I Quit Social Media for 6 Months
I never thought I’d do it.
Not because I was addicted...well I mean, maybe we all are to some extent. But I think I was caught up in the idea of missing out on something or losing touch with “friends”, so I never really put that much serious thought into checking out.
But I did it.
I’m so glad I did.
And part of me doesn’t want to be back.
Honestly, the decision to reactivate my Instagram and Facebook accounts was based mainly on wanting to share my poetry, stories, and blog posts, not because I was missing the idea of social media itself. But here I am, back in the land of...too much.
Let’s back up.
How it All Started
We’ve all had a rough 20 + months. Some of us more than others.
And for many different reasons.
My outer life hasn’t changed much because of Covid. I’m naturally an introvert, homebody type. I work alone for the most part both in our business and at my part-time job – which I prefer. And I don’t go to bars, RARELY go out to eat and you won’t find me traveling or schmoozing or attending many social gatherings.
I just really enjoy a quiet life at home. Not only that, I get exhausted easily by too much external stimulation...noise, lights, activities, people, emotional stress...all of that wears on me more than the average human. I tend not to be involved in a lot.
So, not being able to do social things hasn’t really affected me. My life has gone pretty much as usual except for having to help my son with distance learning last school year.
BUT – My internal life turned to shit.
It all seemed to start when the pandemic hit in the U.S. in late winter 2020. Everything was so unknown. Uncertainty is probably one of the most difficult things to navigate through. Which is stressful. When things stop being “normal” and stable it gets hard.
Then the George Floyd situation broke out...then protests and devastating riots started...and the political climate was utter insanity...of course, the murder hornets and wars and fires and corruption were being uncovered...arguing around every corner and everyone getting offended by ridiculous things as well.
As 2020 rolled into 2021 and our school was back and forth between distance learning, in-person learning, and early release days, it felt like all the absurdity of the past year hadn’t let up. Just when you thought it would go a little smoother, something else rocked the boat.
For me, Facebook, in particular, had turned into a triggering place where all I saw was bad news, things to feel yucky and depressed about, and then feeling like I wasn’t doing enough to “fix” the problems I was seeing.
I couldn't stand seeing people fighting and hating and turning against even the best of friends because they didn’t share the “right” opinion. I lost a couple of Facebook friends myself simply because I asked a few too many questions about things that people didn’t want to think about.
I tried to ignore all the nonsense and just keep in contact with close friends, stay away from posting anything controversial, refrain from commenting on anyone’s posts unless it was rosy and I stopped asking questions to get people thinking– questions can get you KILLED these days!!!
Of course, there was the blame-shifting and cancel culture, the internet censorship, and suppression of information on all sides too.
I just couldn’t handle it anymore.
Maybe it was the previous year’s never-ending world events...maybe it was my personal life that had been upset by family situations...maybe it was my own emotional weaknesses...
Maybe it was everything.
By February 2021, I was crying almost every day and I didn’t even know why.
I just felt heavy. Sad. Uneasy. Uncertain about the future. Overwhelmed by it all. I felt sick. I was fatigued more than ever. Seeing and feeling the weight of the world became too much and I needed a retreat to self-reflect before I lost my mind.
So, I quit Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat (I used no other social media) with the intention of taking care of myself and learning how to handle less than positive things that I see and hear but can’t avoid.
I didn’t have an end date or a certain amount of time I wanted to stay out...in fact, every time the thought came up about when I would be back a tense feeling of trepidation would flood over me and I knew it wasn’t time, so I waited longer.
I learned a lot...but not what I expected
I thought I would be feigning for a hit of drama and nonsense within 24 hours. After hearing from others who’d quit social media, I thought I would struggle to keep my fingers from logging back in and have withdrawals. And I thought I would miss a bunch of things that I needed to know about.
None of that happened.
It was weird for the first few days, habit had me reaching for my phone randomly, then I had to remember that I wasn’t doing that aimless scrolling anymore.
The more time that passed, the more I didn’t want to have anything to do with social media. Especially Facebook.
Taking a long break from it was awesome, but not in the way most people say it went for them.
Yes, I had more time for other things in life.
Yes, it was mentally refreshing to exit the garbage dump.
