My personal experience quitting social media and some other thoughts.
It was the end of May 2020, we had been under house arrest for 2 months. I never envisaged myself teaching Yoga online, in fact I was adamant that I was NEVER going to teach online. Well anyway, I don’t need to explain to you what happened – 2020 is certainly going to be one for the history books, whichever way it pans out.
I ended up teaching all my classes via Zoom. In my 4 years of teaching yoga, I’d never spent such lengths of time in front of a screen and it was getting to me. In between classes, I was keeping up with emails, staying in touch with students and friends through various different apps, and wasting hours upon hours on social media. Attempting to craft ever-changing witty and meaningful posts to let my students know I was there for them, and being of some kind of assistance to them, as well as the inevitable mindless scrolling that just seems to happen every time you open one of those apps (I believe they are, after all, designed to be addictive).
One day, I was outside in the sun trying to study, and it was just one distraction after another. How many days was I wasting in this constant loop of: sit down to do something and then get distracted – scroll, scroll, scroll – re-engage with task – get distracted again? Arrrrggggghhhhh!
I thought to myself, I’m better than this. I don’t need or want to be controlled by this crap! I don’t need or want to ingest the contents of other people’s minds and lives constantly, day in and day out.
So I quit.
I deleted Facebook and Instagram off my phone and stopped engaging with cyberspace. And guess what happened?
My days got longer.
I became more productive.
I felt less anxious.
I started to give less of a shit about what others think of me. (This was the biggest one).
I actually got on with my studies that I was constantly being distracted from, and subsequently obtained a Grade A diploma in Herbalism.
I became more present
I am now able to share deeper, contemplated thoughts with my students in a weekly email, and it feels more genuine.
I am more creative.
I am more connected to my intuition now that I’ve silenced some of the noise, in a way that I never thought possible. I took a course in psychic awareness and was blown away by how easy I found it was to be able to connect to, and read, other people’s energy, now that I am more in tune with my own. I’m learning to recognise the energy of others as separate from my own.
I noticed my attention span getting longer again – reading whole articles vs just reading a headline and the first few lines before getting bored and moving on – sound familiar? I believe many arguments online seem to involve people who have only read the headline and decided run with it – but it’s not entirely their fault, it’s the way it’s been designed.
… And I did all of this without feeling the need to announce one tiny part of it to the world. I felt no compulsion to take a photo, craft a post or share a story. My life, my journey and my evolution is my own business. I do not need the validation of others to feel worthy. In fact, I feel more of a sense of self-worth when I just get on with my own stuff, without any distractions and without seeking any attention for it.
We are collectively addicted to information on a level that is way too much for our brains, minds and hearts to handle. We are not machines or computers and so we shouldn’t try to ingest as much information as we do in one day. If you went to a library or anywhere else to study, you wouldn’t get 60 books out all at once and start reading them all in the same day, would you? That’s essentially what we are doing when we click on this; click on that; click on the other. With so many tabs open, we just cannot cope, and so we begin to run a bit slow, a little sluggish, but we can’t quite figure out why.
Deep down I think we all know that it isn’t any good for our mental health to live our existence online, constantly trying to keep up with our peers. For me at almost 40, it feels almost childish, like I was stuck in some kind of teenage popularity contest. There’s something really narcissistic about constantly showing other people photographs of yourself. Back in the day we would never have carried around a photo album filled with selfies and pictures of our dinner, and our dogs, and insisted that everyone we met looked at it. I know things have moved on since then. I’m just saying that I don’t like what we’ve become in that respect.
Young people and social media
I don’t have kids, but I do remember what it was like growing up and trying to fit in. The pressure to be liked by certain people and at the same time making out like you couldn’t care less. I’ve learned recently that these feelings are magnified online. So much so, young teens are killing themselves over it. WTF?
If you want to learn more (especially if you have kids), you can watch this documentary on You Tube: Childhood 2.0. The Living Experiment.
