For as long as I’ve been writing about my life on the internet (so…14 years, holy crap) I’ve taken intermittent “digital sabbaticals.” I’ve written about them here in the past, with the main objective being taking a break from blogging and focusing more on my day-to-day life. That time has come again, my friends, but it’s different this time around. In fact, I have no idea how many of you will actually even see this post, since I won’t be promoting it on Instagram or Twitter or my personal Facebook. That’s right…I’m taking an extended social media break.
Why social media instead of a “digital sabbatical?” Well, it’s complicated. Except it’s not. The world has changed and while in the past I spent much of my computer and online time perusing and commenting on blogs, these days I find myself scroll, scroll, scrolling on the various social media apps. Most of this social media interaction happens on my phone, meaning it’s within my reach at almost all times of the day and night. This is a disaster for someone who likes to escape from reality…ME!
In the last few years, I’ve found my social media habit increasing as my other poor coping habits were cut out of my life. Don’t get me wrong, quitting alcohol, working toward eating healthy, and exercising are all awesome life changes that I’m really proud of. However, when I need to rest my brain or check out for a bit, my options have become a bit limited. Enter social media.
I’ve felt the need for a break for a while, but in the last few months, it’s really gotten loud out there and my brain was on overload. However, I always found reasons to stay online. I’m a small business owner, and my income depends on me getting the word out about what I’m creating. I’m involved in advocacy, and most of our events and actions have to be shared online. How could I continue to do these things that mean so much to me if I wasn’t posting on social media? I assumed it would be impossible.
In May, there was an incident where I found my social media interaction leading to physical and mental strain. I wasn’t sleeping, my anxiety was through the roof, and while on the surface I handled the situation fairly well, underneath I was exhausted. I knew this was the final sign that I needed a break.
I started with wide perimeters, but quickly realized if I had any access to my social media feeds on my phone, I’d end up scrolling without even knowing how I got there. In the end, I deleted all the social media apps from my phone and posted a social media break message on Twitter, Instagram, and my personal Facebook page. I then deactivated my Facebook account. I am still managing my Twitter and Instagram for August Light Studio and Education First Shawnee Mission, and have kept all of my Facebook business pages up and running, including the page for this blog. Facebook pages don’t require you to scroll through a newsfeed, so I figured I was safe keeping those active.
It’s been about a month, and I’ve found my anxiety has dissipated immensely. I take photos of my kids and upload them to a shared family drive so my close family members can still see them at baseball or camp, without sharing them with everyone on the internet. I have gotten between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. I’ve still been able to do my advocacy work, attending meetings, forums and even hosting a tabling even at a farmer’s market. I have read five books and listened to a ton of amazing podcasts. I talk to my friends daily using the phone (what a notion!) and my Voxer app. I finished my family photo book from last year that’s been sitting on my desktop for six months. I applied for a speaking engagement that’s been on my wish list for ages. I watched the first season of Schitt’s Creek.
But most of all, my focus has shifted in such a positive way, I feel it affecting everything I do. Originally my plan was to be off social media for a month, but a month has passed and I still have no desire to go back. So for now, I’m staying dark on social media, in order to stand in the light in real life. It’s a good trade.