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Have you even taken a break from social media? It has completely changed the way we live. It’s been over a decade of constant and fast paced growth for social media and the more popular it becomes, the more our lives shift to stay “on trend.”
We get everything from news to entertainment to interaction with our loved ones through social media. According to studies from 2018, Facebook alone reaches 97% of people between the age of 18-34 and each person spends more than 1000 minutes per month on the site. That’s just Facebook.
WHY I TOOK A BREAK FROM SOCIAL MEDIA
Before I swore off social media for a few weeks, I was feeling so overwhelmed. Heavy. Heavy was the only way I could explain it. I felt this frustration and chaos in my mind. I didn’t take a break from social media because I thought it was causing me problems. It was a totally random decision. It wasn’t until after I did it that I realized how much I needed to.
One day I was feeling super annoyed, as I had been for a while, over every little thing. I was sitting on my bed, scrolling through Facebook. Suddenly I noticed that I had been mindlessly scrolling for about thirty minutes. I was becoming more and more frustrated at seeing the same things that I saw last time I was on Facebook (an hour before). I just thought to myself, “What am I doing?”, and within the next 90 seconds I had deleted all social media apps from my phone and signed out of all of my accounts on my computer.
This might sound dramatic, but I immediately felt a weight lifted off of my shoulders. I had been so disgusted with myself, my attitude and my outlook. I felt like I couldn’t crawl out of that hole. At that point, it seemed like I just needed one less thing to think about. Maybe then I could get a handle on what was happening in my life. That was May 7th and at that moment I decided this was something I could drop. I would act like social media (all that noise) didn’t exist until at least June 1st.
WHAT I LEARNED FROM MY BREAK FROM SOCIAL MEDIA
Social media is a problem (for me), but it’s not the only problem.
Maybe social media isn’t a problem for you but, if I’m being real, it is for me. Maybe one day it won’t be, but currently it is a problem for me.
I think social media is a problem for a lot of people but we have to figure it out for ourselves. My husband told me for a long time that I had an issue with social media before I actually came to terms with it. I was (still am?) absolutely addicted to social media and it’s not the only problem. I also have a phone addiction problem.
Once my social media apps were deleted I started noticing just how many times I look at my phone every day. At first I thought I was just trying to get a social media fix so I downloaded a Sudoku game so I would have something to do instead of social media. That made total sense to me at the time. About a week later I started reading an excellent book, 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You. Talk about eye opening! Finally, I could see how often I was playing with any app on my phone instead of doing things I needed to be doing. Things like household chores, work tasks, talking to my husband, etc. As far as distraction goes, I might as well have kept using social media.
I decided using my phone for distraction had to stop. I realized that I was seeking distraction because I didn’t want to face real life stuff. But I was creating stress and chaos in my life by letting all that time slip away. So in that 25 days I made a conscious effort to use my phone very sparingly. I found out that I am not nearly as busy as I thought I was. I’m not inundated with with work. I was just wasting so much time.
I had FOMO (fear of missing out).
Most of us suffer from FOMO. It seems like a natural thing to me. It’s starts when we’re kids. We didn’t want to take a nap or go to bed because we might miss whatever fun our parents or the older kids might be having while we’re napping. FOMO happens with social media on a couple of different levels, at least for me. First, I have access to all the information. When I sign out, bam, I’m cut off. Seriously, when I was on my social media break, I didn’t even know what events were happening around town. Social media is how almost everyone communicates these days, even businesses.
If I googled a festival or live music in town, the search would give me Facebook links. On top of that, without social media I end up cut off from the lives of people I’ve basically been watching like a television series for years. Does it really matter if I see those things? Absolutely freaking not. FOMO is just as irrational as adults with social media as it was when we were kids with naps. The truth is, we aren’t missing much, if anything. But it doesn’t feel that way until you get some space and perspective.
I worried (worry) about my relevance.
Because of social media, popularity is now quantifiable. We can say out loud all day that it’s not a popularity contest and that it doesn’t contribute or take away from our self worth, but that’s a big fat lie for most of us. Inside we think about it. If you aren’t sure if you’re worried about your relevance or popularity, ask yourself these questions.
