Fallen down the social media rabbit hole again? Did you get here from Facebook? Instagram? Twitter?
It’s okay. Welcome.
The first part of recovery is admitting you have a problem.
Hi, my name is Caroline Peterson and I spend too much time on social media.
To be fair, part of my job as a copywriter involves writing and managing social media for some of my clients, so I do have a legitimate reason. But, we’ll get into that later as I don’t want it to come across as an excuse while we’re all holding hands singing Kumbaya.
Depending on who you ask, social media is an evil entity dividing us daily or the ultimate unifier, connecting us casually.
It can bring us hard-hitting news or our 5-year-old newphew’s birthday party pictures. It can make us laugh with silly memes or create catty misunderstandings fueling gossip. We all know how quickly the judgments start and BAM–the hide, block or delete button is used. Social media can be brutal! Heck, my own mother even deleted me on Facebook 8 years ago. #truestory
In November, I participated in #NaNoWriMo. For those short on time to google that bizarro hashtag, it stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s when us writers buckle down and bust out 50,000+ words in one month. That’s roughly 1,700 words a day. (Or 4-5 pages a day for those stuck in permanent term-paper PTSD.) It’s a lot, but that’s the point. When you’re a writer, you can often find yourself putting your own creative work to the bottom of the To Do List because, there is always more to do, more to write, more to research.
But, sit down for one month and focus on getting one project finished? That seems more doable.
Cue to me getting a backlog of blog posts written for this site. I had 10+ drafts started and 40+ ideas on my Blog Posts Google doc. While this month is traditionally used for novels, I’m part of an awesome co-writing group that suggested we use the time to focus on our own creative writing and businesses. At the time while writing this blog post, I currently have over 10,000 words written. YEE-HAW.
This meant I needed to cut out the distractions in my life to be able to spend an hour or two every single day to sit down (or stand pantsless) and write, while still staying on top of my other work priorities.
- I pushed the tequila in the back of the cabinet.
- I painted and redecorated my office to make it a more comfortable place to sit for hours at a time. (Something I should have done when I moved in, but it got shoved to a lesser priority behind bleaching the bathroom walls and floors until they sparkled. Swear, I’m not a serial killer.)
- I adjusted my shared schedule to block off writing hours so clients could only book meetings in the afternoons.
- I bought 5 candles from Bath & Body Works.
I took a break from social media for the month of November.
Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve stepped away from social media. A few years ago, I left Facebook and deactiveated my profile for nearly 6 months to get away from the constant comparison machine. I did this way before it was the cool thing it is to do now. #trendsetter
But this time, I wanted to prepare myself properly to step away from the social media monsters while still maintaining my access to them for my clients. Talk about having a constant temptress to seduce me back into the beast. But this wasn’t as hard as I thought, as you’ll see below.
In the last week of October, I set up a couple weeks of social media posts for Not Your Average Gal and scheduled them out, promising to only check in on them to reply to comments and interact as needed. I let followers know I was peacing out for the month so they were aware I wouldn’t see Jimmy’s 5th birthday party pics or see the invite to another event, at least not right away.
As November rolled around, the first thing I felt was that a weight had been lifted.
I felt relief.
Pure and utter relief.
I knew I spent an unproductive amount of time scrolling, clicking and posting. I knew when I went to check on my notifications that I fell down the rabbit hole of scrolling “just to see” what else was going on. That often turned into laughing at memes, rolling my eyes at cliché quotes and feeling pangs of jealous at those beach vacation pictures. Now? I didn’t have to see any of it.
As the days and weeks went on, I noticed more connection.
I felt connected.
Connected in a different way.
Connected in the moment.
My mind was free from thinking about posting statuses or photos. Which is something you don’t realize you think about a lot, until the avenue in which you’re expressing those things, is closed.
As a writer, throughout my day, lots of entertaining thoughts come to my head about something I’ve seen or experienced. Typically the first avenue I take, if it’s hilarious (and c’mon, it usually is) is to post it as a status on Facebook or caption on Instagram.
I still had those thoughts run though my head, but I now had the headspace to use those creative juices for something more focused. More focused in the moment. I realized how fleeting those thoughts were as they came and went. Even if I had posted them, it would be for what? A few more likes and followers? Sure! But, for November, it wasn’t worth it.
And as I’ve discovered, it isn’t as worth in the long haul either.
I felt relaxed.
Relaxed enough to actually finish a book, two in fact! Instead of scrolling at bedtime, I read one of those things that has a creaky spine, smooth pages and, as I found, sits perfectly against your sleeping husband, freeing your hands for chips and guac. What you don’t eat chips and guac in bed? HOW PRIMITIVE.
Not looking through the comparison machine allowed me to enter some fun fictional worlds of novels that I’ve been missing out on for…well the less fun, but also fictional world of Facebook.
I felt enjoyment from detouring from the rat race.
I did a lot of cool things in November! I was a model in a photoshoot. I danced and sang on stage in a number for my late theatre director. I set up my first Black Friday sale for my business. I redesigned my office. I went to a Celine Dion concert. I drove through the first blizzard of winter like I grew up here or something.
ALL of this, I would have posted. All of it. I think about how much time that would have taken away from me and it legit makes me sick.
Why do we feel that pull to post it? Because we want to share the cool things we’re doing of course! That’s a super natural thing. But at what point does the sharing turn from show-and-tell into show-and-like. If no one sees any of these cool things (or hits like) did they ever happen?
It’s a fine balance, but one I’m willing to walk a little bit tighter.
I felt out of the loop.
From mundane meeting event invites to the more life altering news of a friend’s parent passing away, I missed some key information. Since I was still logging into Facebook and Instagram for work, I did see some notifications, but to prevent the slow seduction of checking my newsfeed I used an extension to get rid of my feed. (You can find my tips about this below.)
So I missed some things, but honestly? Not the important stuff. I helped to take care of my friend post-op and talked with her for hours. All that stuff that she posted on Facebook, I’m assuming she filled me in on during our chats. I went to grab a coffee with a friend and she told me about her father-in-law passing away. Maybe she had discussed it on social media channels, but she was telling me face to face, which gave me an opportunity to not only tell her how sorry I was, but show her.
This month gave me the opportunity to reevaluate how I spend my time and what is worth my time. I truly believe social media, when used well, is great for connection. It certainly helped me survive the often lonely journey of med school to residency.
I don’t see myself deactivating or deleting my profiles any time soon. But I do see some serious benefits to continuing to use the techniques and tools I used to keep the social media beasts at bay.
The Tools I Used:
Have you ever taken a break? Would you?