It’s been 10 weeks since I took a social media sabbatical.
I’ve felt fatigued by social media for the past year or so but the idea of going completely offline, seemed an impossible notion. Because of that feeling, I knew I needed to remind myself what life was like prior to the compulsive pull of networking tools.
I stopped posting and logged out of facebook and instagram on all devices. All social media apps were deleted from my phone to prevent the mindless swiping reflex that occurred every time my phone pinged. And aside from some mild discomfort during the first day, my habit was broken!
There have been some SWEET shifts in my perspective, due to taking a social media sabbatical. Benefits and observations that mark permanent changes to how I’ll be operating my business and personal life, moving forward.
Lessons learned: 10 weeks without social media
Letting go of validation and approval from others
As a coach who often writes about and helps others break free from approval addiction, this is bit of an awkward confession….
My social media detox was also an ego detox.
While few of us would consider themselves self-absorbed, it’s easy to get used to an online world of superficial connection, instant approval and highlight reels. This is particularly pertinent for those of us who have an online business page or profile. Chances are the drive to procure a larger audience or become more visible is influencing the amount of time you spend online and the version of your life that you present to others.
We now live in a world where almost every experience is influenced by the thought ‘will this make a good shot?’ The likes, comments and shares from others, whether friends or followers, can become a regular ego-booster, or crumbler.
Within a few days of unplugging, I began living and writing, minus the familiar ‘social media lens” over my shoulder or an iPhone at arms length. It didn’t take long before I naturally began doing things, simply because I enjoyed them. No subconscious need for external validation required.
I was reminded of what it looks and feels like to stop living for others. I rejigged my priorities and realigned my focus on what truly matters. My interactions with others felt more genuine because I wasn’t being influenced by what someone was or wasn’t doing for my ego.
Prior to my break, I would have emphatically denied that a smattering of likes, comments or shares meant anything, yet once I was removed from that environment, it became clear that it was a subconscious way of feeding my desire for approval and validation.
Looks like I still have the ability to be surprised by what I can discover about myself!
Increased productivity and living on purpose
Once I had committed to avoiding social media altogether, I realized I had a lot of idle time that was previously used distracting myself. How often do we set out with the intention of doing some deep creative work, and end up answering a bunch of emails or checking the latest updates of friends cute babies instead?
It gets to a point which you have to acknowledge that your lack of productivity is greatly related to your focus.
In the past two months, I’ve accomplished things I never made time to do in two years.
:: An unplugged beachside getaway with a girlfriend.
:: Regular pilates reformer and dance classes.
:: A draft of an online programme for coaches and counsellors.
:: Training as a Speakers facilitator for WomanSpeak.
:: Fortnightly EMDR therapy for healing post traumatic stress
:: A couples Coaching programme with my husband.
:: Deepening of relationships and amount of time spent with my three daughters.
:: Home redecorated and decluttered.
:: A 30 day Kundalini Meditation practice and course.
:: 8 weeks since I stopped eating gluten (due to an intolerance) and curbed my sugar addiction.
I lead a simple life and the above list isn’t anything flashy for the outside world. But for me? It represents a whole bunch of desires and needs that I had effectively put on the side burner.
My health has improved significantly
For many of us, technology has become an inseparable part of our lives, alongside a substantial increase in reported health issues.
I have a chronic vertigous condition that is easily triggered by anything that requires prolonged visual focus, so reduced screen time has become an absolute necessity. For the past 7 years, my work has been almost completely reliant on me and my laptop. These days, I’m effectively having to retrain myself to work with paper and pen and use dictation software to reduce the amount of time I spend in front of a computer.
The resistance I’ve faced changing my habits has been enormous! But without adapting and looking for new ways to share my message, I would need to look for a new career.
Changes in my work environment and approach have helped sharpen my awareness. It’s easier to notice signs of fatigue and poor posture and instead of ‘rewarding myself’ with a 20 minute Facie break, I now take a quick walk around the block, fold the daily washing or sit outside with my feet in the grass.
Aside from the first couple of days of my extended break, I’ve been an absolute social media recluse and loved it!
I’m a private person at the best of times, but this experience has made me even more discerning about what I will and won’t share on social media. The rare opportunities I have with my husband alone (or even girlfriends) don’t need to be spent taking photos of our lunch, but instead spent in deep conversation and appreciation. My life doesn’t need to be a continual #hashtag.
Moving forward, my investment in social media will be markedly different:
:: Internet use will be scheduled in blocks and I’m remaining committed to having long periods of the day internet free.
:: I’ll be taking annual social media sabbaticals of 4 weeks or more.
:: Facebook and twitter have been permanently deleted from my phone.
:: Overall, I’ll be posting less, with the primary focus on providing deeper value – more story telling and videos, less quotes.
:: I’ll be asking myself more regularly “Is this the best use of my time right now?
For some of you, taking extended time away from social media might not be warranted, but I want you to consider this:
The benefits of giving ourselves what we need, and doing what we love are are akin to coming home.
What personal revolution might unravel, if you allowed yourself the space to claim it?
Want to learn more?
Here area couple of highly recommended resources, relating to distraction in the digital world and finding your focus for deep work.
- Deep Work – Cal Newport
- Unsubscribing as an act of creation – A 10 minute The Goodlife Project Pod with Jonathan Fields and Jocelyn Glei, on distraction in the digital age and doing what really matters.