How To Go On A Social Media Hiatus
Here’s how my 26-day retreat went & how you can do your own.
November of 2016 forever changed my outlook on social media. I couldn’t be without my phone. I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t sleep, and little did I know, social media was diminishing my life’s worth. I was too busy watching everyone else. After realizing this addiction all around me, I quit everything for 26 days.
Here’s how I did it and what I learned.
Social Media No More
As I sat in my dorm room peering into my phone screen, I watched every last social app wiggle and disappear. At the drop of a hat, I deleted everything. I didn’t want to announce my hiatus; that seemed counter-intuitive and honestly, I found it liberating to just let it go.
It felt like I jumped ship. I’d ventured off into unknown territory, away from the contentment of information, friends, and virtual acquaintances. Within the first hour, I experienced a mini panic attack. I thought “Oh sh*t, what if I miss something really important?” But soon, I realized if something truly concerns me, I’ll get a call or text. I began to relax and settle into my new orientation. For 26 days, I vanished from the online world.
Now, to understand how I managed to impulsively extinguish all forms of social media, you have to understand the reasoning that drove me there.
Above all, I wanted to revive my mental control. I had relinquished almost every last bit of it to social media. My attention for school work maxed at 30 minutes. My self-esteem was shot from constant comparisons. I didn’t feel like I mattered in the grand scheme of things. When I ditched social media, I told myself something needs to change. “I am not going back until I feel like I am back.” I had an ingrained motive, however this still tried my motivation right away.
Here’s a day-by-day rundown.
In the beginning, the resistance was difficult. I’d been using social media for years and now, in the absence of it, I felt like a total outsider. I began to imagine all the people I followed — friends, celebrities, star-athletes.
It made me anxious. I was missing out; completely disconnected.
But, I knew I was doing something that had to be done. I consistently reminded myself how I felt before: unimportant, adrift, and consumed. These emotions helped me power through the first five days.
Although I felt exiled initially, my inceptive feelings dissolved after the first week. I began to own more control and clarity in every aspect of my life. To my surprise, I suddenly forgot about social media. There was no more “everyone else” clout.
I stopped impulsively pulling out my phone to check Instagram. I no longer looked at moments as “perfect opportunities” for Snapchat. I didn’t care to see anyone else’s crap either. Once this happened, the world opened up to me.
With less time mindlessly scrolling, I found opportunity to better occupy my free time between class, my girlfriend, and working out.
I started blogging. I read more frequently. I began to write in my journal everyday. Shoot, I even learned music production. My moral soared through the roof. I performed better in class, in the gym, and my relationships grew stronger. Oh, and sleep? Phenomenal.
Above all, I became more productive, more secure, and more relaxed in my decisions.
With more time away, the more my overall perspective on “media use” grew. I seriously started to question the usefulness of social media; it all appeared entirely overrated to me.
Day 21 and on
After being absent for all of three weeks, my perception of social media had done a full 180. It felt like a mini-breakthrough. I couldn’t wait to share my experience with others — not to brag or appear “enlightened,” rather I wanted to seriously help others find the same commission I found.
Let me clarify: I don’t think social media is awful. Social platforms benefit millions of people in the ways they spread ideas and connect us. I could go on and on about the positives, but the purpose of my experiment was to expose the dark side.
Opportunity Cost Is Social Media’s Biggest Downside
Many of us treat social media solely as a pastime or a means for entertainment; it’s used to combat total boredom. In doing so, this dilutes the utility of online platforms and employs a “laissez-faire” approach to digital content. It becomes a hindrance, rather an accelerator; a distraction, rather a tool.
We let Facebook replace the more meaningful interactions and activities in life. We care less about resourceful information because we’re seeking amusement. Entanglement and preoccupation of online “hearsay” hurts us — in a strange way, it deprives us of a better version of ourselves.
So, how can you start your own social media hiatus?
A Social Media Hiatus In 3 Steps
If you’re bold and you want to try your own little vacation from social media, I commend you. Even if it’s just for a few days, or a week or two, I’m hopeful you will walk away with a greater outlook on how you should spend your time. Here are 3 specific steps you can take.
Step 1: Delete all social media apps.
Don’t think “I just won’t look at Twitter for a week.” You will if it’s right there in front of you. When you give these apps a place to stay on your phone, you’re mentally allowing them to stay around. Out of sight, out of mind, so go ahead and erase them. They’ll be there when you get back.
Step 2: Tell someone about it. Or don’t.
It might help to announce your retreat somewhere, or to someone, as an extra level of accountability can give you more motivation. I decided not to tell anyone, and it worked for me, but you have to know yourself here and how you function best.
Step 3: Plan for your new-found free time.
I have quite a range of hobbies, so naturally I gravitated elsewhere once offline. If you don’t have many interests, now’s the perfect opportunity to dive into a new avocation, skill, or pastime. However, vowing to play more Fortnite and watch more Netflix defeats the purpose. Find something worthwhile and productive.
And Then What?
Permanently throwing it all out might work for you, but for most people, it’s probably not the absolute answer. Above all, I recommend this:
Focus on getting better information; seek out media that adds value. Define the word “value” for yourself.
You’re already heading in the right direction. Medium thrives off value-added stories and worthwhile expression. This is a great place to find positive, useful ideas on an array of meaningful topics. I recommend Medium over any other social-type of application, hands down.
Also: Follow people who matter.
I now restrict my media feeds to solely people and organizations I care about. I don’t follow anyone, or anything, unless I know they’re putting out information that’s important to me. Look out for your own best interest.
Lastly, it’s equally necessary to be someone that matters. Avoid putting out disjointed information yourself and focus on sharing experiences that hold weight. Talk about your thoughts on a relevant issue. Post something you recently learned and uplift others. Humor is a surprisingly effective way to do so.
We all benefit from these things.
Where My Retreat Got Me
I’m not a pessimist. I don’t believe everyone online is a mindless, programmed-bot. I don’t think social media is strictly a bad thing. However, beneath the surface, I know many of us experience what I’ve touched on.
My life has changed significantly since I deviated from social media. I don’t think I even fully understand how much it has positively impacted me. Honestly, I might not be here blogging if it weren’t for those 26 days back in 2016.
I don’t want to be limited to 140 characters to say my piece. I don’t need a certain amount of likes to validate what I’m thinking or doing. I don’t need to be concerned with the small details of everyone else’s day.
Control your social media — not the other way around.