There’s definitely a conversation around social media and its place in our lives, both positive and negative.
I love social media for the connection it provides with people both familiar and new, the platform it gives people whether its a business or a personal mission, the marketplace and resource it has become for those looking for a new product, service, or place to visit, and that it serves as a creative outlet for many people, myself included.
I also think it can be something habitual in your life, often done mindlessly, that can slowly and incrementally chip away at the 24hrs you have in your life if you don’t use it wisely. It’s then a distraction. Or it could be a source of pressure if you’re using your social media for business growth or you just feel the need to “keep up appearances.” Taking a step outside of it to see that habit for what it is, how it affects you when you take it away, and then see what happens when you introduce it back was what I wanted to experiment with. I was curious.
I spend more time on social media in content-creation that consuming it; meaning, I spend more time creating my stories, and selecting, writing, scheduling, and posting my posts than I do watching and looking at others’. But it would be untrue if I said I didn’t scroll and tap right whenever I had time here or there throughout the day. In line at Costco, in the car waiting, while the kids are watching TV (yup, guilty) and lying in bed before going to bed (also guilty.) Both the creating and the consuming is what I wanted to intentionally step away from.
So last month I took a social media fast. I didn’t post stories, post anything to my feed, check DMs, scroll the feed, or watch others’ stories for a full week. I actually took a break from my entire PHONE in general and used a real camera for all my photos and my laptop for emails and online browsing. I mean, it was very retro.
But I was in Italy when I did that. And with the environment a total change from the norm and being in vacation mode, I felt I had a little of an unfair advantage in making that decision. So I decided to take another intentional fast when I was back home in my normal surroundings and circumstances when I would have plenty of idle time to scroll my feed, along with the pressure to stay connected. Read : regular life mode. So I took that break this past week.
I loved it. And I’m so glad I tried it.
I’m sharing this experience because I know many of you have thought about the role of social media in your life. And this is one way to give yourself the space to reflect on what it means to you.
I’m using “break” and “fast” interchangeably here and there’s a difference. A break means you are tired of something, weary even, and need to get away. A fast is an intentional removal of something you enjoy in exchange for a bigger, more macro-purpose. Think of taking a break from a relationship and fasting at Lent. They’re the same but different. I think for me it was more of a fast. But I don’t think one is better than the other. It’s OK to feel like throwing your hands up in the air and say I’m done with social media! And it’s OK to feel like you just want to take a break for a minute. And it’s OK to feel like you have other priorities that need your full attention (which was me this past week – the girls all started school.) It’s OK to feel whatever you want about it!
For those who are curious about taking their own social media break/fast – or just want to know what happens to people when they fall off the grid – here are my takeaways and tips from being off social media for two weeks :
T A K E A W A Y S
The location and life circumstances make a difference
When I was in Italy, I was away from normal life, didn’t have cell service, and was not on my phone much anyway, so it was easier. I think it’s harder to step away from something when you’re in your usual circumstance. That’s why I decided to take another fast back home to compare and contrast.
I realized all that I had on my plate that I wasn’t being present for
I was totally looking forward to all the free time this social media fast would bring me. I excitedly imagined HOURS, even, that I would be able to devote to fun projects and catching up on everything else. Turns out, this fast didn’t really create much more free time AT ALL. Life kept going at its usual pace, mom- and wife- duties included, and things were still extremely busy. Even in Italy; I didn’t feel like a void or expanse of time was magically created. Which got me thinking about how busy I had been all this time but not being FULLY present for it all with a phone as a sidekick in my hand.
I DID become more present
Russ said he noticed I was moving at a slower pace during my fast. Before taking offense to that, he explained that I just seemed more intentional and mindful. Meaning I was being more present. YASSS.
I read! I actually journaled!
Two things that I rarely do that I now felt I the mental bandwidth for. Instead of reaching for my phone, I grabbed my book. Or a notebook. And WOW that felt really good.
My thumb had a bad habit
I literally found my thumb going to the spot the IG app lived on my phone (bottom right corner) and clicking it. So I moved it. Then I found myself looking for it. So I deleted the app entirely. And replaced my meditation app, Calm, in its place.
Announcing it is not necessary but helpful
I think if you’re going to take a social media fast, telling your followers and those around you helps to solidify your resolve and keep you accountable. I don’t think it’s necessary, though, because the truth is that everyone is too busy to really notice that you’re even gone anyway. But if you’re feeling stressy about it, just saying “bye” is almost like setting that away message on your email, you know? Which leads me to…
Your DM inbox may scare you, though
I really wish there could be an away message for DMs. It will eat away at my insides if I am not completely transparent with you right now and let you know that during the second week, before I deleted the app, I went into my old DMs twice because I had to 1) find someone’s address and 2) had to ask someone about a class at the gym and I didn’t have her number. And in doing so I saw all the unread DMs and it 100% raised my cortisol levels a bit.
Coming back was just as hard
I think harder that leaving was coming back. I remember one of my Insta-mom-friends Caroline (@armelleblog), who was one of those that inspired me to go on this fast in the first place, said she felt this way when she came back and I couldn’t agree more. I got used to not having social media really fast. And like I mentioned above, I was enjoying my newfound presence and slow-ness. It kind of reminded me of when I quit wine; I just didn’t miss it as much as I thought I would.
People will still be there when you get back
I think there is a fear, especially for those that use social media for business or a personal brand, that your followers will leave you if you leave. But that’s not entirely true. In fact, I GAINED real followers while I was gone, which was surprising. And for those that use social media entirely for social purposes, YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY AND ACQUAINTANCES WILL STILL BE THERE when you get back. Yes, you will miss seeing whatever they are doing on stories and their posts, but that’s fine. Life will go on. You can actually go catch up with them again and maybe even in person (!) Friendship and relationships should go beyond likes and comments. Point is – those that matter will still be there. And, if you’re reading this, then that means you’re still here with me – and that matters a lot to me 🙂
Moral of this story is this :
Social media is great. And it’s great to take a break or fast from it whenever you feel like it. Because you can! And when you do, everything will be fine.
S H O P T H E L O O K