Taking a break from social media had been something that I had been thinking about for a while. I had actually first thought about having a break from social media over a year ago. Each time I tried though, I seemed to get drawn back into this modern day addiction. It took a series of issues with my computer and my mobile phone to force me to stop checking all of my accounts for a while.
A Social Media Obsession
As a blogger, social media is an important part of my everyday life. Promoting blog posts, finding blog posts from others to read and interacting on all of my social media pages is enjoyable but very time consuming. It is so easy to get sucked into reading lots of social media updates and articles online. All sorts of articles grab my attention. One moment, I will reading about how to decorate a birthday cake the next I find myself watching a hair tutorial. Before I know it, I’ve read about politics, Disney Land, how to save money, the 50 best slow cooker recipes, how to pack a suitcase effectively, what the cast of neighbours from 1989 all look like now, I have looked at a lot of photos from the 1900s on a local history page and have watched some of the build up to the birth of a giraffe. What ever did I do before social media?
A Forced Break from Social Media
I spent some time in the countryside, where internet is very limited and broadband is the stuff of dreams. This was the beginning of my social media break. After two days of pointlessly trying to connect to the internet via my mobile phone, I gave up. There definitely was no signal, no matter how much I wished for one. My phone was overheating and it was making me feel annoyed. I spent a few days with my phone stuffed at the bottom of my bag, ignoring it because I was in a bit of a huff with it, to be honest.
No Internet? No Problem.
I was able to get on with doing other things that I had not paid enough attention to doing for a while. I spent some time in the garden, watched a film (after not watching films for many months) and spoke to actual people without being distracted by my beeping phone. Once I arrived home, my broadband provider was having some issues with the line so I was unable to go on the internet for a further four days. Just after this, my mobile phone decided to give up too. By this point, I had been without the internet and social media for almost two weeks. It was wonderful! Truly, truly wonderful!
Enjoying Life without Social Media
Having albeit a forced break from social media and the internet made me really think about how much I had let it take over my life. It is easy to get into the habit of checking social media apps many, many times per day and night. For me, I love reading and I love learning new things. Social media is something that provides me with little nuggets of new knowledge that I seem to crave. Social media can be very useful and very helpful at times. Life away from the internet was so much more relaxed. I found that I could think more clearly. I slept better. My thirst for knowledge was still there but I was able to find this information from elsewhere. And quite frankly, some of it from more reliable sources. I also found that I worried less.
I began to question things that I had read recently. At school and university, I was always taught to question everything. Accepting blindly what you are told is not always the best way to go. Years ago, if something was written in print, it was there because it had been checked by editors, publishers and often written by experts in their field. I was under the impression that facts were checked and supported by evidence, even though bias could still be a factor. Overall, print was something that could be, generally, trusted.
Fast forward a few years and the whole of the internet is in print. Anyone can contribute to this print. The notion that print can be trusted is still in our psyches. Alas, this is not always the case. It is so easy to get sucked in to wondering if an article is fact, angrily voice opinion or sensationalist rubbish written as if it were fact. There is a ridiculous amount of easily accessible information out there. Some of it really makes you think and other parts of it make you wonder what you should believe. Questioning everything and finding real evidence to back up ideas is the only way to understand which articles are credible.
When spending time scrolling through endless social media posts, I find that I am on an absolute emotional rollercoaster. It is exhausting! One moment, I can be reading about or watching a video about a happy couple getting engaged and the next, videos are automatically being played where someone is injured or has died. My tears of joy turn to tears of sadness within a matter of seconds. I read posts that attempt to motivate me to be a better person, a better mother and then I read other posts that urge me to get rid of ‘toxic’ or negative people from my life, how I should not be doing that thing I do otherwise I am a terrible mother, a terrible person.
These brief statements, telling me what to do, how to be and how I should be feeling make me question my own actions. A toxic person isn’t defined, am I a toxic person? I had a down day today, does that make me one of these negative people that others should avoid for the sake of their own mental wellbeing? Should we really be happy all of the time? Am I a bad mother because I am a single parent? How do those people afford to go on so many holidays per month, let alone per year, when I can only afford one holiday every one to two years?
Information Overload in a Short Space of Time
So much information enters my head as I scroll through the updates from different people and timelines. My emotions flick from happy to sad, from envy to pride and from self-doubt to reassurance that I am doing what society expects of me. I feel guilt, I feel disconnected yet I also feel motivated to tidy my house and to buy some pretty lights. I have solutions to problems that I didn’t know I even had.
