There is a long story to the why I decided to take a Social Media cleanse, but I’m going to try to give you the Cliff’s Notes version: I had to put my money where my mouth was. As a parent, I limit my daughter’s use of technology, prevent her from using social media, and serve as her content gatekeeper, protecting her from the many dangers on the internet and hopefully preventing harmful side effects resulting from viewing massive amounts of digital information at an impressionable age.
My husband “got clean” over a year ago and totally unplugged himself from Facebook and Instagram. He did turn a little self-righteous about how freeing it felt, how liberated he was, and how he broke free of the shackles of mindless scrolling through meaningless stuff. It was irritating as hell and made me insane. Although I knew he had a point, I didn’t think my social media-ing was a problem. In fact, I use it less than many people I know (of course, I spend my days with teenagers). I don’t use SnapChat, think filters are destroying young people’s positive self-image, and honestly have no idea how Twitter works or what the hype is all about.
I do, however, enjoy Facebook. I love that I’ve been able to live in different countries and states, have moved across the continent, and have been able to discover, keep, and maintain points of contact with so many people. I believe authentic connections are the thread that weaves humanity together, and I have faith that things like Facebook offers opportunities to make connections. I use this site as a means to promote my yoga classes, share snippets of my life, and try to spread a little joy and humor to brighten someone else’s scroll time.
I enjoy Instagram when I don’t want all the words, opinions, or soapbox rants of Facebook. The images are beautiful, inspiring, and intriguing. There are so many great feeds belonging to truly amazing people who share motivational posts, pictures, and videos. There are some who post powerful and informational pieces, and I look forward to gaining their bits of wisdom through this form of media. I enjoy seeking out physical motivation here as well, but sometimes the images that flash before my face are of stunning bodies that are doing amazing physical feats that are not in my yoga repertoire. There are days when that motivation is not there and instead I only observe comparisons, inner criticism, and negative self-talk.
I decided to take 5 days off from social media. Each month my daughter surrenders her cell phone to “Live in the 90’s”. She is allowed TV, the cordless phone, and the computer for school work, but other than that, no smart phone. It’s not a punishment, but a reality check and thankfully, she doesn’t fight us on it (much…anymore) and actually has positive things to say about her time away from the screen. She says she feels better, gets to spend more time reading, playing her guitar, and working on the artwork she unintentionally neglects if always focused on her phone.
So this month I decided to join her. I use texting for communication at my work so I couldn’t go without the actual phone, but I did uninstall Facebook and Instagram and committed to spending 5 days on a Social Media cleanse and this is what I learned.
DAY ONE: Where is everyone?
Once the apps were gone, I would look at the home screen with a little confusion about what to do with this So-Called Smart Phone. This is going to call for 100% transparency, so here ya go: My bathroom trips were where I noticed it most on that first day. A trip to the bathroom used to be a little “me time” to check in, zone out, and scroll. I was suddenly left to my own devices and tried scanning the news headlines but realized that was awful, so I ditched the effort and just spent less time in the bathroom. I quickly became aware of the amount of times I would check my phone, looking for notification alerts and feeling a little disappointed when there were none.
DAY TWO: Itchy thumbs
The second day was a little harder (I moved magazines back into the bathroom like the good old days) and I noticed how many times I found myself looking at my phone’s home screen, my thumb hovering over the space where the icon used to be and wondering how I found myself there. It was always those moments of “downtime” that we all find ourselves scrolling and scanning……. in my office between appointments, waiting for my kid at car loop, standing in line at the post office, on the couch with TV on, or any of the moments sprinkled between laundry, housework, chores, and homework. All of these times I went to find mindless entertainment, I found a blank space and the inability to distract myself with a thumb tap of an app. I caught myself doing this more times than I’d like to admit, but I knew it was part of the cleanse so I stayed the course.
DAY THREE: Detoxing
Wednesday is when I learned about FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out. I had heard it used by teenagers but now I understood. I found myself thinking about what the latest buzz could be on Facebook, which Instagram stories had I missed, if anything exciting had happened in the world, and what people had been having for dinner. No – I didn’t wonder that, but you catch my drift: I felt like I was missing out. Then my ego started chiming in. I was wondering if people had seen my final post announcing my social media cleanse, if it had likes or comments, or if anyone missed me. These feelings were weird and uncomfortable but passed quickly. Since I am confident in my role with my family, the close friends, peers, and students I work with in “real life” I was able to draw that line that the attention on Facebook or Instagram does not equal to my personal worth or value, but it did make me wonder the effects on someone younger, less grounded, or more insecure. It also made me happy to stick with the cleanse.
DAY FOUR: Turning the corner
Thursday was like I woke up outside of The Matrix. Not to sound dramatic, but the articles I had read, the suspicions I had, the research about the impact of social media on one’s confidence and happiness was fully proven to me this day. I had read it, shared it, and seen it but this was the time I had actually felt it. I knew social media had been effecting my confidence, well-being, and overall health.
Every one of us has dreams, goals, and wishes and then we are faced with two choices: focus in on those dreams and chase them down or make excuses and find distractions. Seeking inspiration from Insta-stories is not pushing me toward my personal goals. Scrolling past a highlight reel is not a way of cleaning-up my behind-the-scenes mess (which we all have). The amount of likes on a social media platform is not a direct correlation of my positive impact on the world. Although I had known this stuff in theory and believed it all, for I am a “BD: Before Digital” adult. One that made it to college with dial-up and became a parent well before I owned a Smart Phone, but only when I had the distraction taken away was I was able to see the forest for the trees and really understand the significance these sites can have on our youth and society.
DAY FIVE: Let it ride
The last day of my cleanse found me reflecting on the week and how silly and trivial it seemed at first and how poignant and pertinent it ended up being. I freed up more time to look inward, to be creative and connect with my authentic self, to seek inspiration from the people, sights, sounds, and world around me. I sat through my daughter’s dental exam alternating between gazing at the hippo mural on the wall and daydreaming about future plans while watching the wind sway the trees outside the window. I went through the entire week feeling content and secure and had no mini thoughts of “I wish I could afford that yoga retreat/live in that house/live that lifestyle”. I finished the books I hadn’t gotten to because I “didn’t have the time.”
I have decided that I am not reinstalling Facebook or Instagram to my phone and have no plans on going back to those sites for the rest of the year. I plan on incorporating social media in a positive way once again, but for now I am enjoying my free time too much. I would encourage everyone to spend this holiday season focused on real life connections in your family and with total strangers. Smile at the people in the busy stores, wave at the Santa in the mall, and look the woman in the check-out line in the eye when you say thank you. I’ll be out there, doing the same thing!
Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and see you all in 2019!