I Took a Week Off Social Media – Here’s What Happened…
Wake Up and Find Yourself…
I believe this is how we change the world. One person at a time, one soul at a time, waking up to their own sovereignty. Not by some stuff we post on social media.
My Social Media Addiction
Somewhere around early August, I realized social media had consumed my mind, once again. I know this is an issue for a lot of people. We talk about it all the time. Facebook comment feed arguments, negativity, fake news…it’s all around everyone’s feeds and it’s affecting us all. I already got to a point where I’ve unfollowed feeds that only share negative posts, or people who are unnecessarily argumentative, pushy, or downright rude, but even so you can’t help but get sucked in to the content overload.
This made me think of sauca, purity. What am I consuming? I’ve already figured out what works for me as far as what I physically consume, and it’s mostly vegan (the cheese still gets me every couple of months…hehe), no alcohol, no nicotine. But like most people, I spend way less effort on managing what I consume mentally and emotionally.
Here are some things I found myself doing:
- Checking social media first thing in the morning (instead of getting up when I wake up which is 6 am, and heading toward my yoga mat and journal). This oftentimes led to an hour long mindless scroll.
- Checking social media in between tasks at work, while something loads, while I wait for chat support to reply, anything.
- Checking social media at stop lights when driving
- Bringing my phone with me at ALL TIMES, literally everywhere, all the time.
- Getting upset by what I see on social media – getting sucked into fear regarding coronavirus content, getting sucked into anger on political posts, getting sucked into comparison by seeing what other people are posting about their lives.
My husband suggested that I put one of those timekeepers apps on my phone to tell me how much time I was spending on each app and then comparing to see how many other things I could have accomplished in that time. I knew I didn’t need to do this to know I was spending hours a day on my phone. I’d also used one of those before and when I hit my limit, I simply swiped the notification away and kept right on Facebooking!
I realized that my truth is, I was looking for a distraction. A distraction from the fear and uncertainty that has consumed the world of 2020. A distraction from my own thought process. A distraction from the discomfort of being alone in my head, with my thoughts, my anxiety. This is not a new problem for me, being alone in my head can be a terrifying place, but using social media as a distraction for that has quickly become counterintuitive. It’s not a simple distraction, like playing a game on my phone, or some other mindless but distracting activity, but it feeds content, ideas, and (in my experience) mostly negative ideals into my psyche.
So I began with some boundaries. Like many of you I’m sure, my phone plugs in right beside my bed because “I need it for the alarm in the morning.” That’s not true for me, I have a 9-month old puppy that wakes me up at 6 am every day, and my biological clock at this point wakes me up by 7 am if he happens to sleep in (rare). So I don’t need my phone right by my bedside. I started plugging my phone in at night out in the living room. I have been guilty in the past of waking up, going to grab my phone, and then going BACK to bed to scroll social media, so this time I implored myself to NOT do that.
Next I turned off all notifications on my except for text messages and calendar reminders. Then I turned on Do Not Disturb mode from 10 pm – 8 am, between which hours I am not to touch social media or email. I do have some yoga apps I use on my phone for practice and meditation, so those are ok before 8 am.
This all may sound ridiculous, but when a person is ready for change, the hard work suddenly becomes apparent…and easy in this case. I equate this to quitting smoking. I smoked cigarettes for years and years, and I quit off and on multiple times, but when I was finally done after about 15 years I was DONE and it was easy to put them down. That’s how this experiment ended up going. On day one, I found myself not on social media until 9 am. Good start! On day two, I found myself not having checked social media by 12 pm! I wondered if I could go all day. I did. And then I went 9 days. This was unplanned.
What I Learned in Those 9 Days
In those 9 days, I had much more peaceful mornings, not consuming my thoughts with fear-ridden news stories, negative griping, and political fighting first thing in the morning. I was more present in everything that I did. I ate meals in peace, just eating, no need for distraction. I drove and listened to music, not checking social media at stop lights. I took my dogs for walks every morning (not a regular practice as we live in the desert and it’s been too hot over the summer, but also, I could have gotten up earlier when it was cooler…).
