I logged on to Facebook and Instagram today for the first time since February 28. It felt…strange. Like I entered another world.
To take a step back, at the end of February I decided to delete all of my social media apps from my phone (except Twitter, which I kept hidden but still on my phone so I could continue to get real-time flight deal notifications from The Flight Deal, Secret Flying and The Points Guy (side note: get on that if you haven’t already!)). I did still go on LinkedIn on my laptop if someone sent me a message or requested to connect, but that’s it. No Facebook, no Instagram, no scrolling on Twitter to see people’s comments on current events, none of that for the entire month of March.
The first few days weren’t so much difficult as they were odd. Checking social media was a deeply ingrained habit (and probably still is) but since I logged out of all my social media accounts AND took them off my phone, I suddenly became so much more conscious of the fact that that’s where I go without thinking. So, to not go there and have my routines disrupted felt very, very odd. Not bad, just off kilter, if that makes sense.
That said, after the first few days, I no longer cared about checking social media. I started to feel disconnected but in a freeing way that made me focus on my life more, how I spend my time and how I connect with others. I felt more connected with myself and less connected with the entire world that is social media (both the good and the bad).
Now that it’s been more than a month, I wanted to share some thoughts and observations, particularly for anyone considering doing a social media break.
1. It takes more effort to stay connected to what’s going on
Once I got off social media, it became apparent to me that it’s not only the primary source for me to know what my friends (my friends and my “friends”) are up to, it’s also how I consume a lot of my news.
I sometimes watch the news in the morning but beyond that I realized the many news organizations I follow on social media was how I consumed information lately, and without that, I felt like I was finding out about things hours or even days later.
To combat that, and because I do like staying somewhat informed, I started making a conscious effort to read my news recaps in my emails more (I had started to skip them due to email overload) and I visited news sites more often.
Same with friends - I made a more conscious effort to reach out to friends, or actually see them and genuinely mean it when I ask, “How are you? What have you been up to?”
2. My social media usage was a deeply ingrained habit
It only took about two days for me to realize how much of a habit it was to check social media. I used to wake up, pick up my phone and go on social media. Like, within the first five minutes of my day. I mean, why was I doing that?!
Also, in moments of idleness, I quickly realized my first instinct, like so many other people I’ve observed, was to whip out my phone and mindlessly go on social media. It was so easy to scroll down, only pausing occasionally to intentionally take in information but otherwise consuming images and words without much thought.
Once I got rid of my social media apps, I became very conscious of my habits and the times when I itched to go on social media. Sometimes it was to read others’ reactions to a current event or show but often times it was when I felt idle or bored. Needless to say, it’s a good thing I love to read because I’ve been reading so much more since starting this break.
3. It takes more willpower to not connect to social media
Social media is so embedded in the every day that I feel like it takes more effort to stay disconnected.
Even though I had deleted almost all social media off of my phone, I still kept coming across it almost everywhere. Whether that was a prompt to log in or connect via Facebook (SO many sites have this) OR when Facebook and Instagram started emailing me with updates, trying to lure me to log back in. The latter was particularly fascinating because the emails started within 48 hours of my break. Facebook knew I hadn’t been on in awhile (or what could be considered awhile for me) and started sending me occasional emails, and then soon after I got occasional emails from Instagram showing that someone had requested to follow my private account. I found it all very fascinating, yet I stayed strong and did not give into the temptation to see what I missed aka I embraced JOMO and said “Bye, Felicia!” to FOMO.
4. You miss out on a lot, but not all of it matters
I mentioned before how I felt disconnected, and it’s true. When I’m not on social media, I feel as though I’ve stepped away from this world and I have no idea what’s going on in said world. For example, I heard about the Facebook and Instagram outage that took place a few weeks ago from a colleague, but not until days after it happened!
In general, I felt fine to remove myself from the world of social media for a period of time, but there were some things I genuinely missed, like seeing the pictures and videos of the kids in my family, which are often shared on social media. I missed news stories, as I mentioned above. I missed a few friends’ birthdays even though I screenshot them before I logged off - I still forgot without Facebook reminding me the day of. And I missed following my favorite brands, which I genuinely enjoy interacting with on social media.
That said, there’s so much I did NOT miss. At all. Like being exposed to people’s opinions on every topic known to man, “breaking news” (rarely actually breaking news), all the updates from acquaintances and people I haven’t seen in years (your baby is cute, but I don’t need to see your baby every other day), the pressure to post and see how much engagement I get (oh man, do I NOT miss that), Meghan Markle hatred (random but leave that woman alone already!), and there’s more I'm forgetting but certainly falls into the “I Do Not Miss Category.”
The gist being that social media is, of course, a mixed bag, some of it I liked seeing and some I can do without.
5. Social media is best when it has a purpose in my life
I’ve thought about this a lot during my break. Why do I go on social media? What is its purpose in my life? Part of it was certainly boredom but part of it was staying connected to some of the people, brands and news that I value.
With that said, now that my month-long break is over, and I’ve dipped my toe very briefly back in social media today (literally like five minutes per app), I’m being more thoughtful about how I have social media in my life. I don’t want to go back to mindless scrolling, and perhaps it’s not possible to avoid that, but I’m going to try.
I’m going to bring social media back into my life more permanently soon, but I want to make sure I know its purpose before I do.
I’ll keep y’all posted on how that goes.