First of all, apologies for the click bait-y title. I know, I know. It would annoy me too. But I got your attention, didn’t I?
When I went off social media on October 2—the day after turning thirty-five—I told myself I’d be back on in thirty days. I just needed a reset. A break. Some time away from feeds and ads, and to focus on my family.
This was partially by necessity. You see, I have a difficult-to-put-to-bed child, and many nights, I would lay next to him while he fell asleep, scrolling through my feed, waiting for his deep breathing to signal my chance to sneak out. But more times than I’d like to admit, I laid there way longer than necessary, my face lit up by the glow of my smartphone, watching Stories and scrolling Instagram. While I don’t think I fell into comparison, I was simply wasting time.
I was posting at night too. During the day, I’d often record videos or take photos. At night, I’d post and “catch up” on my friends’ lives. And also near-strangers’ lives. (As I look back, three months removed from my quit from social, I can’t help but ogle at my weird behavior. Because staring at a little device for hours a week is kind of strange. Right?)
So I quit. I went off social media entirely, with the exception of the Facebook group for my Nonfiction Book School program. Occasionally I jumped in to respond to messages (I kept some alerts on). Every so often, I needed to access a group or information on Facebook. But mostly, I stayed away.
Being off social media has been amazing. Liberating. Totally and completely freeing. I have my mind back—I’m no longer thinking about Instagram when I take photos or videos. I’m not writing captions in my head while I’m on a hike or thinking about a Stories series I’ll do that week. Instead, I am thinking about things that matter and creating content I feel really good about. Like client work, podcast episodes, and this blog.
I also found new ways to connect with my friends. Since I’m not keeping up on their lives on social media, I pick up the phone and call them. Like, actually call them. On the phone. To talk. Out of the blue.
I read the news myself rather than rely on others to curate it for me (yes, I did that).
I am spending more time reading, learning, and listening to podcasts.
I call my mom.
I tidy the house and go through things I put off. (Like all those pesky puzzles with the missing pieces. Buh-bye, Batman puzzle! See ya, Thomas the Train!)
Most of all, I’ve reclaimed my focus. I’ve tidied my mental space.
Attention is the scarcest commodity these days, and I decided to reclaim mine.
But I have to admit, my click-bait title isn’t totally honest, because the truth is, I’ll be back on social media. I have big dreams to help tens of thousands of aspiring authors write their books, and the place to connect with them is online. Places like Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn. But I’ll do so responsibly and respectfully, for them and for me. The difference is I now see social media as a tool for connection rather than a place to socialize.
A few parameters I’ve set for myself upon my inevitable return:
- Check my feed no more than once per day for 10 minutes or less. (Ideally once per week.)
- Post no more than three times per week. (Ideally once, because ain’t nobody got time for that.)
- Create and share thoughtful, meaningful content.
That’s it. I plan to log out of my social apps when I’m done using them. (I haven’t re-downloaded Instagram yet.) And most of all, I want to remember that social media is about people. There are real humans on the other side of the screen. I’m a real human too, who wants to spend time connecting in more meaningful ways with people, not screens.
How about you? What is your relationship like with social media? What would you like to change? What parameters do you set for yourself to keep healthy boundaries with technology? Share with me—I love learning from you!