Life without social media: an experiment
Go on. Admit it. You’re addicted to social media and it’s ruining your life.
What’s the first thing you do in the morning? Grab your phone and open Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest.
Even before kissing the person lying next to you, or saying good morning?
Welcome to my world.
Or should I say my old world?
The idea to give up social media for a month
You see on the 22nd July I was on the beach with Léna and her friend, on their primary school holidays, and they were having a ball together, chatting, laughing, colouring in, climbing trees and more. Whilst what was I doing? Mindlessly scrolling through my Facebook timeline. Until a post stopped me in my tracks. Someone I follow (who also uses Facebook massively for his business) shared that he had stopped using Facebook for a month.
My first thought was “That’s amazing!” but it was quickly followed by “but I couldn’t do that”.
I continued scrolling, but the seed of the idea had been sown and it niggled. Why couldn’t I do it? The more I thought about it the more I realised I NEEDED to do it. I needed a break from being constantly on with various Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, Instagram, blogging and more. I was tired and I needed a break. I needed to switch off and “go dark”. And to be honest there’s no better time to do it, work-wise, than July and August when people aren’t as connected as during the rest of the year.
So I made my decision, I would give up all social media and blogging for the month, which took me through to Léna’s first day back at school after the holidays, the 22nd August. However I ended up enjoying it so much that I only went back on Facebook last Thursday, 6 weeks after going cold turkey. (Disclosure – I did have to dip in quickly to organise a house party we had at the weekend.)
I absolutely loved being switched off BUT it wasn’t like that from the start…
The reality of giving up social media
As soon as I woke up in the morning I had to stop the twitch to grab my phone. When I was out and about and had down time, such as queuing at the supermarket or waiting for the kids to do various activities, my knee jerk reaction was to open up Facebook (my social media drug of choice). At times it felt like I was physically restraining myself from opening the apps, even though I’d hidden them all away and off my home screen.
But little by little it became less of a second nature and more an old habit that I occasionally remembered.
I lived life instead.
Once I’d made the decision to to leave this online world I made a list of things that make me happy and didn’t involve social media or TV, as I didn’t want that to replace my social media time:
Where I used to pick up my phone I would pick up my Kindle to read or my Sudoku book. I spent time playing shops with 3 year old Clémence, I whiled away an hour sitting side by side with 9 year old Léna colouring in a book of hers in companionable silence.
I didn’t know what was happening in the world (I don’t read, watch or listen to the news), I didn’t know what was happening in my friends’ or family’s lives other than through calls, texts and emails. It was strangely liberating.
What I did with my time instead of being on social media
I spent 4 of the weeks working and the other two on holiday (at home). I don’t normally go onto social media during my working hours, unless it’s for something business-related, so I didn’t think it would change my productivity. However I hadn’t realised how much brain space it used up when I checked it before working; updates read at lunchtime would linger in my mind whilst trying to work in the afternoon. So suddenly my mind felt freer, my brain more able.
I started to write a book.
The freedom from social media opened up a world of opportunities for me. I let my mind wonder and Your Life is Shit (and you know it) was born, the book that I look forward to sharing with you in the next few months.
Relationship-wise it was revolutionary too.
I spent time WITH my kids, not just physically in the same place as them. I talked to them, I listened to them, I played with them. My phone was elsewhere and not this barrier between us anymore.
As for Ben and me, I felt like I was fully concentrating on him when he was speaking, that I was fully present. We had date nights out and date nights at home where we talked and talked and talked about everything and nothing. We got even closer than usual.
And then we had these incredible family times – day trips to the beach (it’s winter here in Mauritius but we’ve still had some glorious “summer” days)…
…family nature walks, picnics, BBQs and more.
The conclusion to my social media blackout experience
So what next?
As much as I missed social media – both sharing all the fun things we were doing and seeing what my friends and family were up to – I really, really loved living life too, and being in the moment. It was so incredibly liberating to sit, muse, read, write, play, talk, be without constantly reaching for my phone.
So yes I am back, but differently.
The plan is to only use social media on my computer (except Instagram of course!), and to go on it sparingly: a quick peak at notifications in the morning, but not first thing! Another quick peak at notifications and messages after lunch, and then one hour in the evening while the girls are winding down with some TV time.
That means I will miss out on lots – I have over 500 friends on Facebook, I follow nearly 3000 people on Twitter and 300 on Instagram so there’s no way I can keep up with what everyone’s doing, but I’m not going to try to either. Whereas before I’d worry that I might have missed updates and upset people by not liking, commenting, RTing, now I’m not going to stress it. I’ll see what I’ll see and that’s fine.
Over to you now. Is it time for you to rethink your social media usage? Could you / would you ever give up social media for a month? Have you ever done it before? And if so, how did it go? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this one in the comments below 🙂
Thank you as ever for reading, commenting and sharing. And an extra thank you for being patient while I disappeared for 6 weeks!