Photo by ROBIN WORRALL on Unsplash
Just like almost anyone out there, I’m on social media. And I spend way too much time on it.
I used to be so addicted to social media that I would spend all my free time watching what people posting, getting so sucked up in the virtual world that I completely lose my sense of reality.
Then I decided to take a break. I decided to delete all social media for 30 days and watch what happens. And it was the best decision I took in a while.
I am back to social media now and I enjoy using it. I just don’t feel like I’m dependent on it or that I need it. And that is a big win.
In this blog post I’ll share with you the whole story of how being away from social media changed my life.
I’ll also share with you how you can use social media in a positive way, so that you can deeply enjoy your everyday life and be more present and mindful (don’t worry, you won’t have to delete all social media for a whole month like I did).
Why did I decide to quit social media?
I’ve noticed that throughout the years of using social media, I always get to a point where my stress level goes up, my loneliness gets worse, and my life seems miserable comparing to other people’s lives –or at least the parts they’re posting.
Also, social media tends to be quite negative sometimes, with all the drama, the bad news, and the occasional bullying.
So, when it all gets too much, I usually take a break from social media, and that can go anywhere from one day to a whole week.
The idea of quitting social media for a whole month came to me while I was on a week-long social media break. Having a lot of free time to think made me realize that I was taking time away from my own life to watch the lives of others.
I realized that instead of wasting my time watching what other people are up to, I could be spending that time working on my goals, making my dreams come true, and enjoying my life.
So, I decided to go a whole month without social media.
I’ve already had the experience of spending days away from social media. So, one month seemed very doable all while being challenging to me.
The apps that I decided to stop using were: Instagram, Tiktok, and Facebook.
These are the apps that take most of my time, data, and battery. I can scroll through TikTok and Instagram for hours before I realize the time that has passed.
I decided to continue using some social media apps since they didn’t have the same negative impact as the ones I stated before.
I kept on using WhatsApp for work. I still watched YouTube because it’s a longer format, has a lot of valuable content, and I don’t find it addictive. And I also kept Pinterest because I tend to forget it even exists except for when I need inspiration for a specific subject.
I don’t use any other social media like Twitter or Snapchat so that wasn’t an issue for me.
The benefits I’ve gained from my 30 days social media detox
Better memory and longer attention span:
It’s crazy how short our attention span can be while using social media!
We are constantly jumping from one story to another, responding to messages, interacting with posts, and checking the notifications.
We barely concentrate on one thing before we move to the next.
Being away from social media helped me slowly but surely increase my attention span and improve my memory.
I became able to recall things very vividly and to concentrate on one thing and be fully present with it.
I noticed that when my presence and attention were undivided, both the process and the outcome were more meaningful and of higher quality.
I now can watch long videos with full attention, read books without getting distracted, and concentrate on tasks for an extended period of time.
More mental space and clarity:
I have been feeling lost and confused about what I wanted in life and which way I should go. My mind was foggy and busy most of the time.
I was getting fed all this data on social media that was completely irrelevant to me.
I was downloading people’s desires and goals until I didn’t know what were mine anymore.
I would see someone on social media traveling the world and I would want the same thing.
Whenever I saw a couple, I wished I had a partner too.
If someone was running a successful business, I wanted to do that as well.
That led me to want too many things at once and never really pursue any of them with dedication and commitment.
My social media detox helped me free up so much space in my brain and allowed me to get clear on what I want and what is important to me.
When I wasn’t distracted by the lives of others, I could finally think very clearly about my own and, more importantly, actually live it.
This brings me to the next benefit.
More peacefulness and mindfulness:
At some point, I realized that I was living through other people’s social media instead of living my own life.
I was watching people going to all these places, eating all this delicious-looking food, wearing all these beautiful clothes…
And I was missing out on my own life while doing that.
So, in the absence of social media, I started taking more time to enjoy the little things in my life.
I started eating my breakfast while listening to a podcast or simply in silence.
I spent more time with my family.
I was more present with my friends.
I filled my time with more peaceful activities and habits like writing, yoga, meditation, cooking, listening to podcasts, and watching beautiful and inspiring YouTube videos.
Now that you know all the beautiful benefits that I got from quitting social media for 30 days, let me tell you how you can get the same benefits without necessarily taking a total break from social media (but if you feel like doing it, please go ahead. It’ll be a magical experience, I promise.)
