Social Media Break – Lessons Learned

Greetings, fellow bloggites!

Oh wow, it seems so weird to finally be writing a post again. The longer I procrastinate, the more I feel like I have to say, and the more I have to say the more I don’t know exactly what to write about. So I don’t write, and the cycle continues. Hashtag blogger problems.

In July and August I conducted a little Social Media Detox experiment on myself. For 30 days I stripped away all forms of social media and content intake in general to see how I felt and what would happen. I was mostly wondering if stepping away from the barrage of posts and likes and other sensory assults if it would help my brain a bit in focus and memory, since I still feel plagued by “baby brain” although it’s been almost two years (!!) since I actually had a baby. Clearly since I’m now posting and pinning and snapchatting I’m back on the Social Media market. So how was the detox? What did I find out?

It was pretty interesting.

For starters, I only intended on removing myself from the socials spaces for 30 days. Then on Day 31, I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bring myself to log in again. I ended up waiting for another two weeks before I finally logged back into Instagram, and only a week or so ago did I put the Facebook app back on my phone. I really enjoyed having my own “space” in my head, without wondering what was being posted or if I’m missing out on anything interesting, or even having to question if I should Snapchat my lunch. If I took cute pictures of the kids, I’d just text them to family and friends. If I was curious what was going on in a friends’ life, I would call them. Occasionally when I would talk to people, their reaction for me not knowing about something they had posted on Facebook ad nauseam about made me feel a little silly; like, why would they have to go and explain all of this to me when all of the info is RIGHT THERE on Facebook? I like to be pretty self-sufficient in obtaining knowledge, preferring to dig up the answer myself rather than ask somebody, so it felt weird to ask about things when the answers were attainable somewhere else. But I felt so much more connected talking about my friend’s latest race details on the phone, or group texting new baby pictures with my friend who just gave birth (and commiserating in all of the new-mama war stories!). Instead of taking my kids to an event and being distracted by “ooh, let me take a good picture so I can post this to show the world what a great day we’re having!” I could actually be there and enjoy the great day we were having. I even commuted on the train and just sat and observed the experience – it was actually quite peaceful to take in all of the other commuters sharing this ride with me, ready to take out our individual days. I found myself overwhelmed with such feelings of community and gratitude when I noticed the small pleasantries other passengers would bestow on one another, such as giving directions to a new rider or helping a blind individual find a seat. Oh man, I sound like such a crunchy hippie now. But it really helped me to be able to look and see the good side of people.

As far as brain space goes, I did notice an improvement in my general mental chatter and focus. As I suspected, the lack of new content streaming into my brain did give my cognitive processing abilities a bit of a break to pay more attention to things like what the decision was from that meeting two weeks ago or to not forget that I’m taking Squish to preschool and not driving straight to work even when he is in the back seat. I was able to think more deeply about all of the interesting little topics and curiosities that I like to ponder. And I had an easier time not getting overwhelmed and losing my temper during those routine, chaotic moments that just come with running a busy house with small humans, of the we-have-to-leave-in-exactly-five-minutes-one-kid-is-naked-the-other-is-covered-in-food-the-dog-destroyed-a-couch-cushion-again-something-on-the-stove-is-burning-where-are-my-keys variety. Text that we’ll be late, turn off the burner, throw the dog outside, remember that messy houses mean fun houses, grab baby wipes and spare clothes on the way out the door, and don’t worry, the keys are probably still left in the car from the day before. See, that wasn’t too terrible.

The hardest part was finding out how addicted I was to having a mental escape to distract myself with when I was bored or needed a brain break. This may be TMI, but I suspect this is one of those things that everyone does and no one talks about: I always take my phone into the bathroom with me. And without social media apps to browse while I did my business, I would literally stare at the home screen in my hands. So weird. And during the day at work if I needed a quick mental break from a big task, there was no where for my mind to go. Taking a walk took too much time, I only wanted a minute or two to distract myself. I can’t pull out a book and read at my desk, that’s just weird. I would stand up and stretch and take a few cleansing deep breaths, but my brain still cried for entertainment. I don’t really have a good understanding or answer to this finding yet, of needing to be entertained. I’m filing it as something to explore in the future.

I’ve adopted a new attitude towards my relationship with social media as a result of this experiment. To me, social media is not only a way to connect with people I would like to connect with in real life, but also a form of entertainment just like TV and video games. It’s fun, it can be educational if used in that way, but it’s not meant to replace real life. I can’t play SimPark and think it’s the same as a hike in the real park, just like I can’t “like” my friend’s status and think it’s the same thing as grabbing coffee together. Also, social media shouldn’t “take away” from me. Before my detox, I noticed sometimes I would be in a good mood, then I would browse my news feeds. I would walk away feeling worse than if I had left my phone alone. All of the angry, opinionated memes, “Fitspo” articles, an other ugly stuff that is all too common in news feeds would just knock me out and leave me in a shame spiral – I can’t fix the world’s problems, I don’t have a six pack, and I sent my kid to school with cold pizza in his lunch because today was one of “those” mornings, so clearly I’m not “good enough” and I’m a terrible person. Since coming back to social media I took a hard look at the content I follow, and made changes to ensure that after I take a trip into SnapInstaBook I come away inspired and grateful, if not just the same as I was before. Because that’s what I’m here for – to have a little fun, share some virtual high-fives, and close my browser feeling a little refreshed and ready to move on with real life.

So that’s just what I found, and that was on my first round of Social Media Detox. I suspect that if I make this a regular thing I’ll uncover more observations on the impact social media has on my life and my relationship with it. This is such a strange new world we live in, one that no generation previously has ever experienced. It offers us so many opportunities, but I still want to be a little bit conscientious (without being a buzzkill!) about what we have to pay to have all of this information – and exposure – at our fingertips. Oh man, when did I become all responsible and stuff?

I’m curious, what are your thoughts? How do you view your relationship with social media? Have you ever considered a detox, or does it scare the crap out of you? 😉

That’ all I have for now, go make it a great day!