For one week I vanished from social media. I didn't go on at all. No posting, no scrolling, no checking notifications, nothing. As of late, I have become caught up in social media too much and it has caused too much negativity in my mind. I started comparing my life to other’s lives. Not celebrities, but people I was friends with on Facebook. People I went to high school and college with. I started thinking of myself as less than, a failure, like I wasn’t making any progress. Others were getting engaged and married, buying houses, getting the perfect job, and having kids. It was too much for me and I felt awful about myself. So, after discussing my feelings in therapy, I decided to take a break from social media. And it was actually very eye opening and freeing.
Day one was actually easier than I thought and day two was very similar to day one. I had to remind myself a few times not to go on social media, but this mostly happened when I was bored or watching a video. It really showed me how much I used my phone and that I really need to change things. I also had to get over the paranoia that I was missing out on things. I told myself that none of it was that important and it will all be there when I get back.
Day three and four were a little harder. I found myself getting very tempted to scroll. Facebook even started sending me emails telling me how many notifications I had and that my friends were posting things. I had to unsubscribe from those. I was feeling a little hopeless at this point because I thought I would be feeling like I didn’t want social media that much instead of wanting it more. It wasn’t looking like my feelings were going to change and I just couldn’t wait for the week to be over. Although, throughout those four days I did notice that I was happier. Now there were other factors at play, but I didn’t think it was a coincidence that on the same day I quit social media I started feeling happier. I was slowly coming up with plans to lessen my social media use once the week was over.
On day five I was tempted, not to scroll, but to do intentional things like post items for sale or make a photography post. I was excited to be productive on social. By the end of the day I felt very free. Since I had stopped focusing on how other people were living, I had time and energy to focus on my life and how I wanted to live. I felt awesome and was super productive on day five. I spent so much time outside and felt reenergized.
Day six was better. At this point I felt pretty indifferent to going on social media and I had been finding so many other things to do instead of scrolling. I was ready for the end of my break because I really wanted to start being productive on my accounts.
Day seven was a busy cleaning day and I didn’t even think about going on. At the end of the day I was proud that I had given myself a break. I gained a lot of insight on just how much I had been mindlessly scrolling and how much it was negatively affecting me. That night I wrote down my new intentions for social media, I outlined some boundaries for myself, and I made three rules:
Rule 1: be intentional whenever going on a social app. Why was I going on?
Rule 2: take breaks. When I can tell being on social media is too much, I need to stop using it for a day or two.
Rule 3: no social media before 11am. This allows me to get more things done in the morning and it also means that I won’t be on my phone first thing in the morning before I even get out of bed.
The break was very eye opening. It helped me think of ways to make my experience better and change what I’m doing. It also showed me that I needed to completely get rid of some apps. I was so amazed how my mood changed and how much more productive I was. I also spent more time thinking about real issues in my life instead of avoiding them by scrolling.
I didn’t have many expectations from taking this break. I thought it might come with a mood change, but nothing else. It ended up having benefits I didn’t expect. I gained control over my bad habits and I changed my mindset. I knew that I wouldn’t miss anything important and that everything will still be there if I wanted to see it later. The world isn’t going to end and I’m not going to die if I don’t see a post or a notification right away. (I get that this last part had a lot of repetitive ideas in it, but I’ve discovered that repetition really helps the idea stick in my mind.)
So, I bet you want to know how my first day back on social media went. Well, it was interesting. I had so many different feelings.
First, I was excited and couldn’t wait to get back on and see what I missed. It did feel weird to go on because it felt like I was breaking a rule.
Then I was underwhelmed. I skipped over a lot of stuff that I didn’t have any interest in and only enjoyed seeing a couple of posts.
Then I was disappointed. Oddly, I thought while I was gone I would get so many note worthy notifications. I rarely get those normally and it’s not like I posted anything before I left.
I didn’t even want to open Twitter, and when I did I skipped over basically everything.
Throughout the rest of the day I had little interest in going on anything and I felt pretty “blah.” Again, I think social media had an impact on this feeling. Of course there were other factors, but I couldn’t ignore the fact that on the same day I went back on social media, I felt pretty crappy the whole day. So I took things seriously the next day. I wrote down all of my intentions and boundaries and put them on my bulletin board where I can see them everyday. I also have to work on seriously reminding myself to not put so much value on the number of notifications, likes, or followers I have. I can’t go back to my old habits because they were not good for me and negatively impacted me too much.
Overall, I’m very glad I did this and that my therapist recommended trying it. If you have been feeling too many negative effects from social media, I suggest you try it too. Go cold turkey for a week and see how you feel. You can even journal at the end of each day about how you felt and maybe gain some insight on yourself. That’s what I did. I definitely feel like I learned more and had more success by journaling about it everyday.
How you do it is up to you. You set your own parameters for the week. I made two exceptions during my break. One was that I could use messenger to talk to people, since I was selling things on Facebook at the time. My other exception was that I could post one affirmation on my Instagram story each day. – For May I had been posting an affirmation daily for Mental Health Awareness Month and I didn’t want to skip seven days while on my break. It took a lot of control, but everyday I would make the post and then immediately quit Instagram. I didn’t feel like it affected my progress at all. – So if there are some things you can’t stop because they are related to work, then you don’t have to. It’s your call, but to get the full effect you should quit as much as possible.
Let me know if you decide to try this and tell me how it goes. You can also share other things that you’ve quit cold turkey/taken a break from and how that impacted your mental health or your life. I would love to hear your story.
Until next time friends…