- Do repeatedly check your new posts for likes or comments?
- Have you ever thought about deleting a post that didn’t get any likes?
- Do you ever participate in an activity just so you can share about it on social media?
- Do you ever compare your number of followers to someone else’s?
These are just a few examples. If you answer yes to any of those, you might be struggling with popularity/relevance. From the perspective of someone who has been doing business related promotion on social media for several years, I struggle big time with relevance.
I started caring a lot more about my popularity on social media when I started believing that people needed to see me, like me, and follow me if I wanted my business to grow. That was true to an extent, but it was also torture. There’s a pressure to be relevant that just gets heavier and heavier as time goes on. Even after transitioned into promoting my blog, which is meant to keep God at the center of all things, I still struggle with my image and relevance.
The mental clutter is damaging.
The amount of information our brains take in and try to process every day is astounding. Check out this article for more details on that.
Our brains do have the ability to process the information we take in, but at a cost: We can have trouble separating the trivial from the important, and all this information processing makes us tired. Neurons are living cells with a metabolism; they need oxygen and glucose to survive and when they’ve been working hard, we experience fatigue. Every status update you read on Facebook, every tweet or text message you get from a friend, is competing for resources in your brain with important things like whether to put your savings in stocks or bonds, where you left your passport, or how best to reconcile with a close friend you just had an argument with.
The chaos that I was feeling before I took my social media break was absolutely a result of all the excess and mostly useless information I was taking in from social media. It only took me a couple of days to find some clarity, see an improvement in my short term memory, and recognize the massive impact all that information had on my mental health as a whole.
The ultimate issue was (is) my focus.
When I looked at all the things I learned from my break from social media, I realized the main issue was where my focus has been. As much as I talk about fixing your focus on God, I was majorly failing. I allowed myself to be distracted. I wasn’t just allowing distraction, I was seeking it. If I’m being entirely honest, it’s something I struggle with still. That’s why I’m always sharing about how important it is. If it’s a big issue for me, I know it’s probably a big issue for someone else out there.
Am I saying social media will separate you from God? No, you can distract yourself from God with anything. It’s not social media and it’s not any of the other things. It’s us and the constant search we are on for something to fulfill us the way only God can. So just like anything, I’ve realized that my social media use needs to be regulated. I need to be a mindful user. Social media is awesome. It can be used in so many good and helpful ways. It can also be used in ways that destroy us. If you aren’t paying attention to how you’re using it, you’re more likely to head for the latter.
MY PLAN FOR SOCIAL MEDIA USE MOVING FORWARD
During my entire social media break I went back and forth about what my plan would be moving forward. First I decided that I enjoyed not using social media so much that I would never use it again. Then I decided that I really need it to promote my blog and I would use programs like Hootsuite and the Facebook Pages Manager app to plan and publish content without ever having to get back on my personal social media accounts.
After running into lots of small obstacles with those plans, I ultimately decided to just get back on social media and regulate my usage. After all, I loved being off of social media so much, surely I wouldn’t have a problem with abusing it again. Well, that’s not exactly how it went.
I actually waited longer than my June 1st goal to get back on social media but once I did I decided to download the apps on my phone again. I started sharing my blog content daily and I didn’t share much else in the almost two weeks I was back on. But it only took a couple of days for me to start mindlessly scrolling again. I was sucked right back into the lure of distraction.
I decided to go ahead and delete the apps from my phone again and only use social media on my laptop, which would be much less often. It turns out that when I’m using my laptop I have no interest in looking at social media. It’s just a habit of picking up my phone and passing time. So for now I’m going to keep the apps off of my phone until I feel like I won’t do that anymore.
Before I deleted the apps, I took some polls from my Instagram pals so I could share a really surface level insight of how others view their social media use. Above and below are the results of those polls. Social media is a huge deal. It has completely changed the way we operate as a society. Maybe my experience and responses seem a little extreme to you, but I encourage you to be mindful of how much you use social media and how to impacts your life.