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.