At the beginning of 2019, I made the decision to step away from social media as a whole.
Photo by Kristen Gardner
To use or not to use Instagram and Facebook may be neither here nor there for some people, but it was taking up more time than I'd like to admit... If you have an iPhone, did you know it comes with something built in called 'Screen Time' where you can track the amount of time you spend on your phone? I didn't. Well, until I did. It will tell you how many times you pick it up, how many hours you spend on certain apps or websites, etc. To say that I was absolutely shocked with the amount of time I was spending looking at that damn thing would be a huge understatement. For me, and I truly don't mean this to be prescriptive, it was doing much more harm than good for my mind, my life, and even my business. I was telling myself that I was being present, and sometimes I was, but it was rare. I filtered so many of my experiences based on the picture I should or shouldn't or could or couldn't take, and Instagram captions floated through my head at all different points of the day, from playing outside with my kids, to birthdays, milestones, and other day to day moments. While I love the idea of writing, taking pictures, and even of sharing life and experiences with other people in a meaningful way, I had to come to a point of realizing that for me, social media can not be the way that happens.
Let me give you a little picture of me on Instagram. First of all, if there is a rabbit hole, you can bet your ass I am SO DEEP in it. My best friend jokes that I'd start talking about something I saw and she'd ask how I found them. "You know that travel writer with three kids that I follow that lives in Australia, she's really funny? Well her husband's sister posted this thing one time about a their friend who is a doula, so I was reading about..." I'm sorry, but NO. I am all in favor of chance meetings and learning about people and places you would otherwise not be able to see, but the hours of precious time I spent invested in people's lives (and away from my own) and the noise in my head, the comparing (the thief of joy), the mindless numbing... it outweighed the good for me. I missed writing letters with my own two hands. Licking envelopes. Picking up my phone and calling a friend. Going on a road trip to visit people I love. Not for the Instagram picture, but because I truly wanted to.
I've had several people reach out to me with comments like "I'm so proud of you, I wish I could do this" or "I've thought about this for a long time, it's just the only way we share photos with far away family" or "Thank you for talking about this. I've felt a lot of shame because I thought I was alone in these feelings. I think I'm going to step away, too." SO. MANY. PEOPLE. feel this way. I had been telling myself that I was just nuts. How could I "not handle" something that was so widespread, so mainstream. Everyone is on social media, it's where the conversations are happening, it's where anything and everything relevant lives. Or so I thought.
Let me first say this:
What I mean by this is that deleting social media did not miraculously fix all of my problems. It didn't erase all of the noise in my mind, it wasn't easy (I literally felt like an addict at times), and I still have doubts about whether it's sustainable or whether it's just another phase I'll go through and move past. While it wasn't a magic fix for all that ails me, it freed up SO MUCH SPACE in my mind, so much room in my day, and little by little, the things I was pushing down by looking at everyone else's lives began to bubble to the surface. There were hard moments and good moments, moments I felt I had it all figured out and also some of the worst panic attacks of my life. I think what happened (again, not prescriptive, just sharing my story in case it could help anyone else) was that whether I realized it or not, if I was anxious about something or didn't want to look at something that needed to be addressed, or I didn't want to feel something that needed to be felt - that's where I would go. It was the easiest and most readily available distraction to me. In the absence of it, somehow there was time to prioritize the things I really needed. Like getting back in therapy, exercise, meditation, deep listening, conversations in bed with my husband, true presence with my children, paying attention to my needs and showing myself some love...
But, I waited six months to talk about it here because I wanted to have some time behind me to feel like I could share anything valuable about the experience for those who feel similarly about it... I do think it's a personality thing (heyyyyy any fellow INFP's or Enneagram 4's out there?) and I realize that there are plenty of people who hop on and hop off without it affecting their life or mind much at all. I'm still working on embracing the fact that whether I would have chosen to be or not, I am sensitive, empathic, and obsessed (literally) with stories and trying to more deeply understand people and the world around me. What I've discovered is that with some deep thought and intention, I can channel that energy into a place that feels more meaningful and more clear for me.
Before I go on to write a full on novel, I'm going to stop here for now. I have so much more to say on this topic and welcome any and all questions about the experience! My next personal post will be about the most valuable tools I've discovered since signing off. Stay tuned for that and as always, please don't ever hesitate to reach out to me with thoughts, questions, or ideas.
With love and light to you all.