As I sit here... I honestly cannot believe that it has been more than four months since I have touched Facebook or Messenger.
And all other app notifications are offline too! Bye Snapchat, Instagram et al.
As liberating as this experience has been, it has also been ridiculed with self-doubt and ambivalence. Social media, itself, is riddled with contradictions - at the same time as being fun and engaging, it can also be infuriating and time-consuming. It can make you feel less alone, but also trigger feelings of isolation and inadequacy. I have doubted my decision to go offline on social media, as I have at times considered it another way of punishing and restricting myself. However, I have gained more than I have lost from the experience.
Some of the added benefits of taking a Social Media timeout have been:
- You get more work done, and do it faster!
When you don’t have to worry about your devices buzzing left and right, and the constant distraction and spring to trauma, you find your productivity and focus improve. When we stop ourselves constantly to check social media, again and again as soon as our devices vibrate or issue a notification alert, it really becomes another form of multitasking, and multitasking makes whatever you do take longer, and do it in an inferior way.
- You get your creative juices bubbling. If you find yourself stuck in a creative block, it might have something to do with your social media habits. To be able to have an imaginative mind means taking breaks every now and then, to be able to rest and digest, rather than being stuck in an addictive fight, or flight mode. Having social media in the background and calling to you for comparison and to scroll interferes with your creativity. Yes, there are always the #nailedit or DIY hack posts, but you always feel vastly more accomplished if you come to your own ideas creatively.
- You might feel anxious at first... Whilst the effects of quitting social media are generally positive in the long run, your immediate reaction may be one of stress and anxiety. These feelings are caused by a neurobiological withdrawal from the sense of being constantly connected. If you’re using social media addictively, and some people do. Hell, Facebook even has a department for studies in Social Science to get you addicted. With all addictions, engaging in the behavior causes a Dopamine spike in your brain. As you become used to this increase in the feel-good neurotransmitter, so when you stop scrolling there is some withdrawal. Luckily, these feelings usually do not persist beyond the first few days of quitting social media, so you should be able to enjoy the positive effects soon enough.
- You feel less stressed - because social media has become so easy to access absolutely everywhere and 24/7, we feel compelled to stay connected by constantly checking our newsfeeds and timelines. This impulse to have constant awareness of what’s going on online, leads to increases in the stress hormone - Cortisol. The heightened stress from hyper-vigilance can also insight a whole slew of unfavorable effects on the brain, such as reduced memory and an increased chance of depression. Staying away from social media makes you less prone to such a high level of cortisol, leaving you calmer and more focused.
- You feel more self-assured because when we all post on social media, we tend to share only the happy, and exciting parts of our lives that we want others to see. This may seem harmless, but when we’re seeing only people at their best, it’s easy to feel like we’re falling behind in comparison. This tendency to negatively compare ourselves to those who we believe are superior is what psychologists call upward social comparison. People who use Facebook and other platforms more frequently experience higher levels of social comparison, as you are inundated with live 'look at me' posts, which has been linked to more frequent symptoms of depression amongst the users. Quitting Facebook and other online accounts can help block out a degree of social comparison, and not comparing yourself to others is one way to achieve body acceptance.
- You’ll get more sleep - we have all been caught out by the late night scroll, going deep into the rabbit-hole and abyss. You take a quick hot minute to check one notification on Instagram before bed when suddenly you realize you’ve been browsing, liking, and commenting long past your bedtime. Sound familiar? When you quit social media, you free yourself of this extra priority—and buy yourself the powerful health boost of a good night’s rest - goodbye blue-light filter. If you need a cool-down activity in the evenings, skip the screens and try something more relaxing and less time-consuming, like reading a book or some mindfulness meditation or even journaling.
- You’ll strengthen your face-to-face relationships. Sure, social media can be an excellent way to stay in touch with old friends or family if you move away, but cutting ties with the Internet can work wonders for your close and local friendships. Face-to-face interpersonal relationships are generally much stronger than those conducted solely online, and taking a breather from your social media accounts forces you to focus on these real-world interactions. Honestly, how many times have you been to a cafe or restaurant with couples and/or friends staring deeply into their screens, as opposed to having actual real conversations. Or showing each other shit on the others screen... #firstworldproblems
- You’ll sit less - a sedentary lifestyle can be as dangerous for your health as smoking, scientists say. And after a long day at work, we are increasingly using our down-time to check-on and update our social media—from a seated or lounging position - in bed or on the couch. A study has shown that people are sitting an extra 90 minutes each day because of Facebook. Minimising the time spent on social media frees up your time for healthier activities. Just don’t replace scrolling with playing video games or Netflix and Chill.
