest, I think I could take longer offline. I love creating YouTube videos, photography and sharing them to inspire others. That was my main reason for returning but it has made me rethink how I work in the digital space.
Here are some of the benefits I noticed when I took 1 month off social media.
- My mind stopped racing within a few days.
- Anxiety decreased.
- Clarity, I got loads of creative ideas and planned out the rest of my year.
- Being present, I had better quality real-life conversations with people.
- The feeling of pressure decreased. The pressure to be seen to be doing and going places and sharing.
- Boundaries, by setting boundaries I felt I had control over my time and energy.
- Validation, I cut the habit of seeking external validation through social media.
While I was offline I rambled with my friends to different places. I even went solo to some pretty places too. As I love photography, I brought my camera with me and took beautiful images. It was nice savouring them for myself and photographing for me and not Instagram. I played with my niece and nephew too, I was present with them and not on my phone. I felt like I made some memories during a pandemic.
So, what does this mean? Am I going to quit my online work? Nope, but I am going to be more aware of how I spend my time on and offline. I am even tempted to ask my friend to change my passcode, so, when I go over my screentime I can’t access any apps until the next day. If you are a fellow creator, you do not work for social media, social media works for you. I had this realisation when I took 1 month off social media and it lifted a weight off my shoulders.
I will be back to my weekly Thursday upload schedule on my YouTube channel. I will be back using Instagram, however, I won’t be using it every day.
If like me, you are struggling with your mental wellbeing this year, please reach out and talk to a friend, therapist or doctor you trust.
Here are some useful resources:
You will find some really helpful resources on these websites.
Thank you so much for reading, if you found this post useful, please share. You may also enjoy this post, were I talk about setting boundaries.
I agree with you 100% I miss a YouTube who is no longer posting videos I searched around for her because I didn’t know why she was gone. I googled her name and came across this nasty awful forum that was posting the most horrible comments about certain you tubers. It was bullying, harassment, humiliating comments they were making. I can’t understand why people can’t be kind.
So good to see you back Catherine, what a fantastic blog though!!! Hits the nail on the head on how social media sucks us in. Well done you for taking the leap and so glad you reaped the benefits of it xx
Thanks for reading Anna, Im sorry to hear about that creator. Jealousy can turn really nasty, its easier to hate on someone than do the inner work to create the life people want. We all suffer from jealousy, but some people just go to an extreme with it. Them forums can sound like a thousand people, when most of the time its one or two people talking back and forth through fake accounts. Its really sad.
Thanks for reading Tara! Yea, I only have Insta on my phone an hour and already I see how its changed in the past month, so noisy lol!
What a wonderful insight, Catherine! Good on you! I feel like a healthy balance and checking your feelings is a great advice for going about navigating life online. Thank you for sharing your experiences. Remembering that people only share a fraction of their experiences and that story they share may not reflect their mental well-being whatsoever. I’ve been trying to only follow accounts that make me happy and if someone’s content annoys me, I just unfollow.
I’ve been trying to share positivity in my new Instagram account after all my adopted city (Bergamo) has been through. I got such pride and fulfilment from positive posts about Bergamo during lockdown and I’d like to continue the trend!
Thank you for always creating inspiring content. Your creativity and bubbly personality are infectious and your videos are a guaranteed lovely part of my week!
Brilliant piece Catherine. I took a digital detox last year for 3 months and I agree with what you’ve said. I felt like I was more ‘in the moment’ when I was out experiencing things rather than thinking ‘This would be a great photo for Instagram’ (which I’m actually ashamed to admit).
I find Instagram really inspiring particularly for home and travel inspiration and even days out, I think I use the platform more as an information tool now than before and I’m ok with that.
Boundaries are so important aren’t they, particularly someone like you who uses social media as a platform for your creativity. It’s too easy to get sucked into the rabbit hole.
I am also aware of the trends/cancel culture/general negativity that social media creates and have made it my mission to disengage with that.
I choose to follow people who inspire me (you being one of them) for being kind and authentic and for producing beautiful content.
Hope you’re keeping well and the new balance you are creating continues to work for you 🙂 xx
Catherine, this is a super read- I’m a busy man so I’ve allowed myself to have my relaxing time by being on social media but at the same the time I actually know it’s beginning to consume me and reading this has really made me feel like I need to step back and be more present here at home. Thank you (ps I do love your creativity and projects though so don’t go completely AWOL 🤣
I think the phrase I don’t work for social media- it works for me is particularly relevant. Méabh X
So glad you are back and cannot wait to see what ‘we’ will creating with you. I have just finished painting another cupboard, it was a lot of hard work but so well worth it at the end. Its standing pride and joy in my lounge / sitting room.
Because I have so few hours of ‘free’ time during the day, I limit my hours on social media, what with working 5 days a week, seeing to the family, gardening, reading, sewing and my passion for creating beautiful furniture, I have to ensure that everything is balanced, especially my health. Keep well and save safe
Loved this Catherine! xx
I love that! Love that you’ve gotten so much joy from sharing during lockdown and I’m sure it was nice to have a community benefitting from them x
Thank you for reading
Thank you so much for reading Leticia, yes, I get loads of travel inspiration from Instagram too! It can be a hidden gem when used correctly.
Have a great day sweetheart x
Thanks for reading Meabh! Yea, it can be a nice escape in the evenings after work. I find I juts get sucked in and can’t get out of it lol! So Iv to set a timer 😂
I think you will LOVE! Tomorrow’s YouTube video 😊
Thanks for reading Fiona ❤️❤️❤️
Glad to see you back Catherine. You were missed. You’re one of only a handful of accounts I click into daily as well as family and friends. This is a great blog post. I myself found I was being mentally drained with everything that was going on the last few months so I stopped clicking into shit and only looked into stuff when I wanted to. I had people adding me to groups on Facebook without my permission. They kept doing it over and over to the point I just blocked them. 🙄
It all helped as I am feeling less anxious in the last few weeks then I was at the beginning of the pandemic.
