A social-media cleanse

For the past three weeks, I have been social-media free.

Well, let me amend that. For the past three weeks, I have been social-media free, with the exception of the social-media-ing required for my job. Which is a lot. But I digress.

For the past three weeks, I have been without my personal Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Swarm, Snapchat and Pinterest accounts. I logged myself out on my personal and work computers, deleted the apps on my phone to prevent mindless browsing. Now that the cleanse is coming to an end tonight, I wanted to take the time to reflect on and share my experiences as a social-media addict giving up her vice.

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Pinterest-ing at a coffee shop in 2012

Why fast social media?

This adventure was part of my new year’s non-resolution to spend less time on my phone, but officially spurred by my church’s 21 days of fasting and prayer. On a personal level, I had a few goals. I wanted to be more intentional about the information I was consuming- rather than mindlessly clicking on links, I wanted to encourage friends to send things directly to me (via text or email) that I might find interesting, and that might spur conversations. I wanted to spend more time reading, cooking, sleeping. And I wanted to know if it was even possible to go 21 days without knowing what everyone I’ve ever crossed paths with was up to that very second.

Cuddling with my nephew Jak in 2014, Twitter open on my phone next to me.

Cuddling with my nephew Jak in 2014, Twitter open on my phone next to me.

The good

Right off the bat – the first morning of the cleanse – I noticed an obvious change: Rather than scrambling to rush out the door at 7:15, I was ready to roll by 6:55. I never realized how much of my morning time was devoted to mindlessly scrolling through Instagram and responding to overnight Facebook messages! (The curse of living on the east coast while your friends are in Arizona is that there are a lot of overnight messages). As the days wore on, I added an extra 20 minutes of sleep to my daily routine, and can still take my time getting ready without being late for work.

I’ve also had more time for reading, especially on my lunch breaks. I have a habit of heading to coffee shops with a book but instead using my phone to Tweet the whole hour. Without that as an option, a lot more reading gets done, and my eyes stay off a screen for an hour in the middle of the workday – a huge plus. I’m also reading more before bed, instead of roaming through Pinterest.

Overall, I’ve noticed I’m a lot more present in my day-to-day activities. When I meet up with friends, there’s no need to check into the restaurant online while we walk to the table. There’s no immediate Instagramming the meal while the food itself gets cold. And there’s no ‘OMG MUST tweet that hilarious thing you just said!’ (Actually, I’ve still caught myself saying that. But the phone stays in the purse!)

The bad

This should come as a shock to no one, but when you’re a twenty-something and you’re not on social media, you miss things. I’ve been lucky enough to have friends fill me in when somebody got a puppy, and other life-changing events, but it’s not the same getting that info secondhand and after the fact.

I’ve been up-to-date on current events thanks to my job, but I also never realized how much we rely on social media to get our news. Oh, did you hear about such-and-such? It’s on so-and-so’s Twitter. We even get tweets and Instagrams embedded into our news stories! It’s actually impossible to avoid social media altogether. I was easy on myself as far as that goes – it’s not like I could avoid the whole of the Internet for three weeks – but seriously, social media is everywhere. I felt a little twinge of guilt every time I read a story on CNN only to stumble upon a Facebook post.

Instagram-ing at a restaurant in 2013. But look how pretty those drinks are!

Instagram-ing at a restaurant in 2013. But look how pretty those drinks are!

Going forward

Obviously, I’d like to keep the above good things going without all of the downsides, so I’m laying out some goals to adhere to now that the end of the cleanse is here:

  • No social media in the mornings or right before bed. I’m going to keep my notifications off on my phone and not open the apps until I’m settled in at work, at least. Likewise, I’m going to continue putting my phone in Do Not Disturb mode by 10 p.m. at the latest.
  • Keep my phone in my purse when I’m around people. This was part of my new year’s goal anyway, before the cleanse was in the picture. I’ve been good about it, and I want to keep it up.
  • Put less pressure on myself. I always feel like I need to Instagram things the moment they’re happening, to check in at restaurants the second we walk through the door. Seriously, no one cares besides me.

Overall: I’m deeming this cleanse a success! It’s not something I’ll be doing again anytime soon, but hopefully I can stick to a limited amount of social media each day.

Have you ever gone without social media? Would you?

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