What started as a 30 day challenge, turned into a 10 month hiatus and it changed me for the better.
As the majority of us know, social media plays a significant role in our lives. It’s the way we communicate and connect, the world automatically feels smaller, and people are way more accessible. Social media allows us to follow and keep up to date with others, some who are essentially strangers. But I can’t really blame someone for feeling as if they “know” said person despite never having a face to face interaction with them. Ultimately, it’s down to personal preference regarding how much you share online. With that said, if you follow someone long enough there is a likely chance that you roughly know where they live, what they do for a living, potentially know their relatives and child(ren’s) faces, where they like to eat out, their hobbies and generally what they get up to in their day to day lives. Despite social media being a highlight reel I believe for some there is a blur between what is real life and what is online life. I’m not passing judgement but for me there has to be a pretty clear distinction between the two, because having the awareness that they are not synonymous is pretty important for your mental health and well-being.
So Why Did I Come Off my Socials for The Best Part of a Year?
Toward the end of 2018 I started to feel irritated with social media (mainly Instagram). I compared myself quite a lot to others, and despite knowing that it’s not a true representation of reality; I couldn’t help but feel this way. I just knew I needed to do something about it. Matt D’Avella had a challenge to quit social media for 30 days and it couldn’t have come at a better time. So in January 2018 I simply logged out of my accounts and deleted the apps off my phone/iPad.
Initially a challenge, it became a new way of living for me. At the time I expressed my thoughts in the form of findings (as you know I view these things as mini experiments). The 30 days naturally extended beyond that and I grew to love my time away from the online world.
Connecting With “Friends”
I’ve put friends in quotations marks because it could be argued that the people I spoke with less or even not at all when off social media aren’t considered as my close friends. My closest of friends are those who I regularly chat to, visit, go on trips and have lunch/dinners with. They of course have my mobile number so not having social media didn’t really have that much of an impact on our relationships. However, that immediate communication when replying to their insta stories or seeing what they’ve been up to that day, was absent. I didn’t feel like it was to the detriment of our friendships, in fact it gave us more to chat about once we did catch up. Ultimately, I felt that the quality of the relationship remained the same.
Social media is an amazing way to interact, but I would be mindful of not letting your online relationships outweigh the tangible ones you have in real life.
Make friends online, connect with people & use social media as a vehicle to then make that relationship tangible. I believe social media should not be a replacement, rather view it as a tool. It should be the mechanism by which you engage with people, hopefully leading you to connect with them in real life.
Life was Less Noisy
It goes without saying with lots of information comes a lot of noise.
I remember things had become quieter, I was in my own little bubble and to be honest the ignorance was bliss. I was no longer bombarded with constant Instagram posts, rants on Twitter and life updates on Facebook. I was in control of the information I consumed and I soon realised that a lot of what I had spent hours scrolling through was arbitrary with no purpose other than to fill boredom. I came across a quote by Herbert A Simon which stated, ‘a wealth of information has created a poverty of attention.’ These words couldn’t be truer for the mindless time I had spent hopping from one social media app to the next.
The Need for Validation
When I stopped posting pictures or tweeting I completely removed the need of validation from others. My issue specifically related to Instagram; I would post a picture because I liked it and wanted to share it with everyone hoping that they would like it too. However, the success of the picture depended upon the amount of likes/comments or overall interactions it had received. If it didn’t get as many as I had hoped for I would begin questioning whether the picture was even nice at all. For me that was an issue, I noticed that I would check every few minutes to see whether the likes had increased and thought to myself “this isn’t healthy Sabrina”. That whole second guessing wasn’t good for my self-esteem, as I knew the picture was nice (to me) before I shared it. And I came to realise that other people’s opinions shouldn’t intimidate me or be of my concern. I have always said and will continue to say; the most important opinion is that of myself and that’s all that matters. So when I stopped posting, the need for validation also stopped.
Feeling Compelled to Share My Life
I remember having a discussion with my friends about social media, we struggled to pin point the time in our lives when we started to feel as though it was a necessity to share our lives online. We thought it may have begun when we used MSN Messenger and would change our status emoji to reflect the emotion we were feeling at the time. The majority of us are aware that we post the best parts of our lives which is absolutely fine but it’s not the full story. I spent a lot of time in 2019 learning to be mindful and to live in the present moment. I realised that it was almost impossible for me to do that when I felt the urge to show that I’m having a good time. The very act of stopping to snap or insta story the occasion removes one from the present moment. A lot of significant events occurred during my 10 month hiatus and eventually the need to pull out my phone to share these moments was no longer a behaviour I felt compelled to do. This shift in mentality allowed me to take advantage and really appreciate the time I was having.
The Fear of Missing Out
Twitter is my version of the newspaper, so when it was gone I didn’t pay attention to any type of news. I literally had no idea what was going on in the world until someone had informed me (watching the news on TV/catching up with it online isn’t really my thing).
