I have been on Facebook since the era when they required you to have a .edu email address. Roughly 12 years. It's kind of gross when I think about it. In that time, I've barely taken any breaks. This year, I decided to take a 40 day one from Facebook and Instagram and I can't believe how much better I felt.
What Happened At First
The first couple of days it was really alarming how much I found myself grabbing for my phone to hit the app, only to stop myself. When life events happened, I would have the immediate thought about posting a picture on Facebook. It was pretty surprising to me how much I thought this.
Once I got over the first 3 days, I barely found myself reaching for my phone to check it. Suddenly, I felt like I had so much more time. It was crazy. I also noticed the longer I went, the more I really didn't want to check it or go back on social media.
So, what did I do instead?
Listened to some fantastic podcasts
Worked on my business
I basically did anything that was going to fill me with positivity. I carefully chose what media did cross my path. I listened to things like The Good Life Podcast, watched the documentary, Happy and read the book Gifts from the Sea.
Improvements I Noticed
Within a week, I noticed my mood improved. I was also being less critical of myself. I remember I would beat myself up for wasting hours scrolling. I also felt more in tune with people. When I met up for meals with friends, I wasn't feeling the need to check my phone. At home, I also felt like I was communicating with my fiancé more. His love language is quality time so he used to hate when he would be talking and I'd be scrolling.
I've been off the news for at least two years now, so I was really out of the loop once I eliminated social media. I actually really liked this part. I feel pretty charged up by events and people's comments online, so it was really nice to be free from this.
The Not So Good
I did learned that other people don't really like when you're off social media. I received a lot of comments about this. I realized people feel artificially connected to you and your life via social media. We think a tag in a post equals connection. With me being off, this forced people to text or call me instead. It was really nice to get that from people more.
Alternatively, I also felt pretty out of loop about people's lives. There was one day I went to brunch and had not idea a friend was dating someone new. Had I been on Facebook, I probably would have known. We also purchased a house and had my bridal shower and people didn't know. We've become so used to only knowing about people's lives via social media and that realization made me pretty sad. I also didn't like feeling like I missed what's going on with people.
Is Social Media Hurting Your Mental Health?
Some researchers suggest it probably is. I've wrote about this in the past, too. I have quite a few clients tell me social media absolutely bums them out and leaves them with FOMO (fear of missing out). I've also seen social media negatively affect couples and it gets brought up in session frequently. I often recommend my clients reduce their consumption, especially in cases of anxiety.
I really liked the TED Talk from Bailey Parnell, who talks about the unintended consequences of being on social media.
What You Can Do
If you're wanting to take a social media break, here's some tips I have:
-Set a realistic duration for yourself
-Delete all the apps from your phone/tablet
-Log out of social media on all web browsers
-When you grab for your phone, remind yourself of your plan and open something else instead such as a book, music or photos you love
-Download books, podcasts, movies to turn to when you're feeling the pang of wanting to check it or bored
-Tell your friends/family that you're taking a break so they are not as inclined to tag you in posts
Now that I'm done with my 40 days, I do plan to check all the notifications I missed. I don't plan to add the apps back on my phone. I do use social media for business marketing but I am going to start scheduling posts so that I don't have to check as often as I used to. I like being free of social media, so I am going to practice the principles I learned during this break.
Social media got you bummed or anxious? Contact me now for an appointment.
Hi there, I'm Arielle a licensed therapist on the Northwest side of Indianapolis. I am an Army Veteran, meme connoisseur and watercolorist.