2020 has been a year of change, rest, trauma and pain. One thing that remained the same, was my obsession with social media, in fact it got worse. For years now, Instagram has been the last thing I look at before drifting off to sleep and the first thing I open upon waking. Mindless scrolling, comparing, doubting, unaware of the time passing me by as I drifted deeper and deeper in other people’s content and lives. Complete information overload. When I would finally close the app, I felt drained, lost and full of comparison anxiety. After five minutes or so my hand would unconsciously reach for my phone and open the app again. “What the hell am I doing?” I thought to myself and sometimes spoke out loud in utter disbelief that I was on Instagram, AGAIN.
One night I was listening to The Pay Day with RayRay podcast hosted by Rachel Bell, she was giving her incredibly poignant advice, like she always does and as I listened with complete awe and admiration I heard her say “get the fuck off social media for a few days, you NEED a break”. Okay, those weren’t her exact words, but she did recommend that in order to get clear on what you want to bring to the world, it would be beneficial to remove the constant distraction of social media so you can hear YOUR own thoughts for once. I sat up in bed and said out loud, to the recorded version of Rachel Bell, OKAY sister, I’ll do it, I’m going to take five days off of ALL social media (I even deleted the dating app I had just downloaded). I then slid into her dms and told her what days I would be embarking on this mini sabbatical and the deed was done. I was determined to take this time off so that I could FINALLY get some clarity on what the hell I was meant to do with my life. And so it began, but I decided instead of five days, I was going to make it seven.
On Sunday September 6th, I removed all social media apps from my phone and felt like the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders, for a few minutes I felt free. And then like a tidal wave, I felt the crippling anxiety wash over me. I was spending SO much time on Instagram it literally felt like a part of me was ripped away. A security blanket of distraction, procrastination, entertainment, friendship, inspiration, comfort - all of it was gone and I was left with the sobering fact that I have let this app control my life, my happiness and my productivity for YEARS.
I won’t lie, the first day felt pretty easy. I was motivated, determined and ready to conquer this goal that was in front of me. I was aware of the amount of times I thought of opening the app only to be reminded by the blank space in my phone where Instagram usually lives that wasn’t an option. I found other ways to occupy my time. I started working on my upcoming course, I cracked open a book and read more than one page, where before I would put it down mid-sentence to scroll. This might actually be easier than I thought.
Three days in and I felt like I was going through massive withdrawals, it’s the only thing my mind is drawn to. What am I missing out on? What are others posting? How is everyone doing? I should be posting. Oh, this would be a good thing to put on my stories. The anxiety of it all felt suffocating. I just want to numb out and log on. I thought about getting on from my laptop, it’s one click away and the flood of release and endorphins my body was craving would feel intoxicating. How does this fucking app have such a hold on me? I will admit, I have been much more productive and acutely aware of every thought I have running through my head. I wonder if this will get easier, it HAS to get easier. What if social media wasn’t a thing anymore? Would we all, collectively, feel like this? What if the internet just fucking collapsed? Poof, gone. How weird to think about, equally as weird that when I was younger the internet wasn’t even a thing. And now there are generations that won’t know life without it. How would they cope without the constant flood of information? See what I mean, I’ve had a LOT of time to think since I detached myself from this arena of life that I was mindlessly entering day after day, hour after hour. I haven’t opened it from my laptop, in case you were wondering, and I won’t. At this point I’m contemplating never downloading it to my phone again. (as I type that a bubble of anxiety clenches my throat, the pit in my stomach grows and I feel the weight of this addiction more than I ever have before)
I danced, I moved, I cried, I had flash backs and flash forwards. Bright visions of the future, I thought of possibilities, I let go over control, I took deep breaths and I sat in silence. I listened to the lyrics of the song and felt the melody in my bones. I smiled at synchronicities and clues from the universe. I let the anxiety bubble up and then I loved it away. I ate my food with intention, I entered a state of rest so I could digest, the soup, the snow in the tail end of summer, the endless power and opportunities that became clear within me. I lit the good candles; I lit all the candles. I let the darkness come out to play, to breathe, to speak. I felt the imbalance in my body, and I promised I would restore my cells and return to a state of harmony. I listened when my soul told me to eat a spoonful of honey and peanut butter to ground me so I could switch gears. I didn’t judge myself for what I “was or wasn’t doing.” I did what felt right and continued to do that every minute until the day turned to night. I read and I rested. I was transforming, healing, releasing, and it felt fucking amazing.
Day five. It feels lighter, maybe because I know that two days from now, I can join the world of social media and the emptiness I feel will dissipate and I’ll be whole again. But, will it? Does this pit inside my stomach, this longing for connection really end when I download an app that gives me a window into others lives? An illusion, the highlights. Will that really be the thing that brings me back to life? I sat at my desk, fresh brewed coffee to my left, a vision board of sticky notes to my right. I was alone, in this room, in my life. Not the kind of alone that brings you to tears, the lonely alone – although I am no stranger to those feelings. This was different, it was the kind of alone that granted freedom, solace, silence. I could finally hear my own thoughts, my OWN voice. Not the cluttered chatter of the sorties I would watch before getting out of bed, filling my head with other people’s drama, happiness, fantasies leaving no room for me, to be me.
The last two days of the social media sabbatical were a blur, filled with friendship, work, drinks and me – fully embodied in the present moment all weekend. I didn’t think about Instagram much, well that’s a stretch – I did think about it. I thought about who I would be when I got back on, what I would want to share, if I would archive all my photos and start from scratch, a blank slate. And then it was here, Sunday morning – the moment I had been waiting all week for, only to feel slightly disappointed and honestly bored upon opening Instagram for the first time in a week. I checked my notifications, read my messages and scrolled for a few minutes and I felt nothing. No surge of inspiration, no hit of adrenaline, I felt apathetic towards it. I felt myself falling back into the same old pattern, opening it when I was bored, when I had a free moment, in between customers at the shop while I worked on Sunday. Something was different, I didn’t care much for what I saw, I missed NOT having the app on my phone. I didn’t feel inspired to post or to archive or to share. I felt drained, confused.
And here I sit, unsure of where to go or what to do. I don’t think I’ve ended the addictive cycle that social media has over me, over us as a society. But I do have a heightened awareness for the time I spend scrolling, the feelings I get when I see someone’s story or read their captions. I see the potential and how it can be a useful tool in business, in friendship and in connection. I also see the downfalls - all the ways it manipulates us, aims to control and analyze our behavior to keep us enticed and engaged. If you’re feeling exhausted, consumed by your screen – I suggest taking a break. I can’t promise that it will change your life, but I do promise it will change your perspective and show you what’s truly important.