I’ve been addicted to social media since 2009 when I first started blogging and became obsessed with posting EVERY SINGLE THING I did and EVERY THOUGHT I ever had.
I knew it was bad when I couldn’t take a hike, spend time with my family, or cook a simple meal without thinking I had to get a picture and post it. It was like I saw my life through the lens of social media, in snapshots and sound bites.
After having a child that changed a little for me because I just didn’t have the time to take pictures of my food – although I had plenty of time to take pictures of my son and post them all over social media. But even though I wasn’t posting everything in quite the way I used to, I found myself using social media – Facebook in particular – as a way to distract myself when I was bored/angry/stressed/anxious. More often than not, I had my nose in my smartphone when I could have been playing with my son…or doing the dishes…or doing yoga…or reading a book…or basically anything else.
I wanted to stop being so addicted but I couldn’t really figure out how. I didn’t want to quit. There were too many good reasons for me to be on social media to completely give it up. But I had never been able to reduce my social media use for more than a few days at a time. I’m very much an all or nothing kind of person, so just using it less? Not so easy for me!
Until…Without quite meaning to do it, I have actually gotten to a place where I barely use Facebook, almost never check my Instagram…and…well the other platforms don’t interest me anyway. This isn’t something that takes effort at this point. I’ve just changed my habits so that checking social media is way down on my list of things to do.
So how did I do it? Well, here are the surprisingly easy steps I took to reduce my social media use.
One: Take a 1 day social media break. For one full day, do not check any of your social media. If you can, skip your inbox as well. Just take a real break from the computer and your smartphone. Notice throughout the day how often you find yourself wanting to check your social media and try doing something good for yourself every time it happens. For instance, stretch your back or take a sip of water whenever you have the urge to go online. Choose something simple that reminds your body that there are other things you can be doing. Notice how you feel at the end of the day without using social media. Does it feel good? Stressful? Like you’re missing out? Do you want to go back to it or give it up?
Two: Take 7 days off from all media inputs. Once you’ve tried out a day, take a whole week off from the internet altogether + podcasts + e-mail + books + TV + radio + music + anything else that is information coming into your brain. Now I’m sure at this point you’re thinking that this step isn’t easy at all. The truth is, the idea of it isn’t easy, but the actual implementation is much easier (and more relaxing) than you would expect. The idea is to give yourself a full week to be the only voice inside your head. During that time, again notice how you’re feeling and what you do to fill your time when you’re not reading/scrolling/watching/listening. What happens when it’s quiet around you? What happens when you do dishes without noise in the background? Obviously you might need to check some of these things for work and that’s okay. You’ll have to modify this so it works around your job. But get really clear about what is actually necessary and what you just want to use because you’re so used to it.
Three: Detox your brain from media for 40 days. Once you’ve done your 7 days off from all inputs, pay really close attention to how your mind and body feel when you start using different types of media again. Does your body tighten up when you log into Facebook? Does reading feel good or stressful? Do you notice a desire to read something different than what you’ve been reading? How does it feel when you listen to podcasts? Just notice and then make a list of all the media inputs that feel good to you and the ones that don’t. For instance, I found that books, TV, and music all felt fine to me, while social media, podcasts, and e-mail made me feel fragmented and stressed out. Then mark off 40 days on the calendar and choose what you will let go of during that 40 days and what you will reduce. My guidelines for my 40 day detox included checking Facebook only once a day, checking e-mail twice a day, and skipping podcasts altogether. I gave myself permission to watch TV on occasion and to listen to music or read whenever I wanted to.
During my 40 days, I found I didn’t really follow my guidelines to the letter. I probably checked Facebook more than once a day. I didn’t listen to podcasts because I found my interest in them had really waned and I had started to enjoy silence much more. I watched TV a bit more than I would have liked. But overall, the 40 days passed quickly and easily, and I found that by doing first a 1 day detox, then a 7 day stricter detox, then a 40 day more lenient one, I naturally stopped using social media as much as I used to. I deleted the Facebook and Instagram apps from my phone during that time – not because it was one of my guidelines but because I suddenly realized I wasn’t using them and wanted to declutter my phone. These days I check Facebook about once a day and I am usually off within 5 minutes because honestly it just doesn’t make me feel that good. It’s been a couple of months since I’ve been on Instagram. And I’m checking my e-mail much less. I also unsubscribed from most of my mailing lists during that 40 days which means I get significantly less e-mail, which also feels good.
Overall? It’s been a pretty painless transition to less social media (and media in general) and I’ve found that the benefits of reducing my media time outweigh any costs.
And while the idea of giving up media for 7 days and then 40 sounds hard (even 1 day might sound hard to you), once you start, the freedom and space inside your head and in your time suddenly makes it feel surprisingly easy.
Will this change over time? Most likely. Everything does. But for now, I’m happy to be on social media much less and find I have much more quiet inside my head.