At the end of November I decided to take a break from social media effective December 3rd 2021. This may sound oh-so-edgy but before I talk about my thoughts, what’s the background?
- Fatigue – I was just tired of the relentless, endless scroll, not wanting to “miss out” on any content. Gradually this was just occupying too much of my time and I realised it was doing this. I was also experiencing seasonal end-of-year fatigue with my workload in my day job which while not totally overwhelming was an additional, significant mental toll.
- Keeping up with online communities – I’m part of several wonderful online communities across social media, but I found I was becoming aggravated about not being able to be as active I’d have wanted to be (or perhaps that I felt I needed to be?) and that “fear of missing out” on discussions with interesting people on my wavelength was bothering me too.
Plus, I’m currently in a between-projects stage and I needed to make sure that time was spent more productively while also giving myself a welcome break that is pretty much a requirement at this time of year as things wrap up.
I decided to solution for this was to take an extended break from social media, in particular the three demons: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
This period of abstinence from those platforms didn’t count toward communications apps such as Messenger, WhatsApp and Discord, though I no longer allowed myself access to Instagram DMs as this function was baked into the main app.
Realising that I would be battling against habitual norms I took steps to implement my plan:
- As I’d been quite active in the Bookstagram and Authorgram community – surprisingly so – I posted a message that I would be taking a break.
- I deleted the apps for the respective services from my phone
- I installed a Chrome plugin called StayFocusd with the intention of limiting my time on those social platforms.
This has been largely successful. I initially had planned to limit my access to the apps through the use of Screen Time on my Apple iPhone, while hiding the apps on a separate home screen but decided that this was needlessly-complicated so just removed the apps, and I’ve not been bothered to re-install them.
However, the quarantine from social media hasn’t quite been absolute as I omitted to remove Facebook, Twitter and Instagram from my iPad so I’ve had a few quick peeks on there. However I’ve not spent a lot of time on there, knowing this goes against the spirit of the challenge to myself, and while I may have had the odd little browse I have not interacted at all.
I’m really pleased I’ve tried this experiment as I’ve found I don’t miss the instant-access to social media that was proving a bit too magnetic. While I will be coming back to social media I will be coming back with these principles to preserve my wellness:
- Notifications will be disabled. If I’m needed, I’m contactable by my website or email, or close contacts have my personal contact details.
- I will limit my screen time to no more than an hour a day using the facilities on my phone and from StayFocused. I was particularly impressed StayFocusd; I set it to allow the least amount of time possible on the three social media websites (one minute across all restricted sites per day) and it has a comprehensive system in place to dissuade and stymie the urge to disable or reconfigure the extension which I found helpful.
I do hope this reflection is helpful to someone who might be in a similar position to me! Disconnecting is surprisingly hard – especially with online status notifications everywhere, which were a false alarm to those who knew I wasn’t actually active – but a worthwhile endeavour.