Have you ever thought about how much social media personally controls your life? Sure, you’ve read articles about the amount of time we spend on our phones, the dangers of blue light and comparing ourselves to others, but have you actually examined how all of this affects YOU? I did an impromptu social media break a few weeks ago, and I truly feel like my life and understanding of myself has been changed forever.
The first few days were a bit rough. Just like any other addiction, I found myself going through the motions to fuel my social media habit. I would pick my phone up and immediately and without thinking, scroll to the page where my social media icons would usually sit, staring up at me taunting. Instead, I had an empty screen. Where I would usually go to get my fix, nothing. After the first few days, this habit disseminated, and I began to physically feel like I had more space in my brain.
As the days ticked by, I realized that there was time in my day that I could now dedicate to other things. Sure, I will still have to sit at the doctor’s office and wait for my name to be called, but instead of scrolling through Instagram I would read a book, or watch people, or do a jigsaw puzzle. Yes, you heard me right, a jigsaw puzzle. I realized that one of the joys of social media for me is the mindlessness of it. My brain is always running at a million miles an hour, and if I have a few minutes to switch off, I welcome it gladly. The downside of switching off with social media is that although it seems mindless, the internal and subconscious judging was still swirling inside of me. I may think the scrolling isn’t doing anything, but I realized that it was actually making me more stressed, because I would be thinking about how I should be better, stronger, smarter, prettier. In contrast, this jigsaw puzzle app (called Jigsaw puzzle) was equally mindless, but at the end of a five minute session, I felt destressed and accomplished! One more piece complete!
I also noticed how my experiences changed. To be clear, I am not someone who is always on my phone, and I am actually fairly abysmal at “stories” and sharing my daily life (which I am very ok with). This detox, however, highlighted my daily experiences in a new and profound way. I started noticing when I would reach for my phone to take a picture and ask myself if I really wanted to capture this moment for myself, or because I was trying to portray a specific image of myself. Did you know that in two weeks without social media I only took 8 photos. 8! Now think how many you have taken in the last two weeks. The amount of activities and travels and events didn’t change, in fact, I did some pretty rad stuff, but I just didn’t feel the need to document everything.
At the end of the two weeks, I started to be less and less excited about getting back on social media. Sure, I missed checking in with my friends and I am sure there are invites or birthdays I missed, but I began to become anxious about getting back on social media. It was like someone who had just given up cigarettes and then someone has told them they have to start smoking again, but for their health they could only have one cigarette a day. I knew that to maintain my smoke free, happy bubble self, I needed to limit my social media habit. But how?
I have instated a few rules for myself to help maintain my happy place. I downloaded the app Planoly, which helps me write and organize my Instagram posts, so I am not sitting on the platform itself and getting sucked in for hours. I have also enacted a social media blackout for myself, which means I am pretty much off Instagram and Facebook from 10pm-9am. Sometimes, there are exceptions, but just being conscious of this blackout time is extremely helpful. I have also promised myself I won’t be on social media while I am watching tv, but will doodle, do a jigsaw puzzle, or *gasp* just watch the show!
As artists, of course it is important to share our work and create an image of ourselves for others, but it is equally important to make sure that we are happy with ourselves. And not just fake social media happy, but truly happy. The fact that I felt so much anxiety before getting back on social media showed me that I needed to do some personal work about how I interacted with my image. I am an artist, but I am also a woman with feelings and aspirations and those feelings don’t have to always be shared with others. Sometimes, we need a little mystery in our lives. I can’t wait until my next social media break, and in the meantime, try one yourself, and then tell me about it on Twitter or Instagram! Ironic, I know, but if your experience and the conversation is genuine, that is all that matters. Social media is how we largely interact with the world, and that is fine, as long as you are true to your authentic self and find some time for puzzles now and then.