Looking at my phone pick-up stats from the last seven days, on average I pick up my phone 37 times a day. I can tell you without looking further into the stats that most of these pick-ups are to check social media.
When I’m not writing here at Life Coach Directory, I run my own blog and coaching business. Both of these ventures require a social media presence to really flourish. I need to ‘show up’ and ‘provide value’, whether it’s through daily Instagram stories or tweets. I need to connect with people, tell them about my blog and remind them casually that they can hire me as a coach (if they so wish!).
Alongside basic marketing, I love social media for the community. I have a lovely collection of online friends who I interact with on an almost daily basis. Through direct messages and comments, I feel as if I’ve truly found my tribe.
Sharing on social media has also become somewhat of a hobby to me. Capturing the everyday, talking about topics I’m passionate about or sharing a little about my work process is something that genuinely makes me happy. But recently, it was beginning to feel more and more like work.
I felt as if I was on a hamster wheel, trying to produce content consistently without a moment to stop and breathe. I had some time off work coming up and so decided to take a break from social media. My goal was to come off all social media for five days, which, I’ll be honest, felt intimidating.
Five days away from social media – what happened?
On the first day, the sun was shining and I took myself to sit by the river in my hometown with a book and iced coffee. As I sat down, I noticed the reeds blowing in the wind and a couple of ducks swimming by. My instinct was to reach for my phone and capture the moment for Instagram.
This reaction stopped me in my tracks. I hadn’t realised quite how second-nature my sharing had become. Of course, I didn’t reach for my phone.
Instead, I became glued to the spot, soaking in the present moment. My attention lingered on the way the sun felt on my skin, how the reeds danced in the wind and the various people, ducks and dogs that slid into view… It was glorious.
As the days went on, I had more moments like this. I found myself with more time to let my mind wander, ideas had the chance to gently land and every thought and emotion that came my way made itself known.
I read a huge amount and got through my backlog of podcasts. I doodled, wrote tiny pieces of poetry in my notes app and watched documentaries that fed my soul.
That’s not to say I didn’t have my difficult moments. The pockets of time when I was waiting for someone or something suddenly became drawn out. Usually, this would be the time for me to have a quick scroll.
I did have a couple of moments where I worried about how my lack of presence would affect my social media growth. I had the odd moment when anxious thoughts filled my mind, but I didn’t have my usual escape tool – social media. I had to sit with my thoughts and find a new way of overcoming them.
I think this is an element of social media we perhaps don’t discuss enough, the way it can numb us from our own thoughts. Rather than dealing with some of the more difficult thoughts and feelings we have, it can be easier to bury our heads in the lives of others – watching their highlight reels through stories.
So having this time away from social media gave me an opportunity to return to habits like journaling and meditation to work through these feelings, and it felt much better.
What did I miss about social media?
I missed the sense of community. While I loved the chance to re-charge (as an introvert, time alone is my way of regaining energy), I did miss the interaction and feeling part of a conversation.
I noticed there were certain platforms I missed more than others and made a decision to pause activity in my Facebook group and instead focus on Instagram – a platform I get more joy from.
What didn’t I miss?
I didn’t miss the self-imposed pressure to ‘create content’ every day. Instead, I feel like I reconnected with my creativity and what I want to share, rather than what I thought I should share.
I also didn’t miss the hours lost to social media either. It felt great to have more time to read, be present and really relax. This is a feeling I’m keen to keep hold of!
How I plan to move forward
Towards the end of my social media break, I felt the urge to create and share again, which was great. I felt refreshed and revitalised. Before the break, I had already started having Saturdays off social media, and this is a habit I plan to continue with. Having one day a week, every week, away from social media entirely is like hitting the reset button for me and gives me that white space I crave.
I made some changes to my social media marketing plan too, pausing content in my Facebook group and reducing the number of posts I share on Instagram each week. While this will technically make me less ‘visible’ it will give me time and space to focus on more creative projects I have in the pipeline and that, to me, is far more valuable.
I would also like to have more extended breaks in the future. Perhaps every quarter I’ll take five days off, like a holiday, and use the time to rest, relax and see what ideas come.
I don’t think spending time on social media is a bad thing, however, if you’re feeling burnt out with it, or suspect it’s affecting your mental health then taking a break could be just what you need. It’ll give you perspective and a chance to assess how you’re using social media and whether or not you want to make any changes to your approach.
Remember, we are in control of how we use social media and who we follow. Ultimately, it’s up to us to take control and manage our relationship with it.