This is a piece about social media and our relationship with our phones.
Written by someone who is addicted.
I wanted to write the next post on my “Building upon” series, which looks into how you can build your online presence but I felt like I wasn’t in the right space for it right now. And this topic is something I’ve been wanting to write about for a while…
Truth is, I haven’t been happy.
Isn’t that weird?
According to my social media presence, I look like I’m all singing, all dancing, all the time. Over the last few months I’ve been feeling low. As in really low. To the point I was consumed with the fear that I was falling back into that endless cycle of depression I once experienced 4 years ago.
For those that have followed me for a while, you would know that my positive pick-me-up habits which I’ve implemented into my daily routine is something I’m very proud of. But even this wasn’t helping me deal with the constant overwhelm. The cause? I had no idea.
Fast forward to 2 weeks ago, I was again in bed scrolling aimlessly through my feeds and came across a YouTube video by Casey Neistat titled, “MANIPULATED, TRICKED, BRAINWASHED.. moving past a social media addiction.”
This video felt like I was sat in a therapy session, finally confessing why I was feeling the things that I was feeling. It inspired and motivated me to put down my phone and just…rest. I slept without disruption that night. When I woke, I realised that there was one thing I hadn’t done yet to help myself.
Give myself a break.
And by that I mean a real one.
I was overwhelmed, exhausted, anxious and stressed. And what was I doing? Going through my feeds constantly overwhelming myself with information overload. There is this new thing I need to look at, this has given me an idea to do a thing, I need to reply to all my messages, I haven’t caught up with so-and-so, wow their life looks great, wow on holiday again?, ugh why am I not like-
With me, being… well, you know, me, I made it a mission to break-up with my phone. Slowly and gradually, of course. I’m a long-run type-of-gal so I knew that wanting to implement such a huge change in my life required time and mindful effort. Trying to cut something out straight away is never going to work. Sorta like cutting out junk food.
And yes, this is such a huge change
I embarrassingly have rarely missed a day of posting on some sort of stories platform (back then it was Snapchat) since 2016. It is now what? 2019! That is a long time. And a hell lot of photos and videos.
2 weeks ago, I decided to cut my screen time. I put 30 minute restrictions on the apps I spend hours on, in this case, Twitter and Instagram. At the end of the week, I had already felt like I had a bit more headspace. This week, I took it further and decided that I would attempt to stop posting on my stories.
*breaks into cold sweat* 😰
I found this challenging because, sharing moments of my life had been a habit for years. But here I am, a week later, to my surprise – totally fine – and actually feeling better than ever before.
This is what I learned
🤦🏻♀️ The itch is a real thing
Out of habit, wherever I was, I would pull out my phone ready to take a snap or to check my feeds for a dopamine hit. So you can imagine that the first few hours of this decision was difficult. I started experiencing this… itch. I feel like I’ve always had this itch, but I hadn’t been so aware of it.
To be honest, knowing I had that itch made me feel a little disgusted with myself. I couldn’t believe that I was so attached to a device to the point I felt that I depended on it. I didn’t need to post a photo of my food, I didn’t need to check my feed after literally checking it 5 seconds ago yet here I was craving to do so.
In Casey’s video, he talks about how annoying the habit of pulling his phone out of his pocket all the time is. That habit is called the itch.
Over the week, the itch started fading eventually… To the point that I stopped picking up my phone so much during the day. Near the end of the week, I left my phone in my bag under my desk and just got on with my work. It felt freeing.
This video by Matt D’Avella describes the itch well, I recommend that you give it a watch.
⚡️ Tunnel vision focus makes me feel like a superhero
Without the itch of wanting to snap every second, I literally just got on with my day. I stopped stressing myself out with attempting to multi-task and this helped sharpen my focus on one task at a time.
I also feel like I’ve retained more of my learnings from the working week and produced better quality work. It has gone beyond work though, I’ve also found I’m much more focused during workouts when my head is actually thinking about the exercise. You know, the muscle-mind connection. I can’t achieve that if I’m thinking about what to post next on my stories.
🌏 I’ve missed a lot of the world around me
My walk to work had always seemed like a blur. I mean, I know I did it because a) I’m at work and b) my IG story says so. I became aware of how much I wasn’t aware of my surroundings because my head was glued to my phone. It was refreshing to actually be in the moment and notice a lot of things around me. Look up once in a while, folks!
I’ve also tried my best not to have my phone with me in meetings at work but also over the dinner table. It’s made such a huge impact on my conversations with my loved ones who deserve my full attention, not a half-arsed one because I’m too busy scrolling my life away.
☁️ I have more headspace
I’ve written about burnout before. After one of the busiest years of my life, I made it my goal this year to chill out and relax. Even though I’ve tried my best to do this (even buying myself a Netflix subscription 😂), I’ve still felt those daily doses of overwhelm.
What was I doing that was causing this?
Apart from saying yes to everything (which btw… I’ve stopped doing), I was spending more than 6 hours a day aimlessly on social media feeds. The constant stream of information is too much.
Personally, it made my head feel so full
The best way to describe it is that horrible feeling when you’ve eaten too much junk food, are super bloated and literally feel like you’re going to explode. That, but for your brain. Just like how an overload of carbs and sugar can make you feel exhausted, the information overload from the constant stream just left me feeling drained.
Limiting my time has helped with giving me the headspace that I need. Instead of checking my feeds as soon as I wake up and before I go to sleep, I’ve tried to re-introduce some mindfulness practise resulting in a better day and sleep i.e. steps to a better, more fulfilling life.
☀️ Reducing my time with my phone, makes me happier
There are so many studies that show that there is a direct link with social media consumption and feelings of depression and loneliness.
Making this decision to cut back time I spend on my phone is freeing.
With reduced time to urgently post things, compare my life with random people sharing highlight reels and trying to please others, I’ve had more time to truly direct my energy towards myself and re-gain my focus on what truly is important. For me, what is truly important is living my life in real life without a screen and an IG filter. This has led me to feel so much more happier.
And not just-doing-it-for-the-gram happy.
Social media isn’t bad, but overconsumption is
Okay, so it might sound like social media is the most terrible thing in the world and how dare they create apps that promote behaviours of addiction etc etc… but believe me when I say this, social media isn’t all that bad.
I’ve said this before, but the power of social media is incredible. I have discovered opportunities from the online world which have been an absolute dream.
What is bad? Overconsumption. To the point where it takes over your whole life, you ignore the rest of the world and become a true addict.
Just like with junk food, eating too much of it can make you sick and cause health problems you don’t want in the long term. But having chocolate Nutella explosive doughnuts once in a while isn’t going to hurt you… I mean even kale-loving-me does it!
The last 2 weeks has given me an insight on my social media/phone addiction.
As someone who loves creating content and communicating what is important to me using the different social media platforms, it is tough to find a balance.
I will not be deleting my social media accounts any time soon, but I want to continue this mindful behaviour of my consumption and itch.
There is more to life than living it through a 16:9 shot of life.
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