My husband and I happened to be driving across country that week to visit my parents in Georgia for a couple of weeks, and I just sat and enjoyed the scenery. And music. And podcasts. And conversations with Kirk. I realized I wasn’t missing anything. If there was news to be heard about friends or family that was really important, I’d get a call or text from someone. And all the people I talk to and see in person on a regular basis, I already texted or called them on the regular too. I didn’t lose touch with those truly important to me, and it made me realize that we are quick to call people friends and invite them into our intimate inner circle when really they are an acquaintance who only has access to whatever I post on the internet. Which can be a complete farce (and often is).
I also learned that I do not need to take on the world’s woes. My mom sent me an article during this road trip where a pastor explained his theory that people were not meant to take on the entire world’s sorrow, but technology allowed us access to it, and thus we are taking it on. Not only experiencing it, but feeling like we must do something. We must fix it! We must contribute money, prayers, wishes, share in social media movements and share hashtags. And if we don’t, we are siding with the woes, the sorrows, the oppressors. If we don’t do anything we are spiritually bypassing.
Now I’m just scratching the surface and I could write a whole blog about this topic, but basically I learned that I don’t believe in what I will call “surface action.” Awareness is not an issue we currently face as a general populace. Information is more accessible than it’s ever been, and to the most amount of people. So the only argument I could possibly get behind in being involved in online movements is that we need to bring awareness to people about the problems we face. However, I don’t see awareness as a problem. This information is out there, but people have to want to receive it. I can shout about political and social matters all day from the rooftops, but if others are willing, ready, or wanting to know about them, learn about them, and most importantly act toward necessary change, then my words go unnoticed.
This is probably not a popular opinion, but it’s mine. I would personally much rather donate money to a cause that I believe in that makes true change than share a hashtag. I would much rather work on my own personal spiritual growth that affects my interactions with the world and those immediately surrounding me than get in a political argument on Facebook. I would much rather have a one-on-one, in person conversation with a friend who is curious and open-minded to learn about some new perspective than share articles and show my truth at random “friends” on the internet.
I have personally seen the change that can occur when one person sits and talks to another. When one person walks a life of ahimsa, of nonviolence, of peace, and how that affects the community immediately surrounding them. I believe this is how we change the world. One person at a time, one soul at a time, waking up to their own sovereignty. Not by some stuff we post on social media.
What Do I Do Now with Social Media?
I have to ask myself what this looks like moving forward, as I am a marketer, data analyst, website developer, online yoga teacher…ha! All areas where social media is a valid, relevant, and important tool. How do I now go forth and use these tools without letting them use me?
Kirk and I have often spoken about how great and easy life would be if we could move to the mountains, no internet, no people, and just live in peace with God in nature. But that’s not the reality of our lives. And what good is that with no challenge?! From what I’ve learned of the yogic path, I must work to find peace and serenity in the life I was given.
So my new plan is to use social media for business, for sharing yoga, and that’s about it! That’s what great about boundaries. I can decide how I use the tools. I can go into my yoga Facebook groups and interact without getting sucked into the never ending scroll of doom. I can share yoga practices and classes on Instagram, and cheer on my peers without comparison and shaming myself (this is where I get to use the yogic path tools of ahimsa – nonviolence towards the self!).
And I go easy on myself. Just like any addiction, we have downfalls, we relapse into old behavior. I may do well for a month, and get sucked back in. But I know for me, having struggled with and then recovered from other addictions, I must have tools and a plan for going forward. And that I now have! I will post or schedule posts on social media once a week on Facebook, once daily on Instagram. I will check my messages once a day. And I will check into my yoga groups whenever I feel like it because this is a healthy use of the tool. And I will avoid the scroll, negative and fear-mongering content, and arguments like my peace depends on it…and it does.