For the last 30 days I have been without social media. And I survived.
When my husband challenged me to the concept of a sabbatical that included zero social media for 30 days I knew it was going to be hard. And it was really hard.
For the first 2 days I had literal shakes. I removed social apps from my phone, and when I kept opening my phone looking for the Instagram button I would tap the blank screen where it was. When I would open my phone and realize there was nothing on it to do I would sit there restless and unsettled. Kicking the habit of constantly engaging my mind and my thumbs was a really hard shift.
But then towards the end of that first week I got used to my new normal. I left my phone in my purse rather than having it on my body at all times. I read books with my kids without being distracted. I took walks without being distracted. I basically did normal things in life, that I used to do before I had a smartphone, without constantly being distracted.
Doing things without being distracted. What a novel concept.
I am a high achiever- in fact, my second Strength Finder strength is Achiever. I have a ton of stamina and can get a lot of things done in a day.
But interestingly, my biggest takeaway from my social media fast was that by doing less, I actually achieved so much more. And the things I did give my attention to, got a lot more of me.
Here are my top observations from my walk in the Internet desert, and why I think everyone should go on a social media fast.
1. IT HELPS CLARIFY WHERE YOU SHOULD BE SPENDING YOUR TIME
When my husband would nag me about how much time I spent on my phone, I would roll my eyes and in my head think, “Oh dear husband, how little you know about running a business. Don’t you understand I need to be connected at all times to respond to comments, answer queries, and remain relevant to my customers and growing tribe?”
Since I also did a work sabbatical and did not want to fall off the face of the internet universe completely, I did pre-program a few things here and there. And I had staff monitor my email and continue to respond to leads and press requests.
And what happened? Everything continued to operate. I still got comments on things. I still booked design consultations. I still got press requests. And while I did not personally respond to everything, they all got handled.
The lack of noise and constantly responding to things really helped me see where my gifts could serve my customers best, and where my talents could make the most impact in both my family and my business.
2. I BECAME A BETTER FRIEND
This might sound a little grade 6 school yard like, but hear me out. I love social media- and I love some of the friendships I have made on my various platforms.
But the absence of social media made me miss certain people. And I picked up the phone and actually called them. And they called me. It was like when I was in grade 6, and what friendship was like back then- you actually spoke on the phone. And it was awesome.
While social media is an amazing tool for connecting people, and I absolutely see its value 100%, the absence of it made me a more intentional friend, and that was such an unexpected bonus.
3. I GOT MORE DONE BY DOING LESS
This is revolutionary- be less busy and you get more done! I really had no idea the firm grasp social media had on my life. I kid you not, I was probably engaging in non-intentional (meaning just random scrolling, tweeting, liking, hearting) social media consumption for upwards of 6 hours a day. Yup, you read that right. This 6 hours was not all at once of course- in line at the grocery store, waiting for my order at a restaurant, while my kids played at the park, as soon as I got out of an appointment, the moment I opened my eyes in the morning, and the last thing I saw before going to sleep. You don’t think those little moments add up to much- what’s 15 minutes, right? But string together those 15 minutes all day long and you get 6 hours.
Imagine what I could do with 6 hours a day?!?
The absence of the constant checking meant my mind was quiet. I was able to think about ONE THING AT A TIME. And let me tell you, that bore a lot of fruit. I wrote. I schemed. I planned. I dreamed. I prayed. And some serious stuff came to the surface that will be key in charting my course moving forward.
4. I WAS NICER TO EVERYONE AROUND ME
As I shared in my post on why I took my sabbatical, I had become so incredibly distracted all the time, and my family suffered. I was short with the people I love most and not present to the people with whom I can do the most good / the most damage. At the rate I was going, I was destined towards the behaviour described in this article on parents being distracted by their mobile devices.
Without constantly feeling pulled in other areas, I was more present and more grounded, and I think everyone benefited from it.
5. I DID NOT COMPARE MYSELF TO STRANGERS
The first observation I found when I started engaging in social media again was that I went right back into comparing myself to total strangers- and feeling envy. No good comes from envy, and I was super surprised how quickly the feeling came over me within seconds.
I write all this because I never thought I could live without social media. And I survived. And I think that you could too. Not cut it out completely, and not necassairly take as long abreak as I did- but to seriously examine the hold it has on your life and how much time you spend living life through your phone.
SO.. what am I doing now that I have re-entered the social media landscape?
– I will check social media twice a day, in the morning around 9am and in the evening around 8pm, for 15 minutes, and personally respond to things and engage with friends
– I am using CoSchedule to create all my social media content across all available platforms, and scheduling them automatically
– I am spending more time focusing on creating content that will serve my readers, than aimlessly scrolling
Maybe I’ve convinced you of the value of doing a docial media fast, but now is not the right time. Here are some things you can do today to re-evaluate the role of social media in your life:
1. Remove all social media apps on your phone and only use them on your computer.
2. Set hours for social media, like you would a gym class, at a set time of day.
3. Ask your spouse or those closer to you how they feel abput the way you use your phone (brace yourself)!
I’m not writing this post to make anyone feel criticized or to condemn social media as a medium. I wrote this post as a reminder that if we don’t design our lives in a way that reflects what is important to us, it can be so easy to veer off track.
If you found this post challenging, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.