I really want to start journaling but don’t know where to start. Do you have a post or video about that?
Have a great day. 💜
It sounds like the detox has done you good. I think you forget how wrapped up in social media you become, especially when all the advice for growing a brand/ blog/ YouTube is to constantly promote. It gets tiring, especially when working full time! So important too to live in the moment sometimes, deffo create more memories that way, although I would find it hard to put the camera down- nice to look back on days out/time with family etc.
It’s great that it has got your creative flow going, can’t wait to see what you have created!
Hope you are okay,
I love this so much. I love that you honestly shared what you learned and how you felt. I think we all to practice unplugging off social media more. I know I do. Your words are wise and much needed, they always are. I have missed your videos on YouTube, and am glad you’ll be back to that soon. I also respect the your need to maybe not be on IG everyday or other social media platforms. Your channel brings joy and peace and inspiration to your subscribers and we thank you for that!!! We also respect that you need that peace as well. We love you and what you bring to the world!!! Happy to see you soon!!!!
You are such an Inspiration. Lovely to read your blog. Everything you say is so true. It’s made me thing about a few things. Think I need a few days break a week from Social Media. I’m going to do it as that is probably what is making me have sleeping probs. Take care lovely lady. Lv Julie xx💞
Missed your posts Catherine but it’s always good to take a break with everything that you do!
Lots of 💘
Hiya, thank you so much for reading, I don’t have a post on journalling, but I highly recommend the book “the artists way”. There is weekly exercised in that book and it goes on for 12 weeks. You have to journal every morning as soon as you wake up, which was hard at first but now I find it easy, great for clearing the head before starting the day.
Thank you sweetheart, I hope you are keeping well. Yes, I too have felt the pressure to be online all the time to promote blog/YouTube. I think its getting the right balance x
You are so kind sweetheart! I really appreciate that, I will be back tomorrow with a new vid, which I think you will like X
Thanks for reading Julie!Thanks for popping over to the blog! Glad you enjoyed the post x
Thank you Catherine for this blog post!
That has given me a kick to reconsider my social media & screen time activity. I knew, that it makes me anxious , angry, my mind is racing and I cannot be creative and plan my projects.
Creativity is what makes me happy, but not know…
I have neglected what is more important and wasting my time on scrolling the screen like zombie.
Fuck this , I’m taking time off!
I couldn’t agree more Catherine, I was not a fan of social media and I’m still not! I bit the bullet and finally joined Facebook and recently joined Instagram. I started a page on FB as well to sell my crafts and all that happened is I gained a bunch of followers and a bunch of insincere buyers. And most of all I gained a WHOLE BUNCH of unnecessary pressure! I love You Tube and that’s how I found you! I have learned so much about crafting new things as well as expanding my knowledge of hobbies I have been doing for years. But even YT has become so much more aggressive. Anyway you have inspired me! Coming to visit you is like going into a fairytale world! Your cottage is beautiful, your beautiful and your work is beautiful! I feel the stress just melt away when I’m visiting with you! Thank you so much for everything you share whether it be a creative lesson or chat! Take good care of yourself and be safe… ❤️ Kathryn
Well said! We all need a break and up plug! I recently had a bout of poison ivy right where my iWatch band sits on my wrist…took it off and have actually enjoyed being free of the tapping! Haven’t put it back on yet…as much as I love technology I enjoy the break. During the COVID lockdown I started watching YouTube and am happy to have found you and a few other light hearted folks! I really enjoy watching you! You’ve really inspired me! I now have an electric power washer after watching you, I could not operate our gas one on my own, pulling the cord doesn’t work for me. I also use an apron in the garden, which I completely love. Thank you! I’m looking forward to watching tomorrow, have missed you! Continue your self care!
Enjoy your break, once you re aware I find its easier to strike a balance. Its so easy to fall down the scroll hole, these apps are deigned to be addictive x
I would be lost without my garden apron now, I feel like a granny in it but its so handy. I never have pockets, so its nice to throw my phone in my apron lol.
Thanks for reading! X
I’ve missed your posts your cat and how are those hedgehogs. we probably all need some time off from social media and it sounds like it’s done you good. take care and look forward to seeing your new creativity.
I absolutely love this post Catherine, I am thinking of doing something similar. My only concern is missing out on the ‘in fashion’ trends and coms/hashtags etc that are on the ‘socials’ that I rely on being part of. I know I spend on average 2-3 hours a day mindlessly scrolling and that’s not healthy.
Watch this space
This sounds like it was such a good learning experience for you! I agree so much with what you are saying. I will be giving this a lot of thought! Thanks for sharing the outcome 🙂
Brilliant write up Catherine! I have always thought this is what I need to do but have always thought, oh I need it for work, oh I need it for this or that etc. I’m reality I would use my time better by blocking out the noise. Although I missed your posts, Blondie and Hedgehog adventures of course. Time to schedule some time out away from the noise! You have inspired me!
Hi Catherine!! I love your blog. I will always go to your blog site after you post a video to see if there’s any chit chat posts that don’t make it to YouTube. Like you’ve said, your blog will always be yours. I enjoy just reading your blog posts as much as I love your videos. Great post. After reading your post on setting time limits on social media, I too set 12 minutes between social media. And then I get kicked off. I love it. It’s been over a month, and I haven’t gotten “kicked off” in weeks because I’m no longer a “slave” to mindlessly clicking on social media. That habit has been eliminated due to the limit I set. And now I seem to only look at social media when I receive a “notification”. Love your posts. Thanks for sharing!!
Thanks so much for reading Ashley! X I love the idea of the 12 minute timer x