Cutting back on social media. I know, I know – cue the eye rolls. We love it…BUT, we spend SO much time on it. I can get pretty consumed with social media. Scrolling through Instagram or Facebook is typically the first thing I do every single morning, and the last thing I do before I fall asleep. I carefully consider when to post, and now that I’m moving more toward a therapy based Instagram, I am in a constant state of awareness that I need more content to post. I look at social media when I’m with my friends and family, or when I have a break at work I often shut myself off in my office and just scroll. I tell myself every day that I have no time – where did it all go? I didn’t get much, if anything, really accomplished all day. I’ve always had terrible insomnia issues and rarely get a good night’s sleep. I’m constantly tired, falling behind, feeling anxious, disengaged, and escaping in-person social situations by looking at my phone.
Sound familiar? Social media definitely has its downsides, but it’s not all bad. I love how we can connect through technology and reach people that we never could otherwise. That’s not what this is about – this is about reconnecting with real life. When I was in college, I used to delete all social media off of my phone during finals week. It forced me to study. I haven’t done that since graduating, and I’ve never done it for mental health reasons. Here’s how it went –
- MONDAY ~ day 1: Initially, my fiance and I had been talking about how we hadn’t been getting as much quality time together as we’d like. We also come home from work and sit on the couch with the TV on, both just looking at our phones to decompress. On the first day, I didn’t tell him my little social media challenge. I quietly deleted everything off of my phone and just ate dinner totally focused on him. We had more conversation this evening than we had in a while. It was refreshing. Normally, I lay in bed and stare at the ceiling for a few minutes, and then grab my phone. I scroll through social media until I finally feel tired enough to go to sleep, typically 30-ish minutes. I did stare at the ceiling as usual, then grabbed my phone out of habit, and put it back down when I realized I had nothing to look at. Then, by some miracle, I just…fell asleep. I couldn’t remember the last time I slept that well.
- TUESDAY ~ day 2: I woke up WAY more easily than I normally do. I embody the whole “Anna from Frozen” thing when I wake up, grab my phone and scroll for as long as I can get away with. This day, though, I got out of bed immediately. I had so much time in my morning that I actually got to go to Starbucks before work. Since I didn’t have any social media, I sat and waited for my order and just looked around. Every single person in there was on their phone. I felt some anxiety, like what am I supposed to look at without a cell phone attached to my face? I looked out the window and just took in the day – something I wouldn’t have done otherwise. I felt an instant sense of calm.
- WEDNESDAY ~ day 3: Again, I got out of bed much earlier than I normally do. On Wednesdays, I work from home. It is WAY too easy to waste time when you have all of the distractions right in front of you. I felt like I had so much time – I got way more done than I usually do. It was a weird realization that nobody *actually* needed to see my breakfast on my Instagram story. I could just…eat it…who knew? I then got attacked by my cat, and almost downloaded Instagram again just to share it on my Instagram story. I questioned my need to share weird aspects of my day with the world. Once again, I went to sleep much more easily. It wasn’t a fluke.
- THURSDAY ~ day 4: I got out of bed more quickly…noticing a theme here? Instead of looking at social media during my little breaks between clients, I actually worked. I thought I needed that time to decompress, but getting some stuff done throughout my day actually alleviated a TON of stress waiting for me when I got off. I also socialized with my coworkers more. If I’m sitting in my office looking at social media, my door is going to be shut. This kept me from having as much social time with my coworkers as I could have. I got to talk to everyone so much more than I normally do. I finally got some of my engagement pictures edited and onto my phone, and REALLY wanted to post them on Instagram and Facebook…I mean, the self-control I had was real. I almost broke. I didn’t think I could hold out. Nevertheless, I persisted.
- FRIDAY ~ day 5: I felt a sense of freedom that I couldn’t understand. I feel obligated to scroll through social media until I make sure I see everything – like it’s some sort of chore that I have to complete every day. Without this strange need to see what hundreds of people thought worthy to post, I saved a ton of time I normally waste looking at things I don’t actually care about (sorry). What you put your time and energy into is what flourishes, and I chose to put my time and energy into some introspection, playing with my dogs, and connecting with people around me. If you would’ve asked me a week ago, I would’ve told you that I’m confident and secure and comfortable in my skin and all that good stuff, but without inevitably scrolling through tons of girls’ pictures on social media, I actually felt a lot more confident. I’m not not confident, but I guess there was some subconscious comparison that I wouldn’t have realized otherwise. I still felt some anxiety and concern regarding not being able to post anything – like I somehow would stop mattering if I wasn’t on social media. Bizarre.
- SATURDAY ~ day 6:I felt like social media was no longer my go-to. I had to face frustration head on rather than simply escape in social media. I felt a lot more connected to my fiance and got a ton accomplished. I didn’t realize how many moments I waste on social media – 5 minutes here, 10 minutes there…it adds up! I stopped caring about posting. I think that because we have this insane ability to acquire any and all information or say anything we want to nearly anyone we want to instantly at the touch of a finger, we’ve lost our ability to delay gratification. We’ve lost patience. I thought I was pretty patient before, but I saw a hint of more come out in me this week. Of course this takes practice, but now that I’m aware, I can continue to work on it.
- SUNDAY ~ day 7: I downloaded all of my apps again, opened them, and felt disinterested. I didn’t even think about opening any social media all day. I spent time with my family without habitually pulling out my phone and disengaging from them. I spent time in nature. I felt like I broke a bad habit.
Of course this isn’t a cure-all, but after a few days, I felt a pretty big impact. After a full week, I felt extremely refreshed. I’m not going to permanently stop using social media by any means, but I’m definitely going to take a GIANT step back and place some boundaries on myself. Above all, I realized that I rely on social media WAY too much, and have to choose to place my time in what truly deserves my attention, and I can guarantee you that it isn’t in my cell phone.