- You’ll learn more about yourself - once you stop scrolling through other people’s opinions, you will likely find out more about what motivates you, and not the hoards and masses. When people remove themselves from social media, they lose that temptation to garner attention and superficial feedback and those elusive 'likes' from others by posting where they went to dinner or where they went on vacation. That constant need and desire to be relevant in the eyes of others loses its grip, leading to the discovery of one’s true and unfiltered self.
- Your decision-making skills will improve - many people’s beliefs and values are influenced by what they read on social media. #influencer lifesyle! According to a study from Pew Research, half of Facebook users get their news from just from Facebook alone, therefore a lot of the decisions people are making isn’t about thinking, it’s a collective consciousness. Remove yourself from social media and you’ll learn how to think more and make decisions and choices independently, rather than Trumps coined #fakenews!
- You’ll argue less - It’s much easier to type a scathing remark, or unsolicited comment when you’re hiding behind a screen, than hurling an insult when you’re in the same room as someone and face-to-face. But when you stop using social media, you’re taking yourself out of the fray and you’ll be less emotionally charged. Exit cue Internet trolls... also, limiting your exposure to such negative commentary assists with the lack of need to carry around the baggage and hurt all day, or that you’re pissed off about some shit that some dick posted.
- You’ll develop more emotional intelligence - ditching the Book or the Gram may not only make you a nicer person, but it could also help you develop your emotional intelligence. But it does require that you, yes, interact with other human beings... Scary huh. When we’re on a computer screen for hours a day, then we’re removing the possibility of having face-to-face interaction and we’re reducing our emotional intelligence, which is a vital skill in any relationship or partnership. Lifting your head from the screen and having real conversations can increase the quality of your relationships and help you develop this critical skill.
I am still unsure whether or not my self-imposed Social Media hiatus is a means of punishment or not. However, I am currently looking for a healthy exit strategy, and how to set adequate boundaries for my return to the online social world.
People forget you exist
You stop getting invited places
People take it as a personal attack "haven't heard from you in ages" - like it was my sole right to be the person to constantly initiate communication.
People message only when they want or need of you...
But it gives you the time and space to heal...
For an effective comeback you need to have mechanisms to catch you falling back into the hole, that is Social Media. Be mindful about your mindset prior to engaging with Social Media, if you’re already feeling down, check yourself before scrolling through your feeds. Social media can be a swamp of self-pity, apathy and fear-mongering. So, if you’re feeling down at all, chances are social media can make you feel like you’re at the bottom of the barrel because so many people are only showing off their best life, as discussed in length above. If you’re feeling blue, prepare to go a shade darker by jumping in the hole, in other words, go do something else...
Social media may have redefined what it means to have a 'sense of community', and 'interconnectedness' however the combination of overuse and the need for validation and attention has proven to be both destructive to mental wellness as well as detrimental to overall productivity.
Social media illusions creates unrealistic expectations of society. The majority of content posted is twists of the truth and reflects only the high points or staged views into someone’s life. Fear of missing out (FOMO), is now an official word recognized by the Oxford English Dictionary, was initially coined as slang for having conflicting plans and feeling sad for not being with a group of people who are currently together.
Learn when to sign off. There are a couple approaches to achieving this.
1. Allocate a limited amount of time each day at a specific time of day to check social media channels - such as 15 minutes every morning.
2. Avoid being on your phone during meals, especially when others are around.
3. Delete apps from your phone so you can only access social media from a computer. Leverage this opportunity to spend more time outside and focus on hobbies and activities that you enjoy. These methods could also potentially influence those who are around you to also not check social media consistently throughout the day also.
Delete apps with no purpose. Don't use Snapchat anymore... delete it snap... bye Felicia. Scrolling should not feel like work. Social media is an amazing tool, if used correctly. Delete apps that are distracting and not bringing you joy. If people really want to get into touch with you they will find another way to let you know.
Unplug yourself. Give yourself a set time in the evening where you plug your phone in and leave it. Set a time in the morning where you won't check your phone until that specified time. Give yourself a day, or a weekend, off from social media. When you do this, actually log out of the app so you aren't tempted.
Remove all negative entities.
Pages, Groups, Chats, Friends that don't serve you. Cut off all the toxic growths - there is no point keeping something around that does more harm than good. So decide, stick by it, and keep on moving forwards.