When bloggers and others talk about a social media break let’s be honest, we know they (we) are talking about Facebook. As far as social media goes, Facebook is the biggest time suck for most people. Not only that but Facebook has more information on you than anyone else and their tentacles reach into so many facets of the Internet, disconnecting from them for a while, or all together, is probably a pretty good idea.
You might be thinking to yourself, “I don’t spend that much time on Facebook” and while it may be true that you don’t spend a large, continuous block of time there I have a feeling you spend much more than you think. In the same way someone who wants to lose weight benefits from keeping a food diary, someone who is considering a break from social media should write down each time they log on to Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or YouTube.
I bet many of you would be shocked, or at least surprised, at how often you check those sites throughout the day. You may check first thing in the morning, at lunch, while waiting in line, while waiting at a doctor’s office, while waiting anywhere you have to wait more than ten seconds, throughout your evening and before falling asleep. I would bet that there are many times you intend to log on to the site only a few moments but before you know it an hour or two or more has passed and your children are wandering to the neighbors to ask if the neighbor will cook them dinner because you’ve been swallowed by the internet.
In December I started a Facebook detox after realizing how addicted I’d become to social media. It was keeping me from enjoying life and accomplishing tasks. It was actually Facebook’s own fault that I left the site for 30-days. They sent me a video featuring various images as a celebration of the fact I had been on Facebook for close to 12 years. Twelve, time sucking, anxiety-inducing, life-wasting years, with some chances for staying connected to faraway friends and family (the only positive I could think of).
The realization of how much time I had wasted staring and scrolling, comparing and crying over things I had read or watched there hit me hard and all I could think was “how much further would I be in life without this stupid site?”
I feel almost embarrassed to admit that the detox was difficult and tested my will-power, showing me how much Facebook and it’s validation-psychology actually had a hold over me. I would have been more embarrassed if I hadn’t known there were thousands more who felt like me based on the fact that an internet search yielded page after page of links either focusing on the author’s own decision to detox or an article showing you how to do your own detox.
I’m not sure why I feel the need to offer yet another blog post offering advice about how to prepare for and succeed with a detox from social media but since all our experiences are unique I’ll offer the plan of action that worked best for me.
- Write down how you plan to fill your time while you’re on the break. Maybe I’m the only one that over thinks and overly prepares (at least for some things) but list ideas of what you will do during the free time you’ll have now that you’re not logging on to social media. List things like “read that book I bought two years ago and never read,” or “stain the deck,” or “organize the bedroom closet.” Include things in the list you know you’ve wanted to accomplish but haven’t because you’ve let your brain take a walk around the block while scrolling on your phone.
- Make a list of hobbies or interests you have been wanting to explore more. When you take a break from social media you’ll suddenly discover you have more free time, almost too much free time. Now that you have more free time you can explore hobbies you either used to do or always wanted to do. For me, I’ve started to learn more about cooking, delved back into sketching, and am considering archery. I’m kidding about the archery. I have no interest in that. I’m actually focusing on low-impact workouts versus picking up a bow and arrow. You never know where exploring a new hobby will lead you either; maybe even a new career.
- Charge up your Kindle, or e-reader, or get a stack of actual, physical books together. Reading is an amazing way to escape from the world and your stress. I highly recommend something in the fiction genre to truly distract you from the real-life drama around us. Right now I’m reading the first in a series about a British aristocrat and her “lady in waiting” who investigate mysteries together. I’m not exactly sure when the stories take place but it seems to be the 20s or 30s. The first book is titled “A Quiet Life in the Country: A Lady Hardcastle Mystery.” by TE Kinsey. (Edited to add: I wouldn’t recommend book two. It is just dragging on and on and on. It’s a bit like being tortured in with David Copperfield in high school at this point. I don’t recommend continuing the series.)
4. Make a list of tasks you haven’t got to that you know you would complete if you put away the distractions of social media. For me this included updating my stock photography portfolios, updating this blog, updating my online photography portfolio, keeping track of what I’m eating, and cleaning my closet out. Guess which ones I still haven’t tackled, even with the social media break?
5. Call friends and ask if they want to actually meet in person. That’s right. People really can still meet in person and have face-to-face conversations. Try it while you’re on your detox and enjoy remembering the old days of actual human interaction. Personally, this has been a bit of a failure for me as my friends are too busy to meet in person right now (maybe they need an intervention for their social media addiction?), but I’ll keep trying. Their life has to slow down at some point, right? Right?!
Seriously, I’m sure we will get together in person soon. And even if you don’t meet up with friends, go out and talk to actual people. Visit a museum, visit a local coffee shop and smile at people – look at the world around you and notice some things you didn’t notice before because your head was down, looking at your phone or device. Yes, as an introvert, this particular advice is hard for me to follow myself, but I’m working on it. One little step at a time, okay? Be patient with me.
6. Find a good documentary to watch and learn more about the world. While I don’t recommend trading one addiction for another, finding a good documentary or Netflix series that teaches you about another part of the world or about those who lead a different life than you is an excellent way to expand your mind. Learning about life somewhere else doesn’t always happen on social media where we mainly associate with people we know or who are interested in the same things we are. I’ve been watching a few of these types of documentaries and two I recommend happen to be related to food.
In Search of Israeli Food is about the food of Israel and it also touches on the different cultures there and the conflicts between the Israeli’s and Palestinians. It follows the journey of Michael Solomonov an award-winning American chef who was born in Israel. He travels to Israel and meets various chefs there and also reflects on his own childhood, which was affected by the death of his brother, killed by Palestinians along the border.
Another is called Theatre of Life and it is about Massimo Bottura, the top chef in the world, who helped open missions in Italy feeding the poor with the waste from restaurants and supermarkets and cooked by world-renowned chefs. It not only shares the story of the chefs but the stories for the people who come to the centers because of their life situations.
Some other suggestions on what to do during your break (a few are repeats from above):
- Go for a hike or just a walk
- Start an exercise program
- Take up a hobby
- Clean out your closets
- Declutter your house
- Order and frame all photos stuck on your hard drive
- Make a photo book full of all the photos still stuck on your hard drive
- Paint a room in your house that you hate the color of
- Start volunteering at local nursing homes
- Call friends you haven’t talked to in a long time
- Visit local museums
- take an online class (many universities offer them for free)
So, the bottom line is this: you will be fine if you detox yourself from social media. In fact, you might have more of a life if you put the phone down, shut off the computer and simply walk away from it all for a while, or for good.
Previous posts about detoxing from Facebook:
The 30-day Facebook Challenge