BUT, what struck me the most after reflecting on the whole experience was how much of my stress is actually caused by my own internal dialogue...my perception of the things I see. The thoughts I think about people, situations, and events, and the emotions that I let drive me have been the real culprit all along.
I also realized that it is possible for me to see the things I see without reacting to them or judging them or turning them into some kind of suffering for myself. I don’t know that I would have become aware of that had I not taken a break.
I used the 6 months to do some serious self-reflection. It was really rough. Especially in the midst of one of the busiest and craziest summers I’ve ever lived through. It sucked ass. I cried a lot. I took many naps. I had to quit some other things that weren’t serving my physical or mental health.
Through all of this, I have started to gain more control over my internal well-being instead of being at the mercy of the FEED and the chatter inside my head.
That simple realization didn’t come until the very end for me though. Maybe not even until month 5...weeks before I hopped back on and tested the waters. I don’t know that 30 days would have gotten me to the point of understanding.
I journaled almost every single day during the six-month break. I’ve journaled regularly since I was very young, but for this, I made a point to do it more often, and use my journaling time to look internally at the things I was writing about.
Stream of conscious journaling became a very important part for me. It’s amazing how our rambling thoughts lead us down some of the most destructive, critical, and strange trails which can sidetrack our lives quite literally.
What I Missed and Why I came back
FOMO is so real before you quit.
At least it was for me. It seemed like if I quit social media I would miss something or be left out in some way...even though I could never point to anything specific.
Aside from missing a handful of people’s personal pictures and updates (which was solved by texting, messaging, and calls. Who knew!!!) I came to realize that my life was not at all enhanced by subjecting myself to the endless feed of the social media algorithm.
Twice I wanted to give away some items and make it known on our local swap and sell page on Facebook...but also solved that by putting the stuff out on the lawn with a free sign so people could see it when they drove by.
The only thing I truly missed was posting content from my website. And my site did take a hit by doing that...but you know what, it wasn’t the end of the world. I still managed to have traffic from Google search and from subscribers.
So, I’m back to share my own content and making things a little more convenient with a few groups that I belong to on Facebook.
And that’s it.
People don’t care if you leave Facebook.
They might miss seeing pictures or updates like I missed seeing theirs but that’s about it.
I let a handful of people know that I was quitting, but other than that I didn’t make an exit post on any social media platform.
Not one person asked what happened to me or asked if I was okay or reached out to see what was up. This isn’t a sympathy grabber either. It’s just a simple observation that all those friends we have on social media are probably not that interested in our lives. Very few people in our actual, day-to-day life care enough to call or ask what’s up or seek you out to connect.
That’s not to make anyone feel bad, it’s just a fact. And it’s a fact for everyone, not just me.
My point is that we only have headspace for a certain amount of people and things. I really think that is the main problem with social media.
We are stuffing our minds with post after post, trying to sort thru the garbage to find the gems...or to find the truth in any of it...and eventually, it’s just too much.
The overwhelm comes out as anger, frustration, anxiety, and depression. We may not even know why we seem to feel off or emotional until we quit doing something, stand back, and take a moment to ask what’s up. It’s hard to ask what’s up when we just keep scrolling and consuming unconsciously.
How I feel coming back
Now that I’ve come back on social media I don’t care about it as much. In fact, when I end up scrolling just for the hell of it, I find that I’ve just lost interest. And it just all looks so foreign to me now. It’s made me ask why I was so into it before.
The first day I was back I felt tense, guarded, and watchful. And while I’m not tense about it anymore, I am going to be protective about what I allow inside my mind. After this year’s internal upheaval, I have learned that some things just aren’t worth sacrificing my emotional health for.
If I feel like I’m sliding back into old habits, I won’t hesitate to take another break.
And I've made a point to curate my feeds to the point that I'm seeing less and less of the things that I don't want to fill my headspace.
I haven’t recovered from my extremely busy and mentally taxing year fully...but I’m making it. And cycles like these always pass. I’ve learned better to ride things out, not to push so hard. Let go and experience all that life has to offer, even the less desirable emotions and situations.
I’ve been learning how to just accept what is...some things I’m just not going to be able to change, at least not immediately.
And that’s okay.