In today’s day and age, our lives are increasingly lived out on our cell phones. Studies are linking social media to increased depression and anxiety, and companies like Apple and Facebook have been taking steps to change how we interact with technology, in a move towards improving our “digital wellness.” Apple recently released a software update that includes the ability to track our screen time, and Facebook is working to change how the information we put on the internet is used. All this talk about screen time and our mental health happened to coincide with a social media detox that I embarked upon earlier this year. Why did I do it? How did I do it? What did I learn? Read on to learn more.
Feeling somewhat drained in my day-to-day life, I decided to change what I was exposing myself to on a daily basis. I was experiencing mental fatigue due to a variety of factors. Mainly, I found I was constantly comparing myself to others. Social media is deceiving because you only see the “highlights” of a person’s life. This is an understandable phenomenon. Historically, we’ve been taught to “put our best foot forward,” and social media is a 21st-century extension of this tendency.
Am I guilty of only posting the highlights of my life? Of course. Does that make me a bad person? No. But do I need to reconsider what I’m sharing across the internet? Yes. Reevaluating what I was sharing, and more importantly, why I was sharing certain things, was another major reason I took a social media sabbatical. Do I really need to post to my private account every time I’m at the beach this summer? Probably not. While content like this may make more sense on my public account dedicated to travel, I decided to take a holistic look at what I was posting and why.
Spoiler alert: a lot of it had to do with showing that I was having fun, traveling somewhere unique, etc. Overall, the time I spent on social media led to low productivity (at home and at work) and mental fatigue.
Social media is deceiving because you only see the “highlights” of a person’s life.
Instead of cutting out social media cold turkey, I took a few initial steps. The platforms I encountered daily included: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Snapchat. During my social media detox, I deactivated my Facebook account, logged out of all my Instagram accounts (personal and public), removed the LinkedIn app from my phone, and deleted Snapchat altogether.
Prior to deactivating my Facebook account, I removed the Facebook and Messenger apps from my phone. If you don’t want to deactivate your Facebook account but still want to cut down on time spent on the platform, removing the apps from your phone is a great first step — this removes the temptation to constantly “check in” with your newsfeed and reduces the time you spend mindlessly scrolling. I didn’t really struggle with deactivating Facebook or deleting Snapchat. I removed the LinkedIn app from my phone but maintained my profile due to career reasons. Even though I’m content in my career, I do need to maintain a presence on the website; I just don’t need to check notifications daily.
Initially, Instagram was the hardest to take a break from. Prior to logging out of my accounts, I went through and unfollowed a large number of accounts. I was randomly following a cafe in London or a hotel in Rome with a great rooftop that I may one day visit, but in the present, it clogged my feed and made me wonder, “Why am I just at work when I could be there?” There was that comparison again. I created a Google Doc where I kept information from accounts I was interested in but didn’t necessarily need to follow daily. You may just need to pare down what accounts you’re following instead of taking a full social media sabbatical.
After a few days of experiencing a cleaner feed, I decided to move forward with a month-long break from Instagram. Once I got back on Instagram, I went through another round of unfollowing. This allowed me to truly follow what I was interested in seeing! Taking an inventory of accounts helped me gain insight into what made me happy and what didn’t.
You may just need to pare down what accounts you’re following instead of taking a full social media sabbatical.
Removing social media apps from my phone was the first step towards not constantly checking notifications.
Even while logged out of Instagram, you can still check accounts online. Talk about a blessing and a curse! The first few days I was logged out of Instagram, I found myself checking a few public accounts every now and then — yes, I admit it! I slipped up in the beginning, but it got easier and easier to avoid as the days went on.
I kept in contact with the people I had the strongest relationships with.
Acquaintances became just that due to lack of effort on both parts. Ironically, my acquaintances were the ones I was comparing myself to the most. I attribute this to the fact that I know less about their lives, so everything seems “perfect,” when perhaps it isn’t. For those closest to me, I understand more of a “complete picture” of their lives, which helps temper any comparison when only seeing their highlights.
As an introvert, I often need alone time to recharge.
I found that during my time off social media I had more mental energy to spend with friends and family, and during these interactions, I was completely present.
My productivity skyrocketed.
At work, there was no real way to procrastinate, and at home I had more time to workout, get outside, read, cook, etc.
I saved money.
Because I wasn’t constantly bombarded with ads or posts with the newest “it” item out there, I wasn’t tempted to shop for things I didn’t really need. This was definitely an unexpected, albeit welcome, benefit!
I kept Facebook deactivated.
Facebook has been the easiest for me to let go of in my daily life. I got on Facebook when it was first released, meaning I’ve become “friends” with people from all parts of my life: high school, college, graduate school, three different jobs, etc. This led to a high number of connections who I don’t consider part of my current network or have lost touch with. While you can go through and unfriend these accounts, I didn’t feel like constantly working to keep my newsfeed up-to-date. There will always be those random friend requests from people you met once or someone you went to high school with years ago.
I got back on Instagram.
Let’s face it, Instagram isn’t going anywhere, nor is my interest in the content produced on the platform. While it was refreshing to take nearly a month off from my various accounts, it’s not realistic in the long run. Ideally, I need to find a healthy level of interaction with the app. Have I found that balance? Not quite yet, but I’ve made progress. As our world evolves and technology increasingly plays a role in our lives, our ability to monitor our actions and emotions will need to change as well. For me, it’s important to realize when I’m in a funk, identify why, and address it accordingly. It may be one specific account I’m following, or it could be my feed as a whole.
I kept the LinkedIn app off my phone.
Waking up in the morning and not seeing little red notifications on my screen has helped me start my day the right way. While I’ve kept Instagram on my phone, I’ve moved to only checking LinkedIn via a computer. If you’re job hunting or considering making a career change, I understand the need to keep the LinkedIn app on your phone. While this is my experience, our needs are all different, and it’s up to each individual to assess which app they find necessary to keep on their phone.
I never logged back into Snapchat.
Snapchat was not hard for me to let go of. Sure it was fun, and my niece and nephew loved the filters, but in the end, it wasn’t a platform I felt I needed in my life.
Ultimately I had mixed emotions when my social media sabbatical came to an end. I noticed a major difference (in a good way) in how I felt day-to-day with the absence of social media. And while I decided to get back “on the grid” in some capacity, I realized that relationships take work, and social media tends to give us a false sense of connection within our network. Seeing what someone is doing via social media versus having a conversation about their experience can result in two entirely different relationships. Moving forward, I plan to intentionally work toward stronger relationships with friends and family outside of social media.