Stick the kettle on, I’m back!
From where? The internet, or rather specifically, Social Media ~ Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest (yes I know Pinterest is technically a search engine rather than a social media platform, but shhh).
Why? I needed a break.
We all know that taking a Social Media holiday is good for us, especially if we use numerous platforms on a regular basis. But do we need to take a break from the screens or the content of our screens? Are we addicted to Facebook or just our phones?
I pondered this question as I was feeling frustrated and anxious and numb and bored and happy and joyful and tired all at the same time, every time I picked up my phone and began the habitual scrolling. My notifications have all been turned off since January, my phone is always on silent, it doesn’t even vibrate, yet still I had the compulsion to “check” it. I didn’t even have the apps installed, instead had to go through my browser to partake in the aforementioned “checking”. It had become mentally exhausting and somewhat toxic when dealing with some people and their rudeness. The time lost to that scrolling is just that; lost. For ever! What a complete waste of time and energy. And for what, really, at the end of the day?
It was time for an intervention. I would have said experiment, but in lieu of a hypothesis I’m going with intervention, a self imposed one. One month, no Social Media. Could I resist the temptation of a sneak peak? Would I last a whole month? What benefits were there to this? Was I completely shooting myself in the foot and be about to lose all my followers and customers? Would I feel completely out of the loop with friends and was I about to miss out on important stuff? What was I trying to prove and to whom? (nothing to no-one) How much time was I actually wasting and what could I do with it instead? What would I do at the end of the month? ( spoiler : no idea, hadn’t really thought that far ).
Starting at the New Moon in March, I went cold turkey. One full lunar cycle was my time frame, returning yesterday, at the following New Moon.
I did it! So, what did I learn? How do I feel? Was it worth it??? So many questions competing for answers inside my head.
I knew from having Social Media breaks in the past that I would be more productive in the use of my time, but what else would it teach me?
The 9 things I learned during my Social Media fast.
1. I have to say I did not miss Facebook. I would go as far as to say that I could quite easily lose it and never log back in again, and this is without taking the Cambridge Analytica horror into account. However, much of the organising and arranging of my 8 yo’s home ed meets, support and community takes place on Facebook, so coming away altogether is not practical. I certainly did not miss the “debates” and generally arsery of some of the people I am “friends” with. On the flip side, I missed a couple of pregnancy announcements were lovely to read (once I saw them after scrolling through a whole lot of tosh that littered my feed) and a few updates that I definitely want to know about. So, decision made. I have now unliked the vast majority of the pages I follow and left numerous groups that I constantly ignore in my scroll and never interact with and have unfollowed most of the people I am friends with (no offence). The latter one may seem a little harsh but I am making a conscious effort to use time better and not get lost in the virtual vortex that doesn’t really serve any purpose. Which then leads to me tho think, as I am typing this, why unfollow and not unfriend? Because I don’t want to be mean. There you go!
I have a Facebook page for Wild Sister Rising as well as 2 groups (one private circle group and one public shop group) which took up a lot of my time. Moving back into these spaces I have decided that I will use the page to post only my own stuff and for the groups, I am as yet uncertain.
2. Nor Twitter, I had 2 accounts. One that I had since 2012 and one I started when I started this blog. I deleted the old account and kept the WSR account. Having read through my feed and clicked into specific accounts of some people I follow, I found out a cyber friend had had a bereavement and I felt awful, but the rest of Twitter was still the ranty, anxiety inducing echo chamber it always was. I’ll keep it until after the Eurovision Song Contest and then reassess its need to me (and probably delete). I have to stay until 12th May as 4 of us watch Eurovison in our respective homes across the country, and discuss it on twitter over drinks, cheesecake and other various nibbles – it’s hilarious and in the the style of the late Terry Wogan, our commentary usually gets more caustic and witty as the booze cabinet is worked through.
