Social media is both a blessing and a curse, I wish I could say I needed to be on it as much as I do, but honestly, I really don’t and it has taken me a long time to realise that. For those who follow my instagram would know I created a mini hiatus – it lasted for a physical 14 days, although my disdain for my social media networks, apathy and general dislike of them started far, far earlier. While that doesn’t seem impressive, the urge to use social media networks and constantly pick up my phone was quite over whelming the first two days – and I don’t have what you would call an addictive personality, on the contrary, I tend to get bored super quickly of any and most new tasks.
But spending three months off work (albeit, sick and recovering) has surprised me – there was at least two solid weeks in January I could have done something new and despite lounging on the couch feeling sorry for myself since December, I could have read a book, finished that puzzle book, or finished the sewing projects stashed away in my cupboard; all in all, it would have most definitely been a more productive month thus far, but, it totally wasn’t.
I didn’t correlate my social media usage to my boredom until the end of January; that is to say, social media is so entertaining, I haven’t needed any new tasks or hobbies, and that is a worry.
Evan Asano at Social Media Today, determined most people use social media on average 116 minutes per day, with teenagers capping over 6 hours, equating to crossing the Great Wall of China 3.5 times and running over 10,ooo marathons (42.19km times by 10,000) – as startling as this is, I would like to point out I would probably run half as many marathons because I am a creature of comfort, not speed and running isn’t my jam – but that isn’t really the point – it’s a pretty terrifying amount of time all the same. So I tested myself, I set a timer whenever I used social media and was shocked to discover over a period of a week, I was clocking around 2 hours a day while out and about, and managing almost 4 hours on a day when I stayed home -and that was when I remembered to put the timer on.
So I decided to do a blanket ban – no Instagram, no Facebook, no Snapchat, no Tweeting, nothing. I did make the exception of messanger because I am in some fire group chats and I ain’t letting them slip by unnoticed, plus I didn’t want to be completely anti-social despite being in an anti-social mood. My heart and soul had disconnected from my media and it became a chore – like anything you love, it can eventually become work – but physically, I figured I had nothing to lose. My husband thought I was mad, my friends were a little perplexed and even my mum asked ‘But how will you keep in touch with people?’ After four weeks of emotional disconnect and two weeks of physical accounts removed and deleted off my phone, I have learnt things about social media, how we talk, and more importantly, how I use my social platforms that I wanted to share after my long rambling. So here is the list of 7 things I learned after a social media ban:
- It is an addiction no matter how you look at it
The act of constantly pulling out your phone is habitual, no matter how you look at it, once you are aware of it, you know you do it. The urge to check my phone was overwhelmingly underwhelming; I would pull it out of my pocket, bag etc whenever I had a minute or if someone else did it – did I really do this? I would then put it back in its holding because, well it was essentially a heavy paperweight with google without my social apps.
A 2012 study at the University of Chicago found participants were more likely to respond to social media rather than crave cigarettes and alcohol, we know those clickbait stories produce dopamine, and cat videos feed our biological urge to create serotonin – they do this by working on biological and survival receptors and rewarding our inquisitive natures; just like our ancestors would for new places, food sources, or water, we get the same kick out of new things except instead of finding a new water source for the dry season, we spent a collective 111 million minutes as a society being excited at watching a baby panda sneeze. Social network addiction is totally a thing, and it makes sense that we find it hard to put our screens away. A psychologist told me she frequently has started seeing individuals and couples discussing concerns about social media usage; it is an ongoing issue that doesn’t just affect Generation Z and is an area that requires more work and investigation by neuroscience
- People will think it is odd, and it creates hangups
In fact, I asked the question ‘Do you still enjoy checking it, or is it a task?’ and in discussion with some bloggers and some social media managers we all agreed we actually hate checking social media because we do it as a job – so at dinner, no one checked their phone once (except to determine when the Brisbane Gin Festival was on). But I have been at plenty of social events, we order from the menu and wait for our meals and all subconsciously pull out our phones – I’ve had friends do it, I’ve seen strangers do it, and it has never been something I have noticed until I am the only one in the conversation, at a table for five, without a phone in my hand (I am not giving myself brownie points, just saying). Sure we talk while we scroll, but it just isn’t the same. This topic came up when some friends of mine asked how ‘it’ was going, it created a frank discussion about usage and at times, it wasn’t met lightly. Most people don’t like to think about how much time they spend on their phones, some others I know admitted that social media usage had created a rift in their personal relationship and was becoming a noticeable problem; either way it was identified as a tentative topic for some people which was surprising and enlightening
- Your online presence, no matter how small, is noticed I restarted my ‘welcome back’ train with a ridiculous story snap on my Instagram of how terrible my makeup had become (note: don’t try all new products when you meet people for the first time); it is awkward to discuss your attributes as a beauty blogger when your mascara has run, lipstick won’t sit still and foundation has broken across your nose. The ‘welcome back’ responses I got, was bizarre. I definitely appreciated them, and they made me warm and fuzzy, but it was a little strange. I have instabesties who I also missed, social sisters and misters I hadn’t chatted to in weeks, social events I missed from not being ‘present’, or missed the opportunity to support their blogs, videos and work (which I did feel bummed about). Some people said they missed my posts, crazy stories, ‘You blogged a little, but will you now do more?’ or the best comment I received ‘You usually like all my posts and I haven’t seen you online’ and it was strange to see such a baby following notice me disappear. Even people in real life who know me would comment ‘I noticed you hadn’t posted anything in a while and thought it was weird’ which was usually followed by ‘How did the ban go?’ and then we go back to point #2…
- It can change conversation
This may seem like a weird one, and I don’t mean we converse about the ban, or I humblebrag how I have ascended to the next level of spiritual connections because I have successfully put my phone down – no – it simply changes conversation. Instead, it wouldn’t be about viral articles, or a viral video, or a really great meme they should see (we’ve all done one of these – if you say you haven’t, I’m calling a bluff); and while these are not frequent topics of conversation, the tone had now changed. I no longer knew that my friends went out last night, or they saw a local band that rocked, or my friends baby learnt a new word, and I was no longer privy to frivolous news articles shared through Facebook. Instead, we actually had to talk about it.
