What I learned From Taking a One Month Break From Social Media
Over recent months, I started to notice some odd behavior in my life.
I was addicted to my phone.
Addiction really is the only way to describe the way I was behaving.
Here was a pretty common scenario:
- Grab my phone to check Facebook and/or Instagram
- See that nothing happened in the last 5 minutes
- Put my phone down
- A few seconds later check my phone again
- See the same picture on the app I saw literally seconds ago and realize that I have a problem
I also noticed that if there was even a few seconds of dead air like waiting in line at the grocery store or waiting for a friend running late, I'd instinctively (addictively) reach for my phone.
At the same time, I felt that I didn't have enough time to just think. To ponder. To embrace the boredom of the moment and allow my mind to wander. To notice what was going on around me. Notice what was going on inside of my mind. Notice what was bothering me. Notice what was stirring in me.
I desperately needed to create some space for the natural, unplanned moments and thoughts to bubble up to the surface. But instead, I had created a habit of filling those blank spaces with social media.
Then, one day, I had an epiphany. I realized that I never ended a session on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feeling more joy, satisfaction or peace.
Why was spending so much time doing something that obviously added so little to my life?
So I tried something I'd seen other people do. I took a break from social media for 31 days.
That ended yesterday.
Here's what I learned....
1) People check their Facebook and Instagram addictively.
Not even realizing how often they check it or expecting to find anything new. Complete force of habit.
Regardless of if I was hanging out with friends, at a theme park, or at a restaurant, or even at church, it seemed like the majority of people around me were lost in their phones. I could tell by the color of their screens that most of them were in Instagram or Facebook...just endlessly scrolling.
Like robots. Like zombies. This is what I was like. This is what my kids saw when they looked at me. Not cool.
2) People try to capture the moment rather than living it.
SO MANY TIMES, I thought "I need to post this moment online." But then I'd remember that I'm not doing that this month. So, instead of posting about it, I just lived it.
Do you know how many times I regretted not having an online archive of that moment? Not. Even. Once.
3) I have a lot more headspace to focus on other things.
Far more creativity and new ideas. I notice a lot more around me.
I started playing the piano again. I'm learning spanish. I'm teaching my daughters how to play the guitar.
I don't have more time in my day. I'm just realizing that many times, the moments I was on social media, my kids were there just entertaining themselves while Dad was checked out.
4) Embracing the boring moments has spurred on some great ideas and eureka moments.
This was actually surprising to me.
So, I'd be sitting there while those around me were on their phones. So I'd have time just to think. My mind would wander to all sorts of places. Mostly "don't forget the milk" kind of stuff. But every once in a while, I'd think deeply about something important. My mind would bump into a problem that was bugging me and come up with a potential solution. Or I'd feel that I should have an important conversation with a friend. Or I'd remember a critical missing piece in a project I'm working on.
I would have missed all those a-ha moments (too many to count). How many have I missed before? The thought is honestly a little scary.
5) I am more surprised by my friends stories.
This one is a little silly, but is true nonetheless.
I used to respond to most of their stories with "oh yeah I saw that online." Now, I am genuinely surprised and interested in their life. I didn't know that they got the puppy, went on the trip, learned something new or whatever.
Now, interactions with friends in my neighborhood or at the gym or at church are more filled with wonder and surprise. I get to hear from them directly and catch the excitement, feel the body language, and hear the tone of voice. It's making me better. More engaged.
So that's what I'm learning so far. I'm going to be doing this more often. Not sure exactly what it's going to look like. All I know is that I'm better after this experiment.
I'm downloading Facebook and Instagram to my phone as we speak. I know I won't engage them in the same way going forward. I can't. I won't.
How about you? Have you ever done something like this? How'd it go? Or maybe it's time to give it a try?