Well, I’m back after my 30 Day Social Media Detox. I have totally figured out my mission, have achieved work life balance, and discovered an infinite fountain of positivity and self compassion. If this sounds a little too good to be true, that’s because it is. In reality, a 30 Day Social Media Detox is not meant to solve every problem… more to allow you to go back to ground zero and really take a look at what role(s) social media plays in your life.
Since, it is May and Mental Health Awareness, I am going to be 40 this year, and because I think full transparency is necessary for authenticity and to help others. I struggle. I struggle with work life balance. I struggle with anxiety and depression. I struggle with balancing being a mom, wife, and full time educator with being an author, finding time to blog, and to share ideas with the greater edusphere. I struggle with self-worth and I don’t give myself nearly enough grace and self-compassion. Before the social media detox, I had pretty much done away with all personal social media and really only use social media in a professional capacity… to network, to learn and be inspired by others, and to share my own ideas and what I am doing.
I can also tell you that the hardest part of a 30 Day Social Media Detox is not doing it… it is coming back. Honestly, it was easy giving it up for 30 days. I regained easily 6-8 hours a week that I was spending consuming and crafting content. And it was easy to not watch everyone’s highlight reel play out in several feeds and then feel badly about myself, and the quality and/or quantity of what I do. So what now? What is the magic answer? Honestly, there isn’t one magic answer. Some people can spend hours connecting online and sharing with others. For some it energizes them. For others, while they love doing it and find purpose and value in it, it can be draining.
While I don’t have the perfect answer, I do know there are 3 things that matter to me most: 1) Alone Time: for me, I have to be alone with my thoughts from time to time. 2) Creating: I have always loved to create and this is how I make sense of things and share ideas worth implementing with my audience. 3) Respect: I truly want to create, communicate, and curate with respect and hopefully have people respect my narrative and the authenticity that it entails.
So, while I have made most of this blog post about me, I want to share some things I feel like will be useful for you. But before I do that, I want to be clear. These are my personal opinions and experiences. And everyone is different so some ideas may resonate with you and some may not… and that is totally okay. When I wrote Creatively Productive, I was clear that the strategies I shared were just that… strategies… not one size fits all magic antidotes. And the tips, tools, and tricks that may work for you today, may not work for you in another season of your life. What I can tell you… is that I never stop trying and exploring. If you aren’t looking to find a zen like balance with social media, then a 30 day detox may not be for you. And again… that is okay. For me, I was looking for a way to regain some control and balance and to clear my head and this 30 Day Social Media Detox was necessary for me to do just that. So now on to the lessons learned:
- You Have to Know Your Why but it Can Be Adjusted Along the Way: If you are going to embark on a 30 Day Social Media Detox, have a why. My entire Why and How is detailed in this blog post. For me, it was a way to reset, re-evaluate, refocus, and reconstruct. What I failed to remember, until a week or so in, was how busy and stressful the months of April and May are for an educator. I work full time as an Educational Technologist and I only have 24 hours like everyone else. The beauty of the 30 Day Social Media Detox was that it afforded me 6-8 extra hours a week during a time I really needed them. So if you are finding that there is a stressful month coming up, it might be a good time to consider one of these.
- Old Habits Are Hard to Break: While I removed access to all social media sites on my computer and deleted all social media apps from my phone (more on this process here), I quickly realized that the knee jerk reaction to refill the infinity pool of content was still there. I would randomly check my email and refresh it or go to Amazon and check my book’s rankings which were updated hourly (I know… not my finest hour… pun intended). So about two weeks in, I removed Safari, Amazon, and my email apps from my phone and found that my need to pick up my phone without purpose was slowly dissipating. I also realized I had a better work life balance because when I opened up my laptop, I could really focus on email rather than compulsively checking it, worrying about it, being distracted, and then waiting till I got to a computer to send a lengthier response. This process also allowed me to set better boundaries and be more proactive rather than reactive.
- You May Not Miss it As Much As You Think You Will: Sure there were times where I wanted to post a pic of my kid or share a cool idea. Instead I wrote those things down and oftentimes still shared them… just in my newsletter. The time away gave me a moment to pause and consider my purpose and relationship with social media. Now that I am back on, I am more mindful about the types of interactions I seek and the time I allot for those interactions… though this will be continually to evolve as I explore limits.
- You Will Discover What Your Real Relationship with Social Media is: I learned really quickly that I use social media as a cure for boredom and entertainment. And while there is nothing necessarily wrong with that… for me, entertainment is not messages I need to answer, feeds of comparisons, and the constant twitch to post content. Now please don’t misconstrue my message. I love social media and I find a lot of purpose to it but what I realized is that I can still have those interactions but if I need to relax or shut down my brain, a Netflix series, time with my bullet journal, a board game with my boys, a book in my hands, or going to bed early was better suited to my needs.
- Time Away Helps You Rethink Your Relationships with People Online (and IRL): A few days in I realized that many of the interactions I have with people in my social media PLN are many times surface level and ephemeral… in that they are based on quick feeds and textual conversations. It just made me realize that I wanted to connect with people on a deeper level. I immediately made a list of inspiring people in my PLN that I wanted to start connecting with more and plan on reaching out to them to do a monthly GHO or Skype. I also realized I wasn’t on my phone nearly as much at social In Real Life (IRL) events which helped me be a better listener, communicator, and more present for the people I cared about.
- Sometimes You Need a Visual Reminder: Towards the end of the detox, I realized I might need a visual reminder to keep me in check so I created this iPhone wallpaper (see below) to remind me of what my values are and to give me a way to check in with myself rather than aimlessly use my device. I borrowed some of the questions and phrasing from Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism and Jake Knapp’s and John Zeratsky’s Make Time.
- Make Sure You Have an Exit Plan: The next thing… is to have a plan… before, during, and after. My plan for before and during is detailed here. I also journaled when things came to me through the 30 days. The harder part was devising a plan for social media when the barriers were removed. I quickly learned that managing moderation is far more difficult than banning something entirely. This leads me to #8.
- Keep What Works: There were a few things over this month that I plan to keep in place moving forward. First, the only social media app that I reinstalled on my phone was Instagram (mainly because I love the filters and because there is no way to post on Instagram without the app unless you are using a tool like Planoly). The rest of my social media apps I plan to access via my laptop. I also am leaving the Self Control app on my Macbook and exploring setting defaults for time to use social media during the day rather than always having it at my fingertips… also because I know my self control is weak and setting defaults allows me to be more focused rather than hoping my will power will be in tact at all times. For now, I am also keeping Safari and email off of my phone. Many others have explored the idea of a Distraction Free phone and had success with it, and so far…so have I.
I can’t tell you that I have it all figured out, but what I can tell is you is that I am seeking balance. I am also hoping to draft another blog post 30-60 days out to share how this process is working and what tweaks I have made.