So here I am in the Sierras, hiking my way up to a bunch of lakes. It’s hot and dry and I stop to admire the mountains every few minutes. And my phone has no signal. And I’m living my best life.
See, the whole point of taking a break from social media is not to feel deprived. You want to feel like you’re fully participating in your own life. You’re taking an amazing hike and it’s not on Instagram and that’s totally cool because memories last a lifetime. That’s exactly how I’ve felt these past 10 days.
It was both reaching for my phone a little too often and the opportunity to spend time in places where phones aren’t such a big deal that made me realise I wanted a break. It’s 11.25 and it’s not lunchtime yet and I Just. Need. Something. to pass the time, so I watch a few Instagram stories. That started happening a lot. My weekend away in Lake Tahoe (post coming soon!) made me realise I wasn’t always connecting to myself because I was so busy trying to connect with others on social media. Does that sound familiar to any of you?
So on the bus home from my weekend trip away, as I was watching the sun rise, I deleted Instagram, Facebook (not messenger), Pinterest and Snapchat from my phone. Over the next 10 days, the only online interactions I had were through texts, FaceTime and emails. There were so so many positive outcomes, but there were some significant victories!
- Waking up at 5.20 for my Ashtanga practice became a piece of pie. No notifications, no temptations. Just my alarm, and I’d cycle to the studio blissfully unaware of what the rest of the world was doing.
- A lot less time wasted scrolling. Sure, I still got lost researching random, pointless stuff on Google. It happens. But I often schedule stuff (reading, taking a walk, writing a blog post…) that I end up not doing because I reach for my phone instead. I read a lot more at coffeeshops over the past few days, and listened to a lot more inspiring music, too.
- Appreciating the value of doing nothing. ‘Busy’ is glorified in the west. “How are you?’, “So busy.” And when you’re not busy doing stuff, you’re busy on social. It’s cool to sip coffee and feel a little bored. I felt that a couple of times. Being able to sit with your thoughts and sit through the frustration is kind of empowering.
- Eating is less passive. I’m not eating and scrolling, feeling like I need to catch up on all the posts I missed while I was working, stuffing the food in my mouth without really tasting it. It was a little uncomfortable at first – you’re just staring straight ahead of you, really. But it’s a much more joyful experience!
- I kind of became more ‘me’. I’m not doing/eating/wearing/thinking stuff because I saw it on Instagram. I’m just doing what I feel is right for me, and I don’t have these preconceived ideas about what I should be doing. I’m not judging myself through the lens of what others are up to. And I don’t feel like I’m missing out on all the fun. Even when I’m in bed at 9pm and others might be partying. If I can’t see it, it doesn’t really matter!
So you wanna try it? I could just tell you ‘pick up your phone, delete the apps, live a better life’. But I think it’s a little more involved than that.
If you’re feeling kind of sick and tired of reaching for your phone every 5 minutes, or you’re feeling down because everyone else’s life is just so much better, or that book just isn’t getting read or you end up scrolling instead of making it to yoga… These are all great reasons to start.
My take is:
- Don’t overthink it too much. Us westerners love to overthink. It’s good to have a reason, but you might not need a pros and cons list. It’s just a few days, and it’s just social media. You’re not giving up breathing for 10 days.
- Drop the expectation that you’re gonna ‘get so much done’. Giving up social media might put you in some tough spots where you actually can’t find anything to do. And instead of frantically keeping yourself busy, try to appreciate these empty moments with yourself. It’s pretty healthy to get to know yourself, you’re all you’ve got after all!
- Let people know you’re gonna be away for a little while. You won’t be worrying about friends and family thinking you’ve been abducted. If people want to reach out, they can text. Or come to your house. They’ll know how and where to find you.
- I recommend combining your social media break with some description of ‘finding deeper meaning’ or ‘soul searching’ or whatever you want to call it. I started writing down my thoughts in the mornings (only the mornings I don’t have 6am yoga), just a page. I also had a lot of long and meaningful conversations with friends. And I meditated more. But maybe you want to walk and think more, or explore an activity that’s really meaningful to you. Make this time worth your while!
I hadn’t set an end day for my break. I just thought, as soon as I’m feeling like I could live without it, but I’m starting to miss sharing my experiences with my friends, I’ll be back. And I’ve missed you all – I’m glad to be back with this experience under my belt and a new perspective on life!
Now the next question is… How do I transition back? Well, you’ll find out once I’ve figured it out!
Have you taken a social media break before? Would you like to? I’d love to know how you did and what you learned!