In today’s digital climate, it’s hard to unplug and reconnect. At every corner of our lives, technology is at the forefront of what we do, how we communicate, and where we interact with one another. But before social media and digital screens, friendships and relationships flourished through organic communication.
For many of us, social media might be an instantaneous way to share more about our lives, but what is it doing for our sanity and mental health? Is it possible to find a balance between our desire to connect and our need to share information, while also protecting our own state-of-mind? These are two questions that I have been asking myself lately.
I just returned from a 30-day absence from social media and as expected, it was both challenging and liberating to spend time reflecting on my relationship with social media and how to better manage my screen time. In this post, I share my thoughts that I have gathered during my time offline, but a quick warning, I have lots of thoughts. So you might want to pour yourself a cup of tea or coffee before diving in.
WHY I TOOK A BREAK FROM SOCIAL MEDIA
This last year was a challenging yet awakening chapter of my life. It was a journey of self-discovery through healing and recovery through the trauma of my car accident and shoulder injury. It was a time of learning, growth, and understanding of acceptance and self-love. And, it was not easy.
I developed periods of severe depression and anxiety as I worked on regaining mobility and strength. I struggled to give myself permission to slow down, process and work through internal conflict and unresolved suffering from the accident. I battled between finding patience and the need to do more without consideration of self-compassion. I fought with myself daily to break free from my negative internal dialogue.
I thought I wasn’t enough. I thought I wasn’t doing enough. I thought my setback made me less of a person and I internalized this in my thoughts — manifesting my void and insufficiencies through the need do more, be more and have more — even though I was enough.
My fight became a battle to let go of fear and anxiety and open my heart to loving myself. Loving myself for everything that I am, for all that I do and for all that I have. Not for the person that was but for the person that is.
So I decided to lean into courage and begin this process by sharing my struggles and wins through social media. I bared my soul and no matter how difficult it was to vocalize the inner dialogue of my mind, I found strength in helping others through being authentic to myself when I shared my story. I wanted to create a new reality that others could relate to even from different walks of life. I wanted to pivot the perspective of others towards mental health and bring awareness of the strength and courage it takes for those who speak up about their struggles.
And what I learned in this process was that I am not alone. Through social media, I have connected with a community that has supported and encouraged me to share the wins and losses of my mind, the journey to self-love, and how to find happiness through it all. But, in the process of having this relationship with social media, I realized I was missing a balance of building organic relationships off the screen. Not just with others but with myself as well.
Even though social media helped me inspire others and connect with a community of amazing peers through my story, I needed to give myself time to nurture the relationship with myself. So I decided to take a break off social media to enjoy life off the screen and learn how to better manage my time on social media while making time to take care of myself. I wanted to practice what I shared, which was taking action to love yourself through self-compassion, self-care and self-love. I wanted to learn how to unplug in a digital world so I could spend more quality time on relationships in my life.
This decision was hard and I was anxious yet exhilarated to embark on a 30-day absence from social media. Nervous about the natural propensity to grab my phone to post on social media but excited to set myself free from the screen. I appreciated the opportunity to re-evaluate this relationship I had with Facebook and Instagram and how I could find a balance between my passion to connect and share my story while making time to take care of my mental health and self.
This experience was a challenge but it was well worth it. The withdrawals were real but it reminded me of how to get back in touch with myself in a way I never would have if I kept scrolling through my screen.
So here is what I did, what I learned and a few tips for those interested in doing the same or learning how to better manage their screen time.
Here’s what I know about myself: I mindlessly turn on my phone when I need a mental break or when I’m bored, and have been known to scroll through Facebook or Instagram aimlessly through time. Or open my laptop when I need to plan my weekly and monthly projects, assignments and social calendars.
Here’s what I did: The first step for me was locking the apps from my iPhone. Instead of removing the apps off my phone, I wanted a more practically experience I could use when I came back online. To access this feature, you can follow these steps:
- Open Settings
- Go to Screen Time > Downtime
- Go to Screen Time > App Limits
- Go to Screen Time > Communication Limits
- Go to Screen Time > Always Allowed
- Go to Screen Time > Content & Privacy Restrictions
These features allows you to do a variety of things:
- Downtime. Set a schedule for time away from screen
- App Limits. Set up time limits for apps
- Communication Limits. Set limits based on your contacts
- Always Allowed. Choose apps you want at all times
- Content & Privacy Restrictions. Block inappropriate content
What I did instead:
Minimizing my screen time opened up time to discover new activities and projects. I took this time to focus on self-care and enjoy the little things in life without my phone, laptop or tablet.
Here are a few ideas from Huffpost, plus some of my own additions.
- Paint or color something
- Go for a tech-free walk
- Log some one-on-one time with your pet over the ones on YouTube
- Go see a movie
- Put pen to paper
- Go on a hike
- Go to a dinner with friends
- Get lost in a real book instead of Kindle
- Indulge in a little mindfulness meditation
- Take a day trip to a town close to you
- Organize and clean the house
- Pick up an old hobby
- Start a garden
- Do something on your to-do list
- Take a luxurious home bath
- Pamper yourself at spa
5 THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE TAKING A SOCIAL MEDIA BREAK
Before taking the leave of absence on social media, I took time to reflect upon these questions and wrote my answers down in my journal.
- What makes me excited about taking a break from social media?
- What makes me nervous about disengaging from social media?
- Why do I use [social media]?
- What boundaries do I need to set?
- What are my goals and intentions for taking a break from social media?
These questions are general but thought triggers that helped me understand why I needed to take a social media break, what I hoped to takeaway from the experience, and how I would apply what I’ve learned with moderation.
Social media is a prevalent tool in today’s society to connect, share and engage with one another. It provides a voice for us to share our stories and acts as a gateway to inspire and be inspired.
But like everything that is to be enjoyed, we savor them with moderation. This time around, a social media break helped me rediscover what it means to be present and create mindfulness in life off the screen. I learned how to fall back in love with writing in my journal, use a weekly planner instead of an Excel sheet to bring my daily passions to life, and found pockets of time to do the things I love, take care of my wellbeing and spend more time with family and friends.
Life is full of opportunities for us to connect on the screen but stop and look up once in a while. It might surprise you with delightful and beautiful moments awaiting for you.
I hope this experience inspires you to embark on a new journey and may this new year brings light, love, health and prosperity into your lives! Happy New Year!