I’ve been on a self-imposed social media break since July 21st. For me that means I’m not engaging with or using Instagram or Facebook except when absolutely necessary. Trust me, in today’s day and age there are times when I HAVE to use social media - especially since I’m running a small business that at least partially relies on some social media use. Any other social media that I use is either so minimal it’s not a factor, or is simply me pushing content over from IG or FB.
So. I just checked the calendar and I see that it’s been a two week break so far. And all I can think is “It hasn’t been long enough.” My intention when I started this break was to go for a month. At this point, I don’t think a month long break will be a problem. I’m also not being strident or absolute about it. I plan to pop into both IG and FB tomorrow or Monday to post about this blogpost. I want you all to know what’s going on with me. I want to share my thoughts on this social media break as I’ve seen other folks do because I think that the insights I’ve gleaned are important.
It’s been, and this is without hyperbole or exaggeration, quite startling to see how much stepping away from social media engagement is changing things for me. (And two weeks in, all I can think is, “this is just the tip of the iceberg.”) My time feels more expansive. I am accomplishing what I want to in the course of a day more easily. I’m feeling more focused. I pick up books to read more often. I’m finding it easier to read a whole email from start to finish without going into “oh I’ll just skim it” mode. I am less distracted.
Although I should probably stop right there. For while I am less distracted, this little experiment has shone a very bright light on one little yet big distraction: my phone. It beckons to me when it need not. I can be in the middle of a very good lunch, reading a very good book and I will need to “check my phone.” In the middle of conversations I have the urge. I will be at my workbench, in the middle of drilling holes in several handmade components and I’ll think “just need to check my email.” Do I need to check anything in these moments? Probably not. Almost certainly not. I’m starting to think that in many ways our phones are the newest addictive substance we’re consuming on a daily basis as a culture.
That is to say over the last two weeks, one things has become abundantly apparent: I want more of this using my phone less. I have no desire to go back to how I was doing things. I want to watch one of my favorite shows on Hulu or Netflix and not “distract” myself by checking IG every 5 minutes or so. I want to see and feel and hear and taste the details in my life again in a way I have stopped doing. I plan on taking my email app off of my phone. I don’t want to be able to check email unless I am at work or at home sitting in front of my laptop and intentionally sitting down to work. I will definitely return to social media engagement once my month-long break is over, but I plan to set guidelines for myself. I want to make it work for me. And I think, the minute it starts to feel like an addictive substance that I can’t live without, well, I think that will usher in another social media break.
I know I just wrote about some unintentional social media breaks that I took earlier this summer in my last blog post. I’m almost certain that those small breaks helped fuel my desire for a longer break. Also a break that is taken while living my regular ‘ol day-to-day life. The other, smaller breaks, were both taken while I was on trips. (One work related and one mostly for fun.) I wanted to see what it would feel like to live my life, my as I already stated “regular ‘ol life”, that can sometimes get boring and sometimes feel like drudgery (honesty here). There’s so much to say here, it almost makes me cry with the profundity of it all. I need the boredom. I need the drudgery. It fuels my creativity. It fuels my drive. It gives me beautiful little moments where I’m able to slow down.
Does anyone else ever feel really strange and sort of “buzzy” after a few too many minutes spent scrolling through IG? I’ve always felt like that afterwards. Spending time on social, unless I handle that time with great care and purposeful intention, always leaves me feeling drained. Disconnected. Spacey. What it hasn’t been is a moment to slow down. Usually, after “falling down the IG hole” I am appalled by how much time has gone by. My phone feels truly capable of stealing my time away. . . if I give it the power to. It’s like a cryptic, modern day fairytale.
I think maybe the most sobering part of all of this is that we all know that we need these things: that we need boredom in our lives. That if we really want to be connected in conversation with someone we can’t “just check in” with our email during conversational lags. That if I actually want to enjoy my favorite show on Netflix I can’t interrupt the viewing every 5 to 10 minutes with a quick IG scroll. That if I want the colors in the sky to truly thrill me, the smell of the fresh baked pizza to actually intoxicate me, if I wan to sincerely lose myself in moments - in moments that add up to my life - to a lifetime, I have to be engaged most of the time.
And I haven’t been.
Now, this isn’t meant to put all of the blame on my social media use. I am human and therefore I am innately an expert at distracting myself from what is directly in front of me. But I want to change that. In that desire I believe lies the real root of my decision to take this social media break. I want to examine all of the ways I am taking myself out of the present moment, and I’d like to work towards putting myself back there.
I used to think that the documenting of my life was adding to it. That it was putting more color and flavor into my day. When I think about the roots of it all (um, hello, My Space?) I do think that initially it did all ADD to my life. But the newness and the notoriety of it all has worn off. I’m seeking a more intentional and useful way of using social media; not one that has me falling too easily into comparison traps. And I’m seeking a more minimal and pared down way of using my phone.
Regarding some practical matters: to keep all of my Tangleweeds collectors, fans, friends and family up-to-date I’m going to make an effort to keep this website much more up-to-date. I know this year I have not always posted about my events on my Events page, and I certainly haven’t blogged much. But given that I haven’t decided to go 100% off the technological grid, I do want to make an effort to keep the folks who care about Tangleweeds informed. I suggest bookmarking my website as a way of staying up-to-date with my goings-ons (both professional and otherwise) if you like. I will also continue to send out at least monthly newsletters. If you prefer staying up-to-date that way you can sign up for my newsletter here.
A year ago I couldn’t have imagined doing this, but now that I am I’m so grateful I took the leap and made the decision to take a break from social media. It’s shinning a light on my life in ways I could have never anticipated.
Lastly, I’m incredibly curious: what have been your experiences with social media use? The good the bad and the in-between. Have you ever taken a self-imposed break? If so, what did you get out of it? If you haven’t taken one, are you considering it? Leave a comment below if you like.
Life’s a crazy journey and really just one big experiment if we all let it be that.