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How we can use social media in a mindful and positive way
When the 30 days of my social media detox were finished and I logged back to Instagram, my first impression was:
Woah! That’s overwhelming!
The sounds were too loud, the screen full of too much information, everything moved fast…
I felt lost as I was trying to navigate into the app.
My heartbeat even got faster as my anxiety started to go up, and that was my sign to take some space.
What shocked me the most is that even at the times when I wasn’t using social media, I was still thinking of it. It was occupying my mind.
So, when I say that social media takes too much of our time, it’s not only the time we spend on the apps. It’s also the time we spend thinking of it, planning our next post, or taking pictures of everything with the intention of posting it.
The good news is that my break gave me a sense of detachment and indifference to social media, which helped me establish healthier habits while using it.
Here are my most useful tips for having a mindful and mostly positive relationship with social media:
Turn off the notifications
I find notifications so invasive!
Social media notifications are specifically designed to keep you coming back to them often.
And once you’re in, chances are you won’t be simply checking the notification, but consuming much more content and spending more time on the app than you initially intended to.
I know you might have the fear of missing out, but do yourself a favor and turn off the notifications for social media (or any unessential app really) for just one day, and see what happens!
You will feel in control of what apps you want to use and when you want to use them.
You will be able to concentrate on other things without the distracting notifications.
Turning off the notifications is the first step to establishing healthy boundaries with social media.
Never scroll, it’s a trap!
This rule is very essential for me, and it also applies to moving through stories.
Do you ever go to an app for a specific reason and then start scrolling or going through stories until you forget why you even opened the app?
This is why the no scroll rule is a golden one.
If you want to check something specific, do it.
If you want to post something, do it.
But never scroll or check stories unless that’s what you want to do.
And even then, you’ll find that not everything in your feed is interesting or worth your time.
That’s why the next tip is important:
Tidy your social media
By this, I simply mean do an unfollow session. It is digital minimalism at its finest.
In order to know what to keep and what to unfollow, simply ask yourself these questions:
Do I really like this account’s content?
Am I only following this account out of obligation? (i.e.: an old friend back from middle school, a family member I don’t even like…)
And the most important of all:
How does this account make me feel?
If it makes you feel inspired, motivated, and brings little bits of beauty to your everyday life, then keep it.
If it makes you feel small and like your life isn’t worth much, or if that account shares negative vibes, then you don’t need that kind of content on your feed.
We don’t always realize it but our mind is always absorbing all this data we see and hear.
So, be very careful with what you let into your mind because it can easily affect your mental health.
Be selective with what you consume
Now that you’ve tidied your following, it doesn’t mean you have to watch every story and see every post.
I used to have this fear of missing out and I used to watch every single story and see every post.
I wasn’t at peace until all the stories were grey and that “you’re up to date” message appeared on my feed.
How wrong was I in doing that!
If you ever feel the fear of missing out, remember that by making sure you don’t miss out on anything posted on social media, you’re actually missing out on your own life.
So, whenever you open a social media app, pause for a second and think about what you want to see, then go straight to it.
The most important thing is to stay mindful and present.
Remember that you can always get out of the app and do something else.
You can make a list of things to do instead of social media and get back to it whenever you need.
Here is some inspiration for your list:
Read a book
Hug a loved one
Stretch or do yoga
Cook or bake something
Have a walk
Set a timer
If you tend to lose track of time while using social media then set a timer.
I know there are many apps out there that can help you manage the time you spend on social media but a good old timer works just as good.
You only need to be disciplined enough to actually get out of the app when the time is up.
Most social media provide you with your average time spent on the app, so check that and aim to reduce it in half.
To wrap it up, spending less time on social media will help you:
Have a better memory and longer attention span
Have more mental space and clarity
Feel more peaceful and mindful everyday
You can reap all these benefits and more by taking a break from social media like I did, or by simply following these tips:
Turn off the notifications for unnecessary apps
Don’t scroll mindlessly through social media
Unfollow the accounts that don’t inspire or educate you
Be selective with what you consume, you don’t to be up to date for everything
Set a timer -and respect it- to limit the time you spend on social media
Always remember that social media isn’t real life.
You will get much more gratification by doing an activity you love instead of consuming the curated content that other people share.
And don’t hesitate to take breaks whenever you need, even a 24h break can be very beneficial for you.