Wednesday, September 26, 2018

What Happens When You Take A Social Media Break (Pt 2)

It turns out, I have so much to say on the topic of my social media hiatus that I couldn't wait another day to continue sharing my thoughts! Yesterday's post was largely about the social impact my break had on me, and today I want to specifically discuss social media and technology. What was it like being off the grid and in the dark for 15 days? Did I have bad FOMO? Did I loose friends or followers or customers? Was life better or worse without the influence of social media?

Welllll, let me attempt to cover it, but be warned - there's a lot to unpack here.

You might be surprised to hear that quitting social media cold turkey was easier than you would assume it is. It was a little painful, messing up the order of apps on my phone and dumping them into a folder with a stern instruction for a title. And on the first day - groggy and busy and somewhat overwhelmed, I caught myself looking for my apps to get a little hit of brain numbing oblivion. But truthfully - it only took a single day for my fingers to not automatically reach for my time sucking apps.

How it went when I took a 2 week social media hiatus despite running an online business (spoiler alert: the world did not implode) |

I'm not sure why that was so easy, but perhaps it was the calm of knowing that "checking in on things" (which is what I tended to call my indulgent social media usage) wasn't an option. There was no chance I'd stumble on something controversial or annoying or disheartening because I wasn't going to be looking at any of it. Peace, calm, restful.

Breaking the trance made me realize that I didn't want to risk seeing something that would give me that unnecessary adrenaline rush in the pit of my stomach when I scrolled past something with an attitude.

It was so restful to not be prompted to "check in on things" over and over again, all day long.

Which made me wonder: why do we zoom right to all those notifications and dings on our phones?

Because we want to be easily accessible, right? If we are, then we can be quick to answer a question, quick to jump in and help, quick to snatch up a sale or the best available option of any given thing or situation. We live in an Amazon Prime, instant gratification world. We are the best at what we do if we can offer that service to others...even though acting impulsively and instantly isn't necessarily a healthy way to operate.

And what does it award us with? Well if we are fast, perhaps the first, to answer the questions and take the position and nab the deal, then we can make the friend, make the sale, make the purchase that gives us a little social or emotional boost. We think that because we manipulate how we answer, we are in control of it all. We get to choose what to say, who to answer, when we answer, what tone we use when we answer, what punctuation, what emoji, what platform to use. But this is a lie we tell ourselves to make it all seem productive and worthwhile.

In reality, the fact that these apps and platforms can reach us with their dings and drop downs and bright red numbers means that we're not in control at all.

Take an iphone break!

They strike us with little bits of dopamine that make us feel like we're part of something bigger and we've got our crap together. They know how to make us feel liked and in demand. And by doing so, they bring us into their hypnotic world so they can cash in on their advertisers' money. We swim in the soup of simulated socialization and believe we're winning at life because we delivered an instant witty or intelligent response. We won the friend, the sale, the shirt, the approval of a wide audience. And despite our disillusions that we are in control of it all, these platforms are altering the trajectory of our lives.

Since I'm a rebel, realizing this made my skin crawl. I didn't like seeing how controlled I really was. I think we can all easily say that we spend too much time on our phones, but it's also easy to say that we have it under control since we get to make micro-decisions about how we use it. But what about that anxious feeling you get when a notification shows up? What about that need to see who is contacting you and to clear that little number off your app?

Did you know that research shows that even having your phone in the same room as you while you're working decreases your productivity? I'm sorry that I don't have a source here to back that up but I heard it on a podcast. Knowing that a number of apps can tap us on the shoulder with delicious information or opportunity at any moment means that our focus is never completely on the task at hand. This was the most immediate realization I had on my hiatus. My mind wasn't any calmer (it was maybe more busy), but it was able to see its way around things more efficiently and to make more clear observations. You aren't truly controlling when you're checking social media unless social media isn't calling your name. If it's sending out a call that you're immediately answering, who is in charge?

About 3 days into my hiatus I knew that I would not be turning my notifications and badges back on when it was over. There was no way I was going to be nudged, poked, dinged, pinged and prodded over and over again. You'd be surprised how peaceful it is when you make it stop. So that's the first major change I've decided to make now that I'm back.

I also realized what value (or lack thereof) Facebook has to offer me. I'd become numb to how annoying the algorithms and groups and advertisements are. It's just where everyone hangs out, right? So you roll with it. You deal with whatever it gives you and you learn how to get along with it. You wade through the garbage posts and the sponsored crap for those spaced out hits of news from actual friends.

I realized towards the end of my break that I'd missed hearing about a death in a close friend's family and I felt awful about it. I texted her privately and thankfully we were able to have a meaningful and still timely exchange, but it was a lesson in knowing that I needed to overhaul the way I use Facebook. I want to see those things and use Facebook as a tool to be a be a good friend, and I don't want the ads to deter me.

Upon my return yesterday, I went into my settings to narrow down my timeline to my nearest and dearest. I did leave a few people beyond my inner circle (mostly related to the kid's school or Matilda Jane), but I tried to be wildly ruthless. Not because I didn't want to hear anything specific from anyone in particular, but because I needed the information available to me every time I visit Facebook to be narrowed down to the nitty gritty of importance. We can only spread ourselves so thin.

