545 words. 5 minutes to read.
For the whole of March this year, I quit social media.
No Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram. I shut the world down.
For the first few days, I missed everything.
Instagram was the worst. My partner and I are in the midst of renovating our family home, and I’d reach for my phone to post up our latest handiwork, as we smashed down fireplaces and blocked up old doorways… then I’d realize that I couldn’t post any pics I’d taken until the end of the month.
I didn’t believe I was addicted until then. But the first week, when I woke at 2 a.m. and couldn’t reach for my phone to “just see what’s happening on Instagram”… yeah, then I knew I was addicted.
It almost hurt to not post and share the stuff we were doing, and to read what was happening on my favourite feeds. I didn’t really know what to do with myself, and felt a bit lost. Worse still, it affected my sleep, and I found myself lying awake at night, unable to rest my mind as it turned over all the things I might be missing.
I missed the endless entertainment that Twitter provided, and the banal food posts of Facebook. I missed the endless political updates, and the stupid memes.
Life without social
Suddenly I had time of my hands.
I had time to do the gardening I’d been delaying.
I had time to clean out my inbox which had become cluttered with spam and email from the kids’ schools.
I had time to wash windows and sort shelves and clear the pantry – all jobs I’d been delaying because I’d been “too busy”.
I had time to cook better meals in the evening, and enjoy my true passions – writing and reading more.
I cleared my filing and paperwork drawers, emptied my receipts folder, updated my superannuation company, unsubscribed from junk mail lists.
I found I had time to help the kids after school with their homework, and time to go for walks myself in the morning before I started work for the day.
I even found time to start meditating again.
All this because I wasn’t on social media.
Until now, I’d never even questioned how much time I spent on social. If someone had asked, I’d have said I was a “light user”, maybe a couple of hours or so a day.
Certainly I was nowhere near the average nine hours a day teens spend using digital media for their enjoyment!
Going without social for a month made me begin to seriously question just how many hours of my life I was wasting on status updates, on giving “Likes” and on making comments that nobody really wanted to read anyway.
When I returned to social media at the end of the month nobody even noticed I’d been gone.
One of my friends joked that everyone had been too busy checking their own “Likes” to notice!
It occurred to me how silly we are to spend so much time on something that nobody even cares about.
I’m not saying social is evil, or bad. But I am saying that, like alcohol, it is best used wisely and in moderation.
I’d even argue that social media is so addictive that it should probably never be used by children.
My experiences without social have made us reconsider how much screen time we allow our kids. They are no longer allowed screen time before school, and their after school time is quite limited.
They also have a curfew for devices, and all devices are left downstairs and are not allowed in bedrooms.
Reconsideration and new habits
How I use it now? I post my own content and I read social once a week for one hour – on Tuesday evenings. This is when I don’t have kids in the house.
I never skim read or scroll, and when I’m done I’m done.
I’m pretty weak-willed, so I set an alarm to beep at the end of an hour.
Oh, and I don’t keep the apps on my main phone screen, where the little blue circles of death can visibly tempt and stress me.
Blue circles of death. I’ve now removed social media apps from my home screen so these circles can’t be seen and prompt me to check social when I don’t plan to. This helps keep me in control.
Life is too short to be wasted on social media. Since my 30 day break, I’ve realized that real life experiences make me far happier than anything social can provide.