This isn’t an extravagant claim. I didn’t go off grid and live in an Ashram for 3 months. I didn’t even stop going online, nor stop social media completely. But I’d argue that what I did do and felt is probably more relatable as a result.
You may be an entrepreneur who uses social media to connect with clients and make money. You may be a casual online user, connecting for personal and social reasons. Whatever the reason, we’re more likely to be spending more time online now than we’d really like to be – the data from the people who come to my digital detox workshops tells me this too.
Social media isn’t evil – it’s necessary and means so much for us a lot of the time. I think how we’ve come to use it, and how it makes us feel individually, is our own business if we’re adults. We have responsibility too if we’re parents. But on the whole, our use is very much about knowing what’s right for us and the important people around us.
So me uninstalling social media isn’t huge. It was just something I wanted to try because I talk with clients all the time about their social media use as part of my gentle life programme and I noticed myself turning into a far less well-being than I could.
It started with me being ill early July which led to a period of sickness that made my body so exhausted I couldn’t walk up the stairs without going back to bed. It also left me in quite a low mood and anxious, which is pretty understandable given that I was dehydrated and lacking nutrients as a result.
Anyway, I was aware I was scrolling on social media when I was first ill, thinking I wouldn’t be ill very long so it wouldn’t make a difference, but I noticed my scrolling and lurking time increase over and above my creating and contributing time (which is the point right – we’re meant to be social) and it was making me feel worse. I didn’t want to lurk without contributing – I post, blog and make videos as part of my work – and didn’t feel like commenting much on other people’s stuff.
So rather than giving me FOMO and compararonsitis on top of a dodgy body I decided to take off Instagram, Facebook and Twitter from my phone since I was officially off sick and I didn’t want to get further distracted from getting better. I saw private clients where I felt I could but wasn’t sharing, promoting or telling stories as much. I didn’t feel this was particularly noticeable – it was summer afterall when things are quieter online generally – we’re outside or on holiday more so tend to be online less anyway.
Here’s what I learned:
I lost instagram followers
I love using instagram. Especially Stories – I find them really fun and engaging and enjoy the in the moment aspect of watching others’ lives, and sharing my own stuff. However you don’t always want to share everything and what with being ill, and having just come out of a tricky mental health period due to some major life decisions I wasn’t in the best place to be sharing too much. It meant that I didn’t fancy sharing the lows at the time either.
But it meant that I didn’t engage, didn’t comment, didn’t follow up and in Instagram world that can be the death knell.
I think I gained some followers in some of that time but lost more (in the region of 50-60). I try hard not to watch numbers – engagement, not the numbers, is what matters – but still, try telling anyone online that they’re not there to gain a following and it falls slightly on deaf ears. We can certainly try to detach from the numbers, but when you’re online to build community and share your services it can be hard.
Interestingly, Facebook and Twitter doesn’t seem so, how can I say this, fickle – I can be quiet on both of these platforms yet numbers and even engagement stay relatively level. Instagram feels quite unique in this loss and growth sense. Perhaps it’s how I use it, perhaps it’s got more bots, perhaps it’s my audience not loving what I’m (not) doing.
I’d like to say that I transcend the need to even think about my follower numbers, but it’s not true and I don’t think it is for you either. When you love what you do, you care about sharing it and what people think and, rightly or wrongly, social media following and engagement is a part of that. However, it should only be part of the much bigger story.
I teach this stuff – managing our emotions and reactions in difficult moments in life. Surely Instagram followers has nothing on big life events and challenges right? Absolutely. But when it’s your focus for that 10 minutes, or the next launch, or your favourite group of people, it can become a lot. This might sound deluded, but it’s true for more many users than they would care to admit.
Plus if you’re in a difficult headspace already (from big life stuff or not) the smallest of triggers can feel bigger. Then when it doesn’t feel small because you think it means people like you less, or you’ll make less money, it’s perceived as a much bigger trigger anyway.
If you worry about the number of followers your have:
- Work out what it’s really representing for you and how to manage that feeling, not the fact that your numbers aren’t as high as you’d like
- Remember this isn’t just you, it’s a tricky thing to talk about and admit because it can seem shallow but if it’s having a real impact then make the right changes
- Don’t get stuck in a behaviour or belief pattern that’s not helpful e.g. ‘I must keep going because X, otherwise Y”. If it’s having a genuine affect on your daily life, it’s a belief that has to be changed
- Get perspective – what honestly really matters here? Keep that question in mind when you have racing thoughts about not being good enough
2. When I got better I felt like I was really on holiday
I got better, thankfully, and booked a last minute trip to see my brother in his new house in France. It was lovely, thanks.
Both Wifi and roaming signal was patchy and having no access to social media til I was back made me the most present I could have been. I think going into the trip having just been ill I was probably also reviewing stuff anyway, but heading to the hills, watching the sunset and a major storm come in forced a sense of presence like nothing else.
I reflected that if I’d had social media access, I may have opened it up one too many times to see others’ holidays and be taken into their space, instead of staying in mine, and I was and am so grateful that this didn’t happen.
But let’s not be passive about this – this happened because I put up barriers to make it happen. Had I not, and had the signal been better out there, it’s likely I would have easily slipped into opening social media (even on my laptop, as it no longer resided on my phone) out of habit, allowing my mind to wander into worlds I wasn’t physically inhabiting.
I felt more rested, open-minded and creative as a result. I read more, played with the kids more, journaled more. I’m not trying to be smug, just stating facts, very much as a result of not hanging out on social media in the spare and empty (or even good) moments.
If you feel like you’re comparing:
- You may want to be transported to another person’s life or online place at any time – if you’re enjoying escaping into social media and it’s bringing no harm keep doing it!
- Find the people who are talking about the things you need to hear – look for the hashtags that will help you and bring you more comfort and community, less comparison
- Work out which accounts are the least helpful to you and stop following or mute them. You don’t have to tell anyone
- Make using social media harder for you to access e.g. take it off your phone or create a behavioural interruption (something that stops or reminds you you’re doing it) before you go online
3. I didn’t wake up thinking about what to post everyone day
I use scheduling tools for my social media sometimes. I plan ahead most of the time. But sometimes I don’t. Either way, I think about social media quite a bit because I use to to connect and grow my business. For better or for worse it’s there. I love to see the positive side of it because it brings me a lot of joy. It also helps to share what I do as a coach, and bring in income.
But I know I wake up some days thinking about it a little too much. I batch my time where I can, but I may also slip into thinking about crafting that caption a little too long over my morning coffee. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but when I tot up how much time I could have spent doing something else that may have either got me clients or equally given me thinking time and space, it’s more than replaceable.
I’m not reprimanding myself too much – this is learning and I’m sure you’ll have your own version. But I now know that without access to social media I think about it less which leaves my mind more free to process, create, be present and think less about what I could be doing but don’t need to. It also means I can actually think about others more – planning ahead for my family, friends, community, and how I want to contribute to the world even. Wow, all that from changing social media use? Grand claims.
If you wake up thinking about social media:
- If it’s taking up too much thinking space, change how you think about it – create times that you allow yourself to think about posts, images, captions, responses and box it into then. Outside of that time go wild on anything else but not your social media
- Get help – a social media manager or VA may be able to help and create things faster and more efficiently than you (if you are an SMM or VA, ask yourself if you need help too)
- Make it happen after your proper life priorities – your morning time, your important family time, your whatever you need to do to feel great time. Never before