We only have so much space in our lives, and yet we tax our poor minds with the details and drama and opinions of every last person we've met. It's not that I'm not interested in people's lives - I am. I'm rabidly curious about people. But I realized that exposing my eyes to the lives of that many of them was zapping my will power, using up my energy for true socializing (which gets used up quickly for us introverts), and overwhelming me with details that I didn't really need to know. It's really hard to unfollow someone that you like or find kind or funny....and equally difficult to realize that you're going to be out of the loop about a lot of things. But I felt like if I expected my time spent on social media to mean something, I had to take some drastic measures. I no longer wanted my time spent on these sites and apps to be a method of numbing myself from my own every day life.

Before I go any further, check out how easy this is to do.

How to edit your Facebook timeline down to just your ride or die |

On your main timeline screen (on a computer, not on the app), click on the 3 little dots next to "News Feed" on the left-hand side. A little drop down menu appears - select "Edit Preferences".

Narrow your FB timeline down to your innner circle and change the way you use it forever! |

This screen then comes up - use these two features I circled to completely customize your timeline. Unfollow as many people as you can bring yourself to (knowing that they won't know you did, and that you can always follow them back later if you change your mind), and then prioritize your ride or die so that you know you're getting their info first without having to wade through a pile of garbage to get there.

Isn't that interesting? That this process is SO simple and completely changes the feel and usage of the entire thing? The same is true for the apps on our phone. We just let default settings be what they are, giving them permission to control us the way they are designed to. A few quick trips to the settings screen and the whole experience changes.

(BTW, I'm doing the same on my's just more time consuming because there's no batch way of doing this.)

Some other things I learned during my break were a few specifics about which apps contribute to our daily lives, and which ones make it worse (or alter our moods in a negative way). This seems like it should be common sense, but considering this was researched and stated in a clear cut way, it somehow makes the information easier to pay attention to. That said, the apps that cause the most unhappiness are: social media, dating apps, and games. The apps that either have no effect or can contribute to happiness are: weather apps, navigation apps, music apps, book and podcast apps, and fitness or meditation apps. Additionally, we spend 45 mins - 1 hour per day on each social media app that we use regularly. If that time is dropped to about 10 minutes per day per app, our mood is relatively unaltered by its usage.

(Most of this information, as well as some information I shared earlier in this post came from the podcast Stuff To Blow Your Mind - episodes 1 and 2 of The Great Eyeball War.)

I also heard that social media users that post a lot more than they scroll are happier app users. (This also came from a podcast but I don't remember which one.) So it seems like if we pre-plan our posts, maybe latergram more than anything else, and then not zone out to the oodles of excess information, using social media is likely less harmful to our daily well being.

So I've also decided to only use social media for a specific purpose. Some examples might be....when I have a question that I know I'll find the answer to on a specific platform, when I have something to share for Matilda Jane or my blog, when I need to talk to someone specific, when I need to look up something about an event, when I'm looking for a recipe, when I have a reason to crowd source for an issue, and things of that nature. The key is to not sit and scroll.

What You Learn On a Social Media Detox

Yet....I also don't want to be a one-sided user. I don't want to declare that I'm only ever going to put things out there and then never be available to chime in on a recommendation, or to wish someone a happy birthday. So in order to contribute to the community aspect of Facebook and Instagram, I need to have guidelines for being able to scroll within reason.

I'm still not settled on what that will be, but for now I think I've decided on when not to use these apps: first thing in the morning, and once we're settled in our room at night. I think that one of the most unhealthy things in social media usage is to start your day with comparison and negativity, and the same can be said for the time when you're meant to be winding down to rest. I also want the evening time between when my kids go to sleep and when I do to be focused on my husband, self-care, and reading - so this is a way to help insure that.

I've also decided that I will set a window of time for when I respond to things for Matilda Jane or my blog. I'd usually check in over and over again to make sure I'm not missing anything, but now I think I'll keep "office hours", in a way, so that whatever questions or needs arise within the past 24 hours will get dealt with during that time. This is one of the hard things about running a business that's largely online and in your own home - there's no separation. I never even tried to create any because being available at all times increases the chances of success, right? But it drove me crazy and left me feeling like I was always being used for every last whim. That's how we feel as moms with our kids, right? Every request for a snack, every complaint about homework, every "I'm bored". We're already constantly on call for the needs of others - why was I allowing myself to do that outside of my family?

So while I have these guidelines and I haven't really come up with any hard and fast rules about when I AM allowed to use social media, I think that when I decide to pick it up, I will first set a timer for a short amount of time so that I'm prompted to get off before things get ridiculous. As a rebel, I likely won't immediately listen to the timer, but it will kick off feelings of guilt that will get me to put it down shortly after.

At the very least, I view it all very differently now, and my habits have dramatically changed for the better! In yesterday's post, I mentioned that I had a big decision to make that I would announce next time. Wellll I didn't expect to be back so quickly, so really I'll talk about it next-next-time. ;) I'm still mulling the options over, and I'd love any feedback you can offer me on my blog survey to help me make this decision!

Until next time, friends.

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