“So the gig I was at-”
“Oh which gig?”
“I posted a video on my Facebook, didn’t you see?”
“No…no I did not”
Suddenly we had to share experiences – which sounds lame, weird, and a bit like I am slipping into a superiority complex, but we truly did. It also made me so much more aware of how much I didn’t ask my friends how their weekend was, not because I didn’t care – but because I already knew. I had commented ‘Yaaaas QUEEN!’ on their outfit photo on Instagram, liked their status on Facebook and replied to their drunk dancing selfies on Snapchat without a single word being shared. Now, I didn’t have those tools so I actually had to listen, ask questions, laugh and share those stories – which is far better than watching a dodgy Insta-story of my BFFs screaming the lyrics to ‘Horses’ at 2am after too many martinis
- It changes your attention span
While there was a lot of media attention claiming social media shortens the attention span it is not true. What it does instead is change how we view tasks and divide memory, or simply put it dictates how much attention is needed for the task. Take Instagram as an example; there are millions of pictures in a single hashtag and we will scroll, look, read, comment, and move on for any set amount of time. In order for our brains to process such a high volume of information we shut off all other tasks – just like conversation falls to a lull despite still going when phones are in hand, or we can’t focus on the movie because we are searching #paletteporn tags. Our brains get so used to processing large volumes of information, that smaller, single topic or single focus tasks are seen as dull, pointless, and not worth it. Historically, I have loved reading long before university beat it out of me and it had become a fun past time again in the past two years, but I found myself not reading books and struggling to pay attention and was surprised to find it was because my brain has been wired to dissect information at 250kb a minute. I have started reading again during the ban over a month period and have noticed better attention span, longer reading times and better enjoyment (I even rejoined the library!) and it has surprised me to have not noticed this change before. Is this a science you should be worried about? Probably not, and while these are novice ideas in the world of social media and psychology, I feel I can personally vouch for its song of truth
- I didn’t have extra time, I just wasted valuable time One of the biggest things I thought would happen would be an influx of time to do more things; quite the contrary. I had the same amount of minutes, same hours and day – no more time to do extra new things like read a book, do a puzzle, or sew; instead I had more time to delegate to tasks I wanted to do. I procrastinated less, or I did other tasks to procrastinate – i.e. cleaned my bathroom to avoid cleaning the kitchen (I have roommates, so it is never a great job), I wrote more blogs, I got some online gaming time in which I usually never did until 10pm as ‘my day was packed’ and I started going to bed at 11pm INSTEAD of my current 2am schedule. Simply put, I didn’t get more time in my day, I just didn’t have an opportunity to waste time making me more efficient, productive and I would say happier
- It is good for the soul to cut back once in a while
While my ban may only have been two weeks, it gave me a refreshing review on the what, why and how I use social media. Try asking yourself “Why do I need it?” or even better, “What do I use it for?” and you may be surprised that your response and your usage may not correlate entirely. An example would be claiming to use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, but instead, you spend your lunch break scrolling through videos on LadBible, which I’m gonna say are not the same thing. Take a judgement free breath and ask yourself these questions, what matters, what doesn’t, and what does your social media habit tell you?
So there you have the 7 things I learnt from a social media ban; while I am back online I have pulled Dua Lipa and created new rules for myself including limiting my scrolling time to 15 minute slots, only posting with a purpose, NOT checking notifications sporadically rather using my slot time to respond and check, (I have since turned all notifications off, even on my messagener app) and this exercise in social media control has taught me I no longer care for Facebook, Snapchat or Twitter; and they will probably stay deactivated (although I do love Twitter…). All in all, it was a great learning experience for me to deactivate social media and I have converted a few friends, fellow bloggers and even a few begrudging family members who agree they meme way too much.
Have you tried a social media hiatus? Did it work for you, what did you learn from it? Let me know in the comments below, and until next time; stay shiney!