3. I did initially miss instagram as I enjoy the app. But, since I stopped using it, I haven’t taken a single insta-worthy photo. In fact I don’t think I have taken any photos other than one of (A) on his birthday! Everywhere we have been, everything we have done has been completely enjoyed and experienced as it was, in the moment and was fully present rather than thinking about taking a picture to share. And I am totally ok with that. I clicked into a couple of friends’ accounts and went through their pictures, to get back up to date (Hi Eilidh! She has the best hashtags in the instaverse) but have yet to post anything myself yet as have not had any inclination to take a picture or video. I think there will be a distinct reduction in the number of posts I share here from now on.
4. Pinterest failed me – or rather I failed in staying away… I nipped back on to send my tattoo board to the artist who is preparing/drawing up my new tattoo (a wee birthday present to myself). I only went on to send her my board, but then started looking for more ideas and inspiration and fell down the rabbit hole. It was a productive use of my time, even if I did stray off course and start searching for other things too… To be honest Pinterest is my favourite of the 4 so I don’t feel in the least bit bad about falling off the wagon.
5. I was free to use my time for things that actually served me and made my life richer. A couple of the activities that replaced my phone addiction were reading and yoga. I finished several books, including one which I heartily recommend, Burning Woman by Lucy H Pearce. In the absence of a kundalini yoga class in my area, found a great teacher on YouTube and have begun a daily practice. I’m now working through a 40 day Sadhana and loving it, even though I am ridiculously stecky!
6. The source of my headaches has been found! I have been suffering awful and regular headaches. My shoulders were stiff, my neck was stiff and my jaw was becoming increasingly tight. I knew myself when I was mindlessly scrolling through my phone and read something that angered me or pissed me off, or low and behold, if someone should interrupt me during this very important task, I could feel the instant tension and the audible inhale alerted me that I was in pretty bad shape. Off to get it sorted. I didn’t need a relaxing aromatherapy back massage I need deep tissue manipulation and so made an appointment with a sports therapy centre. After 2 sessions, a lot of discomfort, and a thorough workout on my poor muscles (including having my jaw muscles worked on from inside my mouth – unusual but with phenomenal results) my headaches are gone and I have movement in my neck and shoulders where the tension previously held them captive. The woman who worked on me was shocked at how “solid” my back muscles were – oops! A month of not having my head tilted at a downward angle and not filling my head with the angst and rants of the interwebs has helped enormously. Plus I am not as easy to piss off or annoy, there is a notable reduction in my anxiety and irritability.
7. Proper conversations. Having not being involved in or aware of news and conversations happening online, when I met with friends I was finding out information for the first time and face to face. I was back to having conversations. And not ones that start with “Did you see … on Facebook?” This pleases me immensely.
8. Opportunity to review Values, Desires and Needs. I crave simplicity, connection and solitude/space. Writing is important to me as is continually learning about and exploring my passions, deep connections with friends – in person, trying new things, such as ecstatic dance and kundalini yoga, spending time alone to recharge and get clarity has been vital.
9. FOMO isn’t real. The world still spins, politics continue, events happen, we show up or we don’t. If I want to know something I can deliberately go and find out about it, ask someone about it. If I see a headline on the front page of the newspaper I am perfectly able to go and research the truth of it myself rather than take the paper at face value – I don’t need to know everything that is happening at every second of the day.
If you are someone who can take or leave your phone or Social Media, then this post probably doesn’t resonate, but I am not one of those people. I am now making deliberate choices, becoming far more discerning about how, when and why I am opening one of these apps to engage in whatever is presented from the blue glare. Social Media is not going anywhere and we live in a digital world where technology is king, but that doesn’t mean that it has to take over our lives, or dictate what we see, read, are exposed to, based on algorythms.
In answer to my question “Was it worth it?”, I have to conclude that YES, my month long abstention was absolutely worth it.
I’d love to know how other people live with and manage their phone addictions and constant Social Media bombardment – do you ever feel the need to take a break but scared to? Or are you one of those folk who doesn’t have any issues and can pop onto facebook purely in the interest of friendship? Please feel free to leave a comment to share your experience.