Here’s What Happened When I Gave Up Social Media
At the beginning of the year I quit social media.
Depending on your point of view, it was either a bold move forward or a step back into the dark ages. Cal Newport would argue the former, and more than six months in, so would I.
For many, the thought of life without social media is not even worth contemplating. I mean, the sheer horror. For someone like me, though, it made sense.
I have an addictive personality. If I open a slab of chocolate, I’ll finish it. To me, people who eat a few squares and put the rest back in the treat drawer are weird.
(What even is a treat drawer? You buy treats, you eat ‘em. End of story.)
Science has shown how social media has become a true addiction, so I braced myself for a tough few weeks of digital cold turkey. But the sweats and shakes and feelings of FOMO angst never arrived. All I felt was an immense sense of relief, as if some invisible weight had been lifted.
Lately, I’ve been noticing just how ‘invested’ people are in their smartphones, and it got me thinking about the benefits I’ve experienced since deleting the social apps that weren’t serving me.
Fortunately, I’m a huge fan of journaling. Looking back on my notes from that first month without social media reminded me just how much better my life is now.
The Benefits of Quitting Social Media
Obviously not everyone will want to give up social media forever, but I do believe we can all benefit from taking a break every now and then. If you’re skeptical, perhaps reading about the benefits I experienced will convince you to go offline for a while.
It Showed Me How Amazing My Life Is
My life is amazing. I have so much to be grateful for. I do work I love, I’m happily married, I’m fit and healthy, I live in an awesome part of the world…the list goes on.
Before, I’d spend so much time on Instagram and Twitter looking at other people’s amazing lives, I never took the time to notice how much I have to be grateful for in my own life.
It sounds cliché, but it’s true. Comparing ourselves to others on social media is never a good idea. We’re essentially juxtaposing our behind-the-scenes with someone else’s highlight reel.
My ‘Text Neck’ Eased Up
At first, I thought my stiff neck was part of getting older, but about three weeks into my experiment I suddenly noticed that my neck was more flexible. Sounds ridiculous, right?
Granted, if you’re younger than me (I’m fifty) you may not be experiencing any symptoms yet, but if you keep staring down at your smartphone screen you’ll eventually suffer the woes of text neck.
FOMO Became a Thing of the Past
I’d spend ages scrolling down my Twitter and Instagram feeds to see if there was anything interesting to look at or read about or protest against or whatever. I’d scroll and scroll and then I’d scroll some more.
I have no idea where this fear of missing out stemmed from, I’m just glad it’s a thing of the past. Nowadays, I’m blissfully unaware of what’s going on ‘out there.’ Social media is now in the same category as the news. I don’t need to seek it out. If something is important enough, it’s going to cross my radar.
There is so much going on in the world, it’s impossible to stay abreast of it all. I’ve found a more sane approach is to focus on the real world that’s right in front of me.
I Learned to Savor My Experiences
In my smoking days, going out for coffee meant lighting up. The two activities went hand in hand. It’s an antisocial habit, for sure (smoking I mean, not coffee), but at least it didn’t stop me from noticing my surroundings.
Prior to quitting social media, going for coffee was an opportunity to whip out my phone and start scrolling. The world inside that screen was more interesting than the one right in front of me. Now, I take the time to savor my experiences. Especially the ones that include coffee.
My Stress Levels Went Down
Whether we realize it or not, social media stresses us out. Between comparison stress, FOMO stress and political stress, it’s little wonder people are so anxious all the time.
While those things definitely factored in, another big reason for my reduced stress levels was because I no longer had Instagram and Twitter to distract me from my work. We writers are professional procrastinators. Social media is kryptonite for the likes of us.
That’s not to say I don’t still skive off when I’m supposed to be writing. I do. Only now, it’s food and housework that keep me from the task at hand (and at least one of those is productive).
Photo Credit: Thinkstock