I’ve not seen The Social Dilemma documentary on Netflix but I am aware of it. I decided I wanted to write this blog before I watch it.
Changing the way we think and behave
We know that these platforms are manipulated by way of algorithms, which are essentially learning how we think and interact. They then feed us with what they think we should see. Over time this will shape the way we think. This is a level of manipulation and social conditioning that I can personally live without.
People are silenced, cancelled and censored for sharing views that are deemed “dangerous” or “wrong”. Are we really that pathetic that we can’t, as adults, decide what is right and wrong? Are we really that over-sensitive that we need to be protected from being offended by someone who thinks differently to us? Freedom of speech is absolute. We should not attach any “buts” to that discussion. For example, being a Vegan, I strongly disagree with the views of meat eaters, but I will defend to the death their right to say and express their own personal beliefs. I don’t want to live in a world where we all think the same.
I’ve spoken to a few people about my journey and the most common responses I get are “I only use it for work” or “I only post once a day” or “I don’t look at what other’s post”, and I sense that these comments are often presented as a kind of justification. The reality is that what you do is your business. But ask yourself this – could you leave it for a whole week, or even just a day, and not think about checking it?
The following is taken from https://www.addictioncenter.com/drugs/social-media-addiction/
Recognizing a Social Media Addiction
Although many people habitually use social media, very few are genuinely addicted. If you’re worried that someone may be at risk of developing an addiction to social media, ask yourself these six questions:
Does he/she spend a lot of time thinking about social media or planning to use social media?
Does he/she feel urges to use social media more and more?
Does he/she use social media to forget about personal problems?
Does he/she often try to reduce use of social media without success?
Does he/she become restless or troubled if unable to use social media?
Does he/she use social media so much that it has had a negative impact on his/her job or studies?
If you answered “yes” to more than three of these questions, then you may have or may be developing a social media addiction.
Once I became really honest with myself, I definitely answered yes to 2 of the above.
I’d had digital detoxes in the past but I’d always ended up falling off the wagon. I felt like I was missing out. This time, I’ve had to consider whether or not it could be business suicide to stay off it, but my mental health is more important, and I’ve decided to explore other ways of promoting what I do.
To be perfectly honest, the thought of getting involved with it again, makes me feel slightly queasy. At this stage I have no intention to return. I have no FOMO. The world keeps turning and most people don’t even notice I’m absent (except a few). I went cold turkey and never looked back. A bit like how I gave up smoking. As soon as I realised I was in control and nothing could have the power over me, I simply took that power back. This was my way, yours might be different. You may not even be thinking about quitting social media and that’s fine too. Perhaps you think it’s wonderful and you don’t see anything wrong with it. If that’s your honest opinion, I respect that. I also acknowledge that it’s a great way of keeping in touch with people who live far away and also meeting others who share your interests.
What I hope from writing this blog, is to shine more awareness on our relationship with these online platforms, and to encourage individual observation of how such media is consumed by us, and the potential effects it may have on our being. Tying it back to Yoga, this is a form of Svadhyaya (self-study).
My break away from social media has now led me to seriously consider ditching my smart phone and returning to a regular 2G Nokia. I have a laptop that does everything I need for work and keeping in touch. Just so you know, I am not endorsing one particular phone manufacturer, but the Nokia is the one I had back in the day. My friend – who refuses to use a smart phone – swears by the Motorola Razr 2G flip phone, which he claims is not only retro, but also very cool! ;o)
My practice this year has been focused upon how I can explore living more in harmony with nature, and distancing myself from technology is a step closer to that reality. If this resonates with you, get in touch and let’s start a conversation, and share ideas about how we might reach out and keep in touch without our little black mirrors.
A couple things this crazy year of 2020 has taught me are:
Give me real friends over followers any day.
I don’t need an audience, I need community.
Nature knows best.
Much love and real hugs, Michelle.
Teen Electronics Addiction: Guide & Self-Test
Further Recommended Reading