By the time I’ve finally managed to put down this handheld device that has bombarded me with the myth of the ideal, my mind is buzzing. It is hard to switch off and sleep is delayed. I feel slightly more like a zombie and somehow feel the need to pick up the device again to see what new information there is to consider. There is always new information. My mind is full, all the time. I feel exhausted by everything I am now thinking about after it has been brought the forefront of my mind by a mere status update or article.
Social or Socially Disconnected – The Paradox of Social Media
In my online world, I have lots of fantastic friends that I chat to regularly. They are great, supportive people and I am so glad that I know them. I have not met several of them in real life but they are my online social circle. I don’t feel lonely chatting to them. On the other hand, there are many people that I have met online and others that I have known for years in real life (I’m still unsure whether social media is real life). For a few of them, social media was a way to keep in contact, no matter where in the world we were.
I realised not so long ago that I do not directly chat to many of these any more. In my mind, I do. In actual fact, I read their status updates and see that they are ok but actually contacting them directly is starting to become a thing of the past. When I see some of my friends outside of the online world, there is sometimes less to talk about because I’ve already processed what they have been documenting on social media each day. I can’t ask, “So, what have you been up to lately?” as I already know and have seen the photographs. Social media has been my social lifeline but that it has also been totally disconnecting me from people too. It is confusing to feel like I am connecting to people yet disconnecting at the same time.
After and during my break from social media, I started to think differently about the time I spend online. The first thing I pondered was why I was spending so much time looking at it, passively taking in a multitude of stories. I also wondered how I could break the addition of checking my social media apps as regularly. Why was I checking them several times per hour? What did I think I was missing? I also wondered whether checking social media meant that I could escape real life for a bit.
Anxiety and Social Media
I noticed that when I was feeling anxious about something, I would look online to find some kind of reassurance that I was doing what I should be doing. Most of the time, I would find the odd article that made me feel better about my situation. Generally though, I would find articles or statements that made me feel like I had not made the right choice. Not only that but I would come away with information that made me feel like I had more problems than I actually started with. The thing that I was worried about was compounded and I often came away worrying more.
Trusting your Instincts
For many situations, I feel that being able to trust your own instincts is now something that is difficult to achieve. Everybody online has an opinion and they voice it very loudly. Many also voice it very authoritatively and very angrily too. Their opinion matters and they will be heard. Even if their opinion is made up nonsense and is just being said to start an argument.
Trusting your own instincts seems difficult to do at times. Everyday, social media users are bombarded with so many things that they should be doing that trusting your own instincts is increasingly hard to do. There are so many warning stories and worst case scenarios shared that you start to believe these kinds of stories are the norm, rather than a rarer event. It can make you feel as if you shouldn’t do what you wanted to, in case that bad thing happens to you too. Since having a break from social media, I have been trusting my instincts more and I have the belief that I am actually doing the right thing in doing so. It shouldn’t matter what someone on the internet thinks I should be doing. They are not in my exact situation. I am. I get to decide what works best for me.
How Having a Break from Social Media has Changed My Outlook
Since putting my phone down for those two weeks, I am much more aware of the time I spend online. I am also much more wary of the articles I read. Trusting my instincts more is something that I feel I am getting better at too. Some of the things I felt anxious about are no longer an issue. I have put limits on the amount of time I spend on social media now. As a result, I feel like I have so much more free time. The emotional rollercoaster is not as apparent any more. I feel more free, emotionally and physically.
Breaking the Addiction
Breaking the habit of picking up my phone to look at apps is difficult so I have simply not installed social media apps on my new phone yet. I’m not sure I will at all. I only allow myself to look at the social media sites when I am on my laptop now. Slowly but surely, I feel like I am breaking the habit of constantly having my phone in my hand waiting for more information to read. Social media is addictive but it does not have to take over your life as much as it feels like it has taken over mine. I
t slowly crept up on me but now I have had time to reflect and to think about the effect it is having on how I think, feel and act, I will continue to limit my time online. Social media can be both amazing and absolutely draining all at the same time. It suits me and my lifestyle much better to be limited so that I don’t get sucked into it again. In the time that I have freed up by not looking at social media, I have read several books, tidied the whole of my house, started crocheting and have met up with more friends for a cuppa and a chat. The Spring sun started shining today and I can hear the garden calling me. Much better than watching a video or reading about it instead of getting out there and doing it.