Insights From a Nine-Month Social Media Fast
Last May was hard. It was one of those seasons where you get home after a long, draining day and don't have the energy to get ready for bed. I was at low capacity and, as a creature of habit, I would return to the things that weren't actually fulfilling but easily accessible. My exhaustion brought me to do the most mindless activity- scrolling through instagram.
Then during the summer, I told myself and my followers that I was taking a break from instagram. It wasn't bringing me life anymore. I became more concerned with what 500 strangers thought about me rather than what my closest friends thought about me. It was distracting me from the rest I really needed.
Three months went by without social media. Slowly, the urge to be constantly entertained faded. The habit of picking up my phone to check the time and ending up on instagram was no longer there. It was no longer the first thing I saw when I woke up, or the last thing I saw when I went to bed.
Six months went by without social media. Then nine. My view of social media radically changed in those nine months. For eight years, I had instagram on my phone and practically checked it every single day. Eight years! Sometimes we don't realize how much something affects us until it's not there anymore.
Before you read further, let this sink in: Social media is amoral. It is a tool that can be constructive or destructive. It just depends on how you use it.
I think we've all been lectured about the negative parts of social media at one point or another: Addiction, comparison, distraction, or negative affects on mental health. And these things can be true. However, I'm not here to be another one of those voices bashing on instagram. There are also many constructive aspects of social media. An increase of information, connection, business, entertainment, and influence. It goes both ways.
Regardless of where you land with the pros and cons, social media will affect every individual differently. But here's the thing- nobody can give you a template for your "healthiest" social media intake. But maybe I can prompt you with some questions for you to discover it:
Why are you getting on social media?
I'm a big believer that our heart dictates our actions. There is a motivation behind checking your feed, and that motivation might change in different seasons. I know I have ebbed and flowed where my motivation for social media was good- I wanted to connect or encourage. In other times, my motivation wasn't so good. Here are a few things I had to be aware of:
-Is it to distract yourself from something?
-Is it to avoid an awkward conversation walking to class?
-Is it to fit in?
-Is it a fear of missing out?
These motivations aren't healthy for you or me. The moments I have found myself motivated by distraction or fitting in have caused social media to really take a toll on me.
On the other hand, I think it is important to celebrate the positive reasons we get on social media. Like getting inspired, connecting with friends far away, hearing peoples stories and share yours. These things should be celebrated because they are good.
So, why are you getting on social media? Being aware of these motivations can allow a positive relationship with social media.
How can social media be life-giving for you?
There have been times where social media has been immensely life-giving for me. I have found encouragement, connection, and of course, my daily dose of memes. I've been impacted by other bloggers, influencers, and friends that have made social-media very life giving for me. But there's also been times it has left me empty and neck-deep in comparison. It's important to be constantly aware of your intensions behind scrolling through your feed.
Here's where you can't took to anyone to answer this question for you. You, my friend, know your heart better than any other human being. So do yourself a favor and be really honest with it.
Ask yourself this question: In order to be the healthiest version of myself, how should I use social media?
My hope is for that question to be a little uncomfortable for you. That question was highly uncomfortable for me last May because it brought me to the answer of "not at all." Fully removing social media was the best option my me in that season. Again, don't take my conclusion- what's yours?
- Is it setting a time limit each day and actually sticking to it?
- Is it deleting instagram for one day each week?
- Is it not making any changes at all, but paying attention to your thought patters as you scroll? - Is it following more pages that have a positive influence on you?
How is social media changing your behavior?
I'll be the first to admit I've tried to be a funnier, more trendy, or simply someone I'm not for the sake of an instagram story. I don't want to know the amount of hours I've spent coming up with a caption that makes me look a lot more clever than I am (yikes!). One of my red flags for social media is when I begin promoting a false version of myself.
The temptation to change for social media might always be there for me. It isn't a reason to throw away my phone and run for the hills. But, social media won't be healthy for me, you, or our followers to be absorbing a false version of yourself.
- Does this align with who I am?
- What is my intention for posting?
Let's jump back to last-May Bailey. There's been many changes in the past year that have made social media positive for me. But, next-May Bailey might find herself struggling with the exact same things. But whether or not I struggle again isn't the point- whether you struggle or not isn't the point. The point is being aware of whether you are struggling so that you may use social media in a healthy way.
And last but certainly not least, remember this: Social media is just one of many parts of our lives. You are more than your Instagram feed or the amount of time you spend on social media each day. May the ways we reflect, challenge, and give grace to ourselves go far past the topic of social media and into every aspect of our lives.