Wednesday, January 11, 2017

What I Learned From A Week Long Social Media Detox

It was barely 5pm on Christmas Day when I'd already stumbled across 4 fresh engagements on social media and was scrolling past one after another bikini clad instagrammer whilst my hand was firmly wedged in a tub of cheeselets (Not sorry).

Boxing Day brought a backlash of abuse on twitter for those who chose to go sales shopping and indulge in getting some half price Christmas bath bombs (I only wish I'd been up earlier as I sat at the 92,000th person in the queue). Don't get me started on the amount of tweets I saw from people slating those who were showing what they got for Christmas. I'd never seen anything like it, and it all made me incredibly miserable.

With so much of my time spent online, I don't think I realised how much I was being affected by what I saw online. I was constantly comparing myself, never feeling 'good enough' despite knowing that people only portray the best bits of their life online, and I spent far too much time scrolling, and not participating in life.

Let's not forget that I probably spend 70% of my week online in some capacity. Pictures were only taken on the grammability factor, and I had this awful compulsion to check how many likes I would get at least 10 times after posting (definitely more). Now I absolutely love Instagram and taking nice pictures, but was this normal behaviour? I don't think people believed me when I said I literally buy food from pretty cafes and nice things because you know where that would look good? Instagram. I was tired of 'having' to take pictures of everything, instead of just 'being' in the moment and not having to record every last detail online. After all, blogging is NOT my full time job, its a hobby.

So I decided it was time to do something about how I was feeling and thought I would kick 2017 off with one of my failed 2016 resolutions and have a social media detox for one whole week. I chose to keep Pinterest as my my only vice to keep me going, I needed something to help with the withdrawal at least. As my friends and family know, this was kinda a big deal - my dad said I wouldn't even last 2 hours, so thanks for that, I didn't know how I would cope without it, but I couldn't wait to see how I got on and what my outlook would be at the end of the week.

Day 1
I decided to start one day earlier than planned. The sooner I start the sooner it will be over, right? I signed out of all my accounts the night before ready for the challenge, it felt like I was getting ready for the biggest event of my life ever. It felt like it anyway. I was staying at James' house at the time and when I woke up I instantly reached for my phone to check the gram, Facebook feed and my tweets, it was an instinctive habit that I quickly realised I couldn't do right now.

I felt a little bit lost. Scrolling on my feeds when I wake up with breakfast is MY thing, and it has been for a good few years, forget reading the morning newspaper or actually speaking to my parents. I also knew I had a 5 hour train journey ahead of me and I wasn't sure how I was going to fill the void of refreshing my Instagram feed every 30 seconds. I knew today would be the hardest as I would be heading back to work on day 2 and that would take up a big chunk of my day. But I did it, I wrote 3 blog posts in the process and planned a lot of content for 2017, it felt great. A productive train journey for once! I also didn't end up on 0% battery after the first 30 minutes which is always a good thing.

Day 2
I survived day 1. I can do this. It was my first day back at work, back to a routine after a week, I had missed this. The only thing missing with my breakfast was my social media dose. I read a magazine whilst I ate and spoke to my mum about my holiday, I was finished 10 minutes earlier than normally and gained 10 minutes extra getting ready, I liked this.

When I arrived at work I had encouragement for giving it up for a week, they know how addicted to 'the gram' I am. I was prepared for lunchtime and brought my magazine with me, I usually spend the whole hour refreshing all channels for new content, it's far less exhausting than engaging in lunchtime conversation, right? 

Usually when I get home from work I feel obliged to go through the entire Instagram feed back to where I was at lunch so I'm all caught up, I'm very much one of those people, and if I've not had a chance to look at work it feels like a chore in the evening. But nope, I didn't have to do that this evening. I actually had FREE TIME for once, what is that?! I blogged, I read my how to not give a fuck book and felt fabulous. It was the first time in months, even years that my head actually started to feel a bit clear and I felt happy. Oh, and I could actually fall asleep straight away, my head wasn't whirring with what Sally had been doing, and my head wasn't visually stimulated as I hasn't been looking at my phone for a couple of hours before I went to sleep.

