I took a break from social media. Here’s what happened.
I don’t think there was a day in 2017 when I didn’t use social media. Wordpress, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest were my daily, if not hourly, distractions. Those who know me well can understand why – I had a side project, a fitness and a healthy lifestyle blog, and if you call yourself a blogger, you inevitably spend time on social media.
How much time you ask? Well, I can say, a hell of a lot. Let’s say, if I used 15 minutes a day on social media (which is very likely to be MUCH more), this equalled to me spending 5475 minutes or 91.25 hours or 3.8 days on social media in 2017. Almost 4 days wasted online?! Crazy!
But let’s get back to the point.
As much as I loved my side project, I started noticing the overwhelming effects: inability to concentrate, be in the moment, enjoy time with my loved ones without constantly checking my phone and scrolling through the feeds, planning what am I going to post next and being stuck in a daily hustle of getting a higher engagement rate. When I look back at this now, it makes me cringe how empty it sounds.
Over time I started feeling exhausted and unhappy. I’ve been on and off social media, until one day, I realised, if this is causing me so much discomfort, I’ll quit it completely and see what happens. That ‘one day’ was December 31st, 2017. Almost half a year ago.
So, what happened?
Well, before we go any further, I need to clarify a few things:
- The definition of taking a break from social media to me means:
- removing the most abused apps from my phone
- switching off all except functional notifications
- pausing my online activity of any kind except for personal growth and career-related purposes
- I am still on the social media break, but I do check selected platforms only when I mindfully decide that this is the time for it and as per the principles outlined above
Now that we’ve got this clear, I’ll tell you what a significant difference this change has made in my life.
You know when you go to a cinema to watch a 3D movie, you don’t put the glasses on and you see that weird double vision effect that makes you dizzy? And then you put on 3D glasses and suddenly everything clicks into place - you’re surrounded by beautiful, crystal clear and popping effects?
Well, that’s exactly how my life was before quitting social media. A constant race. Multi-tasking. Blurriness.
Giving up social media brought me clarity and focus. I started to experience again what it actually means to be truly present. No more fiddling with my phone, while I wait in a queue for coffee. No more interrupted conversations by the ping of the latest notification telling me who liked my latest photo. No more distracted attention when I talk to people whom I care about.
It wasn’t easy at first though, because social media draws you in, develops bad habits and it is created to keep you coming back for more. Some of these platforms are designed based on the behavioural psychology principles, so you can deny all you want, but it creates addiction, the same way drugs and alcohol do. Strong statement, I know, but it’s true and if you’re interested to read up on this, I recommend starting with how the Centre for Humane Technology defines this problem. Truly scary.
Being a designer myself, I can’t help but feel a mix of emotions: anger (why are businesses so empty and selfish?); disappointment (come on, designers, we can do so much better than this) and worry (if us adults are so affected by it, what about a younger and more vulnerable audience?).
Of course, it’s not all bad. Social media empowered so many individuals to pursue their dreams, build successful businesses and make education more accessible across the world. Social media is powerful, without a doubt. But with great power comes great responsibility, and that is exactly the point I am trying to make. It’s a personal choice whether you use social media or not, but if you do, I strongly encourage to establish some ground rules so that it doesn’t take over your life.
What about me?
I’ll continue my social media break because I think I became a better person, I’m more productive and I’m much happier. In these five months, I’ve read more books than I did in the whole of 2017. I also love the slower pace, being able to concentrate on my personal growth and build the life I’ve always wanted.
The bottom line is, giving up social media made me happier than I’ve ever been and that is a pretty awesome feeling.
There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all. You need to find what’s right for you. Go and figure it out.
It’s worth it.