“Offline is the new luxury”
A Social Media detox was always one of those things I said I’d love to do but never actually got round to giving one a go. I mean, I wouldn’t consider myself a social media addict but I have, like the majority of my fellow millennials, embraced growing up in the digital age. Sharing pictures of lunch, tagging friends in memes, failing to take a selfie without an animal themed filter on Snapchat – it’s become the new normal. When my anxiety started to rear its ugly head a few months ago, I found myself becoming more aware of how much social media was having an impact on my mental health. I started to spend an unhealthy amount of time with my hand glued to my phone. I started to compare myself to others, questioning if I was as accomplished as they seemed. On Instagram, I’d scroll through all these perfect images of perfect looking people and close the app feeling insecure about my body, my looks and my life in general. So I decided to take action – a full 6 weeks off Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.
Quick disclaimer – I did keep one form of Social Media: Twitter. The reason for this is because I read so many blogs and Twitter is my main source of reading the news. Before embarking on my detox, I did, however, curate my timeline. I went from following just over 1200 accounts to a now very small number of 298. I wanted to make sure that it was easier to see the tweets and content I wanted than being overloaded with accounts I quite frankly, didn’t love as much. So what did I learn?
It’s much easier than I thought
When I gave up Social Media, I didn’t set a specific timescale to be off of it. I just knew that I needed some time away from it and fully expected it would be pretty difficult .. but surprisingly, it wasn’t as challenging as I thought. For the first 2 days, I must admit I felt very cut off from everything. I kept forgetting I didn’t have any of the apps and picked up my phone before realising there wasn’t really anything to look at. It made me realise just the extent of how many times a day I picked up my phone, solely for the purposes of checking social media and it was much more than I’d probably like to admit! I started to slowly realise I was in denial with just how much social media was an integral part of my day. After those 2 days, it became really, quite easy. So easy, my break lasted a whole 6 weeks and the only reason I returned was because I confidently felt like I’d broken the habit, I wanted to get in touch with people I hadn’t spoken with and knew that going forward, it wouldn’t be something I wouldn’t spend as much time on.
I was more productive and present than ever
I’m one of those people with a long list of things they want to do but proclaim they never have the time to do it. Total procrastinator. I love reading but I barely made time for it. I love cooking but always opted to go for the quicker option and only every so often, make homemade dinners from scratch. When I switched the time I spent on my phone with things I wanted to do, I was amazed at how much more productive I was. I set myself a goal of reading 30 books this year, one that I really thought I would struggle to achieve yet here I am, on my 28th book of the year. The time I lay on my sofa at night scrolling Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and repeating it all over again, I managed to use the time to read and I got through books at a much faster pace. I now 5 out of 7 nights a week, cook from scratch and that is something I’ve found very therapeutic for my anxiety. I also noticed how much more present I was – when I spent time with my friends or family, there was never anything to distract me. If I went for a coffee, there was no need to pull my phone out and take a picture. There was no need really at all, to have my phone out when I spent time with someone. I started to think back on all the times I’ve had conversations where I’ve been glued to my phone and to be honest .. not properly taken the time to listen to others. That’s one habit I’m SO glad to have curbed.
My once favourite apps aren’t as appealing
If you’d have asked me before I started my detox what my favourite app was, I would have said Instagram hands down. Although I knew it was the one that made me feel like shit the most, I was actually quite unsure whether to give it up because I knew I’d miss it so much. Out of all the apps I gave up, it ended up being the one I missed least and believe it or not, the last out of all three I chose to get back. I only check Instagram twice a day now and even then, I don’t fully scroll through my timeline or post very much. Everything on Instagram is so very carefully curated to give off a very filtered version of someone’s life – it’s NOT reality. It’s all about how we interpret things and I’m all for everyone posting whatever content they choose but it can be very easy for people to get wrapped up in it all and think that the images, bodies and lives portrayed on there are the norm. I also, despite getting it back first, no longer use Snapchat. Time away from it, made me realise I didn’t actually get much from it – other than their damn good filters.
I’ve stopped comparing myself and it’s improved my mental health
They say the comparison is the biggest thief of joy and it’s true. We all move at our own paces in life, we all have different body shapes, we all earn different salaries and we all have different priorities in life. Just because I’m not jetting off to the Maldives, have a wardrobe full of designer goods or have a slamming body doesn’t mean I’m failing in life. Those are all very superficial things. I have an amazing family, live with the love of my life in a house we’ve turned into a home, have a good job and friends who really have my back – truly things that money can’t buy. I’ve spent time focusing on the small things in life that all the hang ups and insecurities I had, have shrunk massively. I still have my off days but doesn’t everyone? I’ve reconnected with the ‘real world’, become more intuitive and now, don’t let myself get down over a few images and statuses on a little screen.
I’ve learned so much about my friendships
The sad thing about social media is that we don’t really connect with each other as much anymore. We feel like we’re part of peoples lives because of what they share online. If they’ve had a shit Monday, if they’ve booked a holiday, where they’ve been based on where they’ve tagged themselves – there isn’t that effort anymore from many people to actually reach out to someone because they feel connected in a different way. When I got rid of Social Media (not many people I’m close to use Twitter), my friends had to reach out to me via good old fashioned text message. They had to contact me to find out how I was or what I was doing. It really makes you find out who cares for you and want to be part of your life – not feel like they are because of your online connections. It’s been something I didn’t think I would learn but I’m thankful I have. It’s been eye-opening.
It’s been 3 weeks since I reactivated my accounts and my attitude towards them has definitely changed. I don’t feel as compelled to participate as much in Instagram, although I know it’s a vital tool for my blog. I now want to use my time more productively and feel more connected to people offline. It’s helped me refocus, stop comparing myself to others and I think it has completely benefited my mental health. Have you ever done a social media detox or have you thought about doing one? I’d love to hear your thoughts below or as always, you can tweet/IG me at @whatamydid.