Taking a month-long break from social media changed my mindset (and mental health) for the better. Here’s what happened when I challenged myself to a social media detox.
Social media has been part of my life for 11 years now. I use Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram pretty much every day at home or at work. For the most part, it’s great and it’s been an amazing tool to grow my blog and career.
But, having never taken a break from it before, I noticed that the scales began to tip. I felt anxious and I was jealous of other people, and I was comparing my life to those on my feed. It was almost like there was this invisible pressure to post something every day and keep up with everything and everyone – it was exhausting and I was fed up of it.
It was time to take a step back and gain some perspective. So for one month, I logged off social media and put myself on a much-needed cleanse.
I stopped comparing myself
One of the curses of social media is that we usually only ever see the good stuff. Behind the pictures and status updates, we rarely see the bad days or personal battles that people are going through.
I’ve known this for a long time (and I bet many of you reading this will have to) but it didn’t stop me from comparing myself (and my life) to others.
Read more on this in my post: An Open Letter: Social Depression and Spiritual Well-being
Once I took social media out of the equation, I naturally started to concentrate more on my own life and accept where I was on my journey. I felt happier and more content than I had for a long time and yet I had the control to do it all along. It was one act of self-care that I desperately needed.
This experience taught me that there’s a fine line between inspiration and comparison. The online world can make us all naturally competitive from time to time but it’s not (and never will be) worth our mental health or self-confidence.
I talked to my friends MORE
I couldn’t see what my friends and family were doing online (and vice versa) so I was inspired to message or call them instead. Funnily enough, the lack of social media meant that I had so much more to talk about with them (who’d have guessed?) It was refreshing to actually get to miss my friends and family and then be fully present and appreciative in their company.
“It took me about a week to break the habit of picking up my phone every five minutes. It sounds ridiculous when I say it out loud but it’s the result of being connected 24/7.”
I know from experience that there’s nothing worse than when you’re trying to speak to someone but their concentration is fully fixed on their phone. It can make you feel igored and invisible.
Admittedly, I’ve been guilty of this in the past so I used this as extra inspiration to better my relationships with the most important people in my life.
I started reading books again
One of the great benefits of a social media detox is that it gives you the perfect oppurtunity to go on a tech break too! Our smartphones go silent very quickly when social media apps aren’t installed, and mine was no exception.
With my phone now only useful for calling and messaging, I decided that books would become my new focus.
I’ve been a book collector for well over ten years now and I’m also a huge fan of audiobooks. But I know I have a short attention span so I would start one then get easily distracted, forget about it and never go back to it. (Book lovers, I understand your frustration!)
I promised myself that this time would be different and it worked. I used my tech break to fully immerse myself in the experience of reading two books from cover to cover. What I didn’t expect was the huge sense of satisfaction I got from it.
Even just holding a physical book in my hand was wonderful and I loved getting lost in a good story. Reading helped me to relax more and it also gave me something to get excited about (like when you find a great series on Netflix that you can’t wait to go back to.)
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I faced things I’d been avoiding
When I say I got shit done, I really do mean it. I was bossing life without social media!
Before my detox, I hadn’t realised how much time I’d waste scrolling through various apps. Hours would go by and I’d essentially be looking at the same stuff (plus heaps of ads and fake news.)
Free of distractions and my usual scrolling habits, my productivity and mental health improved. I sorted out the spare bedroom, went on long walks, tidied up my floordrobe, and even done some DIY. (Those last two are biggies by the way!)
It was so good to grow and learn from this experience. I basically stopped avoiding the things I didn’t want to do because I wasn’t preoccupied with what the rest of the world was doing. Hurrah!
As time went on, I found myself feeling less and less attached to my phone. My screen time dipped dramatically and I felt more so much more present and in control.
“At first I felt like I was cutting myself off. In reality, I was simply living my life without the distractions of social media. I felt liberated and like a huge weight had been lifted.”
What I learned from taking a break from social media
I think I enforced my social media break at just the right moment. There’s never really a ‘right’ time for it but I do know that it broke some of my bad habits, cleared my head and lowered my anxiety overall. The mental space it gave me helped me to move forward out of the dark space I was in and for that, I am grateful.
Since my detox, I’ve continued to use social media but I’m so much more mindful about the effect I let it have on me. When I’m feeling good, I use it to inspire me and share positive messages to others. But equally, I know to walk away from it (and put my phone down) when I see unnecessary drama or negativity (that includes the news!)
Never tried living without social media before? Start out small (maybe a day or weekend) and slowly extend from there. If you’re reading this and feeling inspired by my story then I recommend giving it a try. The world of social media will still be there when you get back.
Top tips for a social media detox:
- Log off or uninstall your social media apps! Trust me, you’re making it harder for yourself if you don’t.
- Download a social media blocker app. Here’s 7 apps that limit social media for iPhone And Android.
- Place your phone out of sight or in a different room when you’re not using it. This will help improve your productivity.
- Take up a new pastime or hobby AKA reading, sewing, running etc. Whatever you choose, it will help free up your head space.