Have you ever stopped to ask yourself what sort of impact social media is having on your mental health? Most experts agree that it can foster a culture of comparison, but are vague when it comes to really defining its impact on our health and overall well-being.
It’s easy for influencers with hundred thousands of followers to preach about the positive side of Instagram and finding that supposed ‘balance’, but what about little fish like us? Gaurav and I have been floating at around 1K followers on Instagram for a while now, and we’ve had to make peace with the many frustrations that come with your typical Instagram account. Indeed there are many positive and negative aspects (don’t get me started on the follow/unfollow game) to social media, but can we define it as either bad or good?
Recently I (Katie) went on a week-long trip to complete a project. During that time I decided to challenge myself to a social media cleanse. That meant that for a whole week I wouldn’t, gasp, look at Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or any other online social medium. I even gave up WhatsApp!
It was, uh, an interesting experience to say the least, and I learned a few surprising things which I’m going to share with you here. Hopefully it will inspire you to try your own social media cleanse!
I don’t need it as much as I thought I did.
I have to admit, I was nervous going into the challenge. Gaurav and I are both guilty of using a lot of social media, but I definitely check in on Instagram and Twitter a lot more than he does. I thought that for sure I would experience withdrawal symptoms on par with having to give up coffee, or wine, or some other equally dire scenario.
And, surprise, surprise, I didn’t! Even from day one there was no temptation at all to look at social media. I didn’t miss it, I didn’t ‘crave’ it, in fact, I was actually relieved to not have to look at it. This definitely points to a sort of love/hate relationship I’ve developed with social media, and the need to develop a better balance, but more on that later.
I felt happier without it.
Keep in mind that this is only after a short week-long cleanse, so I could very well start getting cranky and upset if I had to go a month without Twitter or Instagram. That being said, I definitely came away from my week without social media feeling a lot better. Weirdly, I realized that there was all this pressure built up inside me—pressure to post engaging content, to keep up with trends, to constantly create—that, over the next six days, slowly decompressed.
I can’t remember the last time I felt that pressure-free. When I got back from my trip I had loads of energy, I was happy (almost exuberant), and in general just felt amazing. Our self-worth is so often tied up in likes and followers and our moods can rise and fall according to that. I’d always thought I had control over the influence constant social media use was having on me, only to discover how very wrong I was.
We need to set ground rules.
For a lot of us, social media is a part of not just our personal lives, but our jobs as well. It’s almost impossible to get by without it, and these days every company has a social media presence. Even though I enjoyed my social media cleanse, I also know it’s not practical to give it up completely.
Which is why I realized boundaries are incredibly important. When I got back, Gaurav and I sat down and had a talk about our use of social media and how we’d like to manage it in the future. We agreed that we need boundaries, and came up with a few easy ones to implement!
One boundary we’re setting is the 9-5 rule. We can only use social media between the hours of 9-5. Before or after, it’s off limits. This means no more lying in bed at night scrolling through Instagram, or reaching for our phones first thing in the morning to look at Twitter.
Social Media Free Day
Another boundary is to designate one day a week as ‘social media free day’. For us this will probably fall on Saturday. We’ll take the day to do a mini-cleanse and relax away from the pull of our phones. Who would like to join us?
Social media isn’t bad.
This long rant might be coming off as very anti-social media, but both Gaurav and I are of the school of thought that social media is a positive part of our lives. It keeps us connected with friends and family, makes it incredibly easy to socialize with people who have the same interests, and creates an environment where we have easy access to a wealth of knowledge from around the globe.
It’s only when we allow it to take over too much of our lives that it can be negative. When it becomes something that starts your day and ends it, it might be time to stop and ask what you’re gaining from it. If it’s just a way to pass the time, or you feel you’re addicted to it, then maybe a cleanse of your own is what you need!
At the end of the day, social media can be both positive and negative, but we hope to make it more the former with better management! Gaurav and I are not going to pretend we know all the answers to creating balance and using it ‘right’, we’re pretty much learning as we go. But a week without social media can do wonders and really bring things into perspective, so if you have the option open to you, I’d recommend taking the challenge!
What’s the longest you’ve gone without social media? How did it make you feel? Share your experiences in the comments section below!