What I Learned From Quitting Social Media For 31 Days
In this digital age, quitting social media seems an odd thing to do. But it's become necessary considering how addictive they can be.
I was addicted to both consuming and creating content. And I might have purely wanted attention and praise.
Plus, I knew I had other personal issues to work through and social media was a distraction.
So I decided to quit social media and observe my own thoughts, feelings and experience without the stimulating apps in my life.
The Pros of Quitting Social Media
Quitting an addictive thing is always a good thing. It's difficult at first, but like any other habit, you get used to the "new normal" after a week or two. So what did I gain from this experience?
1. Not having to worry/think about what's happening
Once my brain got used to the idea of not having to bombard myself with so much information, it felt pretty nice not having to know anything. Ignorance is bliss, right?
2. More space in my brain to focus on other things
Because I didn't have so much (mostly unnecessary) info in my brain, I felt a clarity in mind and I'm able to focus on other (more important) things.
3. More time to do other things
And so I have more time to read and learn books/topics that have been pending for so long. I also got to focus on self-development and work through past trauma (instead of continuing to avoid it).
4. No pressure to post anything
Sometimes (okay, often) I put pressure on myself to post a high quality picture or content to impress people even if I don't feel like it. But because I wasn't on social media, this pressure was OFF!
5. Peace and quiet
I realised that most of my communication with people are on social media. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy chatting with people through DMs from different parts of the world. Not being on social media meant that I couldn't message anyone or reply to their instastory (okay, this may actually be a con now that I think about it). But it did mean having some peace and quiet because in real life, there were only a few people who cared to reach out to me on my personal number.
The Cons of Quitting Social Media
"Wait, there's a downside to quitting social media?"
For me, yes. As someone who creates content professionally and as a hobby, I came to realise that I somewhat need social media for work and creative expression. So what happened when I quit social media?
1. My world got smaller
As I didn't have many people to chat with via DM, I felt that my world got smaller. In some ways, it's good because you realise who your constant friends are. But I felt like something was missing. Communicating with like-minded people. The community feeling.
2. Not knowing what's happening in social circles
I didn't have the "fear" of missing out. I just missed out. And at times I was okay with that. But other times I was curious to know what's been happening. This is more so with the dance community rather than the eco vegan community mostly because of the creative output of the former. I was curious to know what new dance videos my friends have put out and also possible what online dance competitions were going on that I could have entered.
3. I couldn't post pictures and show to friends
Hey, I'm still human and I do have some ego in me, as do everyone else. When you have a smartphone that can take pictures easily, you'd want to share the memories you've made with someone. I mean, sometimes I did share with one or two people on Whatsapp but it wasn't the same as having your pictures/memories seen by 100 people. Yes, I like to show off and be appreciated for my creative work.
4. Feeling isolated
I'm used to being alone, but the pandemic has made me realised that too much time alone is destructive for me. Without a connection to the wider world, I did feel more isolated. It's sad that we have come to rely upon social media for socialising and not so much meeting in real life (this is partly thanks to social media and partly to the pandemic). And so I had to make it a point to go to Mushido Cafe every week and meet my friends there.
My Emotional Evolution Week By Week
Here's an overview of what I was feeling as the weeks went on.
The first day was a breeze because I've done one-day social media detox before. However, the following days saw my hands impulsively grabbing my phone and scrolling to the place where the apps used to be. I felt like a drug addict who discovered that their drug stash is empty. So I distracted myself by picking up the book After Me by Jojo Moyes (it was a delight!).
By this time, I got used to the absence of social media in my life and things were generally great. I embraced the JOMO (joy of missing out) and just had a pretty chill week. It also helped that my family and I went on a 6-day trip to Kuantan. So what I did mostly was reading Maajid Nawaz's Radical and solving Sudoku puzzles. You'll be surprised how much time reading and solving puzzles take up. Besides that, I also listened to podcast (as usual), people-watched, and just be with my thoughts.
I was starting to be curious to know about what's happening especially in the dance scene. I felt so disconnected from it the whole month except when I was hanging out with a few of my dance friends at Mushido Cafe. Also, after a couple of weeks of chilling (with just a bit of work as work started to die down during the holidays), and after re-organising almost everything in my life, I started to have the motivation to plan and create content. By this time I've decided that I would want to continue creating content on social media.
Part of me didn't want to go back on social media because the introvert in me likes the anonymity and peace. BUT the creative and egotistic in me need somewhere to express. So I prepared some content (like this one!). I also spent some time with a few friends before 2020 ended.
Oh and rest assured that I binge-watched LOTS of Netflix shows particularly the Christmas films such as A Christmas Prince (all three series), A California Christmas, Holidate, The Holiday, The Holiday Calendar, Holiday in the Wild, and Operation Christmas Drop. It was a festive season (in my head) indeed!
Initially, LinkedIn was also one of the social media that I logged out of. However, I received a message on my email with a couple of job prospects. All but two were of interest to me. Nothing is confirmed yet as 'tis the holiday season. So I'll have to get back in touch in January.
I also had to go on Facebook Creator Studio to schedule posts for a client. While I still had to be logged in on Facebook with my personal account, I didn't have to go through the main homepage. I just straight away typed in the URL for FB business creator studio. Once I was done, I just closed the tab. I'm proud of myself for not falling into the temptation of checking the main feed.
You Need A Strong Will
Someone told me that they tried to do this social media detox but they got back on it after 5 days. They couldn't resist the temptation.
For me, it was easy to "resist" because I'm the kind of person who's quite competitive and would honour a commitment that's been made.
It's less of training your mind or willpower to be strong but rather having a strong reason, eliminating the source of distraction, and replacing with other activities.
This is the core of habit-building principle. I understood this from watching the summarized version of Atomic Habits.
And you can apply it to any area of your life including changing your diet to a plant-based one.
In this digital age, one can get by without social media but only if their non-digital or analog life is fulfilling.
If you have circles of friends who actually meet up in the real world or you make it a point to do video calls, and that your work is not dependent on social media, then you can survive without social media.
As someone whose social groups are often on social media and that my work still depends slightly on social media, I still need to be on it.
However, I have to be more mindful in terms of how and when I use it for the sake of my mental health.
And I'd have to prioritize content creation than mere consumption. I hope that this detox has helped reduce the urge to scroll and check every hour. I'd have to set specific times in the day to do that and no more.
Overall, I need to maintain the mindset that social media can be a useful tool for advocacy and creative expression if I treat it as such.
I know firsthand that it can be a wonderful platform as it has helped me network easily with people from different parts of the world. Because of this, I have made many new friends, some of whom I've met in the non-digital world. Learning has also been easier on social media because of the infographics that people come up with.
At the end of the day, we all value connection.
Social media has made that easier and more efficient. All we need to do is bring that connection into the real world to feel more fulfilled instead of more lonely.