I found things out as I did before but the difference was that I wouldn’t find out straightaway, it wouldn’t be “breaking news”. I simply found out the same information just much later on. But because I had found out that bit later, I wasn’t really able to engage in some conversations as they revolved around the latest happenings and I had no idea what they were talking about. I was ignorant but it didn’t feel like such a bad thing.
I came to realise that the idea of needing to know first wasn’t essential to my well-being.
I asked myself ‘what does being one of the first to know x do for me?’ It’s neither beneficial nor detrimental. I understand that in some instances finding out earlier rather than later can be extremely useful. However, I concluded that finding out information later made no difference to my life whatsoever during those 10 months.
In fact, I preferred when someone would tell me something as it led to a conversation. If I found it interesting I then had the opportunity to research it on my terms and cultivate my own opinion without the influence of others.
It sounds silly, I know; but I genuinely thought that I would laugh less. I said that I would never get rid of Twitter as I thought and still think it’s the undefeated app in terms of how funny it is. We live in meme culture and all I had to do was open the timeline and in a matter of seconds I would be laughing.
So when I stopped using Twitter I thought ‘oh no what am I going to laugh at now?’
Of course I continued to laugh. Firstly, I still laughed with my family and friends I mean that never stopped. The podcasts I listen to are hilarious, they even mention a lot of memes in their episodes. Although I wasn’t able to see what they were referring to, listening alone ended up being pretty funny because I had no point of reference, which meant my imagination ran wild with their descriptions.
Productivity & Self – Development
When I quit social media I thought, ‘what am I going to do with all of this free time?’
I decided to learn Spanish and have been practicing every single day for over 500 days. I really enjoy it and it’s great to see how much progress I’ve made.
I learned more about investing and as a result developed my investment portfolio.
It gave me the opportunity to learn from individuals I hadn’t previously come across through their blogs, books and podcasts. Doing so, changed my perspective on quite a few things and now I perceive life differently. Also, whilst off socials I began to meditate and now mindfulness/meditation is an important element of my life and daily routine which helps to develop my awareness and presence.
This was the biggie, and the initial reason why I decided to come away from social media.
First and foremost we are a nosy bunch aren’t we? It came to a point when I asked myself why am I so concerned with other people’s lives. To be honest I didn’t really have an answer, I guess it could be many things: boredom, outright nosiness, possibly as a source of inspiration etc.
Instagram in particular allows you to live vicariously through someone else which feels nice, it feeds your brain with some dopamine and that makes you happy. This is all well and good but it’s temporary. Unless you are truly fulfilled with your life from within, you will never be happy. My question is: Would you be satisfied with your life if you had nothing to compare it to? If we are being honest, the answer is probably yes because you wouldn’t know any different would you?
For me social media can be a bit too far-fetched at times and that lack of authenticity really bothered me. I played into it as well don’t get me wrong. But having some time away reinforced that it’s basically a reality show which can be rehearsed, edited and staged. Having that awareness I think is so necessary and can help prevent you from thinking that you’re life isn’t as good as others. We can all fall into thinking that I should be doing this, that and the other because x person has done it already. But if you really think about it, your life is probably going just as it needs to be and that’s alright.
I wonder if you can relate to any of the above findings, if you do please let me know. I ended my 10 month hiatus in October 2019 with an Instagram post sharing my story and spreading awareness about Lupus as October is Lupus awareness month.
Now I use social media more than ever before, the difference is that I no longer use it in the same way. Yes I still post pictures, tweet etc. but I’m more mindful of why I use it e.g. for educational and awareness purposes relating to: my website, sport, mental health, charitable causes, among other things and more recently information concerning Black Lives and the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Regarding the pandemic, I caught myself constantly checking Twitter, especially in the early days. However, that didn’t last too long as I quickly created some rules and boundaries to protect my well-being. Although the news was informative it induced feelings of fear and anxiety so I needed to stop doing that to myself.
Spending a significant period away from social media brought me back to a time when it didn’t exist. Doing so, encouraged me to pick up some new hobbies and without that 10 month detox I wouldn’t have started to learn Spanish, meditate or even write a blog. I’m aware that this post may be painting social media in a negative manner but that is not what I’m trying to do here. It is beneficial in so many ways and when used properly can be such a powerful way to share information, develop, promote and grow business, network plus many more benefits. In the same breath, it can become very addictive; the endless scrolling, hopping from one app to the next and the skew of reality it tends to create can be a real waste of your time and most importantly your attention.
So I encourage everyone to try and take a little break from social media and the online world. Especially those who have never even experienced life without it. Simply to see what it’s like. Who knows what you would be doing with your time if the majority of it wasn’t occupied by social media.