Today marks the end of my month with no social media. That means no Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, etc. I did have automated posts that went out after every new blog post, but I didn’t log into, check on or post to any of my social media accounts for the entire month of August. This was one of the hardest months so far this year.
I want to talk about why it was so hard to quit social media and then talk about what I learned this month.
This month was so hard! At least the first half was very difficult. For those of you who don’t think you’re addicted to your phone, the internet or social media, stop using them entirely for two whole days and then come back and let me know how that went. Notice the twitch? Phantom vibrations? That constant desire to check, post, update, tweet, see what’s happening, read something, watch videos, look at pictures has driven us to rely on our phones, social media, the internet and the computer. We’re using social media to cope with boredom, loneliness, sadness, depression, anger, and more.
Although this addiction, or bad habit, isn’t as strong as drugs, alcohol, pornography and smoking, it still felt like I was relying on checking updates, reading messages, getting likes, hearts, favorites, retweets, shares and more. It’s like my self-esteem couldn’t function without being fed by all of these things.
For the first week I twitched. I got out my phone without realizing it when I was bored: standing in line, at the store, in the evening, in the morning, on the train, the bus and everywhere else where I had “nothing” to do. Then I remembered my experiment and realized that I had deleted all the social apps anyway and quickly put my phone back in my pocket.
The hardest part was to resist these urges when they came. I got frustrated because the urges happened so often throughout the day. I wanted to check on social media and I didn’t know why.
This month was difficult because of the strength and frequency of these urges. But I learned some important things about myself, social media and habit change.
I began to watch and notice my urges. I noticed the urge to log on to Twitter and post something or scroll through my feed to pass the time at work or school. The urges would come on strong when I felt bored and had “nothing” to do. But they disappeared quickly and quietly. At first I had the urge to check social media about 5-10 times per day. After 2-3 weeks I only had the urge every other day. Now I can’t remember the last time I had the urge to get on and check my feeds.
The biggest change in my experiment came when I replaced social media with other things. I wrote lots of blog posts. I wrote some poetry, some stories, finished homework projects, read some books, finished and started some big work projects, updated portions of my site, observed people while commuting via car, train and bus, rode my bike, talked with my wife and many more things. There are literally thousands of things that you could or should do besides checking social media. Instead of consuming endless information, create or do something beautiful. Instead of being bored, discover the world around you or talk to someone near you.
I learned two things about changing my habits which can hopefully aid you if you have a similar social media bad habit.
- To change my habits I need to change my environment
- To change my habits I need to have replacement habits
First, I had to change my environment in order to change my habit. I had to delete the social media apps from my phone, log out of my accounts on my computer and make it as hard as possible to log on. I told others that I wouldn’t be on social media and I made sure to stay away from those websites during the month.
Second, I had to find replacements for my social media habit. Most of my time was spent on social media when I was bored, so I found little things to do instead of turning to social media and mindless scrolling. I brought a book with me everywhere to read. I finished homework on time instead of procrastinating. I took a walk or rode my bike instead of checking in the evening. For every situation where I would have checked my social media feeds I found a replacement habit. This was a game changer.
The final thing that I learned during this experiment is that social media is amazing when used as a tool for interaction and connection. When it becomes a tool of distraction and consumption it fails us and causes us to fail. We become addicted to the endless scrolling, reading, watching and tweeting. We forget our real-life relationships. We lose sight of our goals and stop creating and doing beautiful things.
My plan going forward (which I’ll write about in more detail in a few days) is to use social media more intentionally. I plan to keep most social media apps off my phone (some require a phone, like Instagram). I also plan to only log on once every day or every other day to check notifications, respond to messages and create great connections and interactions. I’ll use social media with the intention of connecting and interacting with family, close friends and those who share my interests. I won’t mindlessly scroll through my feed, but look for opportunities to share, like and comment with intention.
Check back soon for a post about how I plan to use social media going forward.
It’s not too late to join the challenge. How long do you think you can go without social media (or the internet, or internet video, or whatever)? Add a day to that number and see what you’re capable of.
Before you go…
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