Day 3 - 5

The next 3 days in the week at work went incredibly fast, as they always do. It just felt like the norm being without social media and I certainly didn't miss it, the only thing that felt different was that I had more time in the mornings and evenings to do what I wanted. I haven't gone this long without social media probably since a summer holiday in 2008 when getting internet on your phone abroad just wasn't a thing. But I wasn't even itching to check my notifications, I just couldn't care. I was feeling 100% happier, and for the first time in ages I felt really good about myself and could properly focus on what other things were going on in my life. I think I'm actually enjoying this?

However, lunchtime on Day 5 was hard as there wasn't anyone around to speak to at lunch and I'd already read my glamour magazine page to page 5 times. At least social media is usually my safety blanket during lunchtimes if nothing much is going on. I think I'll have to change this after the ban by replacing it with reading a good book or blogging in my lunchtime. I was starting to miss it slightly, especially the blogging community and the close friends that I have made through blogging. My phone was like an empty vessel, I think it even missed the constant notifications coming through too, and I still kept checking my phone only to realise the apps weren't there. But thanks to Facebook and Instagram it was like I'd barely been off it as they even emailed me my notifications to check if I was okay? Was I still alive? WHY HADN'T SHE BEEN ONLINE IN 5 DAYS???

Soz guys, I had better things to do.

But the weekend would be the real acid test. What would I do if I ate a piece of cake and couldn't Instagram it? Would it really have happened?

Day 6-7

I kept myself busy during the weekend. I had a huge to do list which is usually a chore on the weekends that I can't be bothered to complete. But without having to check my phone every 2 minutes, it was achievable and I felt so good for finishing it. I was starting to realise just how much of my free time is actually spent looking on social media. Yes, I am busy every week. We're all busy. But social media is the biggest time waster, and guess what? We all have as many hours in the day as Beyonce if you take some time away from social media every once and a while. Incredible isn't it?

I enjoyed things without feeling the need to take a picture and then share it. I'm not going to lie, recently it has felt like a chore keeping my Instagram up to date. Like 'GUYS I haven't done an Instagram in 2 days, I better force something'. Sometimes I really do want to just enjoy something and live in the moment without having to keep taking a picture or 50 for the perfect shot. It's felt more like a burden than anything else, especially as I work full time and do other things in my spare time. 

I was bored at points during the weekend where I would usually check my phone and refresh all the feeds, but usually to stumble across something that I would rather have not seen. Instead I was trying to fill this new free time with wholesome things that actually made me happy. The week was all about being prepared with things to keep me occupied when I finally had some spare time. It was difficult, but I knew at this stage I only had one day to go and even though I was feeling great, boy had I missed Instagram. 

So after a week free of social media, how do I feel? And what have I learnt?

It's something that I have wanted to do for a long time, and having a week away from the vortex that is social media has been a real eye opener. Yes, I feel like I'm out of touch with things, but isn't this what normal life was like 10 years ago? Stripping back to the basics of interaction, reading and having time to myself without worrying about other people and seeing things I'd rather not see has finally opened my eyes to what I've been missing in life. I've been so miserable caught up in this online world, that I couldn't see in front of me how great my life actually is and what I've been missing out on. 

It's true that too much time is spent caring about people that you don't like and doing things you don't want to do whilst worrying about what other people think. The funny thing is that the majority of things you see on social media are fake or inaccurately portrayed, just because people portray their lifestyle to be absolutely bloody fantastic, the truth is it probably isn't. 

I'm of course now back on social media, I did miss it. More for catching up with my favourite bloggers and eyeing up the Asos feed for things to buy that I can't afford. But I do need to be kinder to myself at least, and know that when I'm sad it does stem from social media. I'll definitely be having more down time from social media and have more weekends away from it, and if I feel like posting something in the future that isn't 'insta friendly' to hell I'm going to do it because I couldn't care less if 10 people unfollowed me for it, at least I'll be fitting in with the consistent theme of Instagram at the moment, eh?

Social Media is an amazing thing, but treat yourself kindly with it. Have plenty of time away from it, take things with a pinch of salt and only post things because you want to. Not because you think your followers would like it. If you follow these rules for social media you won't be needing to take week long breaks off like me. Now, how many likes did I get on my last post?

Would you be able to cope without social media for a week?

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