I recently started a 7-day gratitude challenge on Instagram as a friend tagged me in one. I like the concept of it, thinking of something to be grateful for each day and posting about it. I like the concept of gratitude and actively looking for things in our lives to appreciate and change our perspective. I was feeling stressed about the challenge though, coming up with a picture and a post, feeling some sort of pressure to post, continue the challenge and for it more or less to be done well. I didn’t like the feelings I was having about the challenge, it was supposed to be fun.
I started to look at those feelings, and the feelings I was having toward social media, how I was relating to it and the impact it was having on me. I realized I was spending a lot of time on it and Facebook, mindless scrolling and it was honestly giving me anxious feelings and it was distracting, took up time in my life and even in my head so I decided I was deleting the apps off my phone for the next day so I could focus, be productive and spend my time more wisely throughout the day. I also wanted to be in the present moment for my workouts and my life. My phone has been distracting me a lot, with a habit of picking it up for no good reason, just to pick it up and then I would end up checking social media.
I gave up all social media in October 2018. I decided that I needed to give it a break because it was distracting me from healing during a challenging time of my life. I can be very all or nothing, extremist but I decided that this was a time I needed to focus on more important things, my life and my healing right in front of me and even people right in front of me.
That first couple of weeks was tough, the thought and decision and action of giving up social media were SO hard. I had FOMO to the max. Social media was a huge part of my life, I posted almost every day, trying to provide content and value to people and helping them. My thoughts as I was about to give it up were “but what about the people I am helping and inspiring online?” Honestly, social media had become an ego serving, validation, approval-seeking device. I didn’t know what was real anymore, or what was contrived, what was really me trying to help people and what was just me wanting someone to validate me and say “oh my word you are so great!” At first, I would grab my phone out of habit to check but I had deleted my apps and my accounts completely. I would think about it during the day, wondering about it. Eventually I stopped grabbing my phone and became less attached to my phone, and eventually, I stopped thinking and wondering about what was going on online. I became more aware and focused on my present moment life and more connection to people that were right before me.
I was off social media for about 5 months before I decided I would get it back again. I was scared, I was reluctant. I wanted to give it a try and I wanted to be mindful about what I did with it, what I posted, who I followed, and who I let follow me as I got a private account.
I have had it again for about 5 months now, and I've noticed an increase in mindless scrolling, mindless phone grabs. I have also noticed a decrease in overall mood, increase in anxiety, increase in comparison and discontentment, increase in stress and also increase in overall satisfaction.
In just today alone, not having the apps for almost 24hours, I feel a sense of improved mood, improved focus, improved spending of time and energy, improvement of productivity.
It could be a fluke because it had only been 24 hours but I am going to keep this little test going for the rest of the week and see how it makes me feel.
This morning alone I slept in, had an hour of quiet time, ate breakfast, prepped my meals for breakfast, and lunch for the next two days to bring with me to work, did laundry, put away some laundry, organized my room a little, and read! Without social media distracting me this morning, I was able to focus as well as had extra time to sit down and read for about 20 mins, which is enough for a chapter or so! I was honestly shocked that I still had time to sit down and read before I went to go workout and go to work, and I attribute that to the freed up time from not being on social media.
At work, I also decided ahead of time that I was going to self regulate and touch my phone as little as possible to be able to focus, be productive and get work done. I had the mindset that there was nothing on my phone that was that important.
I felt very productive, focused, energized, and an overall good mood for the day. We will see if that continues with the social media detox for the rest of the week. As I noticed the overall emotional state I was in, I began to think if it has to do with not checking social media. I began to think along similar lines as stated before, what is important on social media? What are the benefits of staying off social media?
Don’t get me wrong I am not judging on social media, because there are benefits! I was able to reconnect with people by getting social media again. However, I do have the consider the costs and benefits of having social media as well as the costs and benefits of not having social media.
I honestly wonder and think if social media costs me too much peace, contentment, time, energy, focus, joy.
I think the benefits of not having social media that I have experienced:
- Present moment awareness
- Improved productivity
- Fewer comparisons
- Improved focus
- Real-life interactions
- Less competition
- More contentment
- More peace
- More emotional awareness
I honestly think that social media causes a lot of noise. It can distract us from our truest selves, it can cloud our better judgment, it creates fog and noise that can take away from our well being and prevent us from seeing truly important things and that matter most.
Deleting the apps brought me back to one of the intentions behind the social media break that I took almost 10 months ago, to be able to be free to focus on things that I was beginning to think were most important and what mattered most:
Being present here and now with what is right in front of us, especially the people that are right in front of you.
I was so distracted for years on impacting people through social media, which isn’t a bad thing, that I was forgetting about the powerful impact I could have on people right in front of me, right within the reach of my hands. I had to consider what mattered more? These people that probably don’t know the real me, just the Charissa that was carefully curated for online, or people who would be there for me for real If i truly needed them.
My priorities began to change, as they are again.
I believe for myself that if staying off social media benefits my emotional and mental health, my overall well being, and also helps me be the best version of me for the relationships that are right in front of me, that it is worth it. The most important part of life, the things that matter the most, is how much I love people, how I treat them and how I make them feel, and if social media at all takes away from loving the people set right before me, I don’t want it.
It has been two weeks since I started the self-regulation with social media, and I am going to continue doing it because I have found that I have a better quality of life when I have long periods, days, without going on any sort of social media. I have more peace, more contentment, more present moment awareness, more focus, more clarity.
So now it's time for you to examine your heart and your life.
Does the time and energy you invest in social media have a lasting impact on others? Maybe it does! Does the time and energy spent on social media benefit you? If it does, great. I just want to bring awareness and share my perspective, social media does have great benefits, and for me and how I end up relating to social media, I am choosing to stay away from it for my benefit. Having social media is the norm, so it might be weird to give it up, but you never know until you try it. Maybe take a digital detox for a week or two and see what impact it does or doesn't have on your life.
Charissa Sutliff is an Online Fitness & Nutrition Development Coach, a Competition Prep Coach, Certified Personal Trainer, and holds a B.S. in Kinesiology. She also holds an M.A. in Higher Education Administration. She is enthusiastic about faith, working out, healthy nutrition, meditating, learning, growing and coffee!