“You look so relaxed”, he said.
It’s been 30 days already since we went to Greece! And I’m happy to share that I’ve managed to maintain a lot of the relaxedness I felt during my holiday.
I’ve even started getting comments from people recently that I come across so chill. Whut? But how?
Well, one of the things I’ve changed since my holiday is how I use social media. And, it’s having a huge effect on me.
- Me before holiday -> mindlessly and compulsively checking social media apps 23 times a day.
- Me after holiday -> mindfully and intentionally engaging with social media 2 to 3 times a day.
Yep, that’s about 20 times less 😉
The way I was using social media before my holiday – or more accurately, was being used by it was making me feel frazzled and anxious. I know I’m far from the only one struggling with this, and in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month I thought it would be a good topic to discuss more openly.
During my time in Rhodes I did a 7-day digital detox and I found my sense of inner peace getting restored by the minute. On the first day it felt weird, yes. But on day 3 I already started experiencing how freaking nice it is to just sit somewhere on a bench and enjoy the moment without compulsive reaching for my phone.
Simultaneously, I also reflected on the many reasons why I love social media. Through both Facebook and Instagram, I’ve found new clients, jobs, friends, and producers. I was even fortunate enough to live abroad in Singapore for 2 years because of a job I found pretty much through a Facebook group.
Plus, being a copywriter as well as songwriter I have no problems seeing a well-targeted ad in my feed. In fact, I often discover cool new products because of them.
I just don’t want to feel like my attention is hijacked by social media apps 24/7. I don’t want to feel like I can’t maintain the focus and mental CALM anymore to create work of depth and meaning. And I don’t want to become an escapist, unable to sit in solitude and unable to deal with my own inner world.
So, something had to change.
When I came back from a week of being fully unplugged, I set the intention to:
- take back control over my focus and inner peace
- become a more social, social media user, instead of a zombie media browser
Below, I’ve shared some of my initial reflections on what it’s been like to use social media more mindfully, and what I’ve learned in case you want to try it out too:
1. Willpower Isn’t Enough
Creating new habits take a lottttta energy, especially for the first few days and weeks. Don’t ever try to do this with sheer willpower. Here’s how I’ve managed to cut down on mindless browsing:
- I’ve removed all apps from my phone that I don’t need on my phone. Why? Because blocking them temporarily on a laptop is much easier. The free Mac app Selfcontrol does a great job at blocking certain websites for specific periods of time. Even if you turn your computer on and off you can’t fool it.
- I’ve turned off all social media notifications on my phone. Instagram is the one app that I do still use on mobile, but I don’t use any push notifications. That way I decide when I want to engage in social media fully and wholeheartedly, and I don’t get distracted by it at random intervals.
- I use Screen Time which is built into iOS. My ‘downtime’ is set from 9pm onwards until about noon so if I try to open Instagram in that time it will kindly tell me that that’s not what I’m supposed to be doing.
2. My Most Important Work Comes First
Generally, the longer I wait with the 1st check-in, the better. For my copywriting work (yep I write social media posts for a living, among other things ;)) I do sometimes have to open Facebook earlier, but then I ignore any personal or music related notifications.
I’ve noticed it works best if I don’t go on social before noon, or even better, not before later in the afternoon after I’ve done my most important work – and ideally, my workout.
Then again, if I’ve just shared something on social media the night before and I will be out for meetings all day, I may do my 1st check in the morning if that’s what makes sense.
The point for me is not to be overly strict about it, but to only check it in focused blocks of time when I can give it my full attention – not compulsively or out of boredom.
3. The Compulsion Actually Does Go Away
I have noticed that when I don’t check social media during the most focused hours of my day the compulsion to check it 389x more times after that also disappears. The focus just feels too damn good. And I find that I’ve already caught up with most things I want to share, consume or engage with after 2 check-ins.
And, whereas the first week I actively had to remind myself not to open Instagram on my phone, during the 2nd week I already found myself forgetting about it entirely until later in the day.
Again, the focus just feels too damn good.
4. Checking Less Often Leads To More Quality Engagement
I’ve noticed that checking social media less often actually results in me engaging with more quality replies when I do go online, and that serves everyone and not just me.
When I was still in the habit of mindlessly scrolling and saw something that I wanted to respond to I often thought ‘yeahhhhh I’ll do this later’. Most times I couldn’t even be bothered to write a proper reply to someone because I just felt so ‘busy’.
Now, I check less often but find myself taking more time to respond to other people’s posts or to forward something to a friend that I think they might benefit from. Quality over quantity.
Indeed, checking social media less often actually makes me a social media user instead of a zombie media browser.
5. Posting More Often Doesn’t Mean Checking More Often.
I think a lot of creators with an online presence (or who are trying to build one like me) have this fear that if they post more on social media that they’ll also end up checking it a LOT more and that the whole thing just becomes a distracting hellhole they’ll never get out of.
I’ve realized that this doesn’t have to be the case at all. As Cal Newport says in his book Digital Minimalism:
If you want to use social media professionally, then use it as a professional.
Meaning; if you don’t take your other ‘professional tools’, like your accounting software with you to dinner or to bed – then why would you do so with social media apps?
I also believe that staying connected to the big picture and long-term vision for your social media growth is a lot easier when you don’t focus on the micro results of that day and constantly check who liked your post or song and who didn’t.
You just put your art out there and go back to doing your thing. If someone takes the time to reply I will lovingly respond back to them with my full attention during my next “social media block”. I honestly feel like that level of presence benefits everyone at the end of the day.
Plus, if you don’t take care of your mental health and lose the focus needed to create your art in the first place, then what of value is there to share?
In the past weeks, this new habit has helped me a lot. I feel a lot calmer and am enjoying posting content as well as engaging with others without feeling like these tools control my attention 24/7. I also had a few instances where I failed at it miserably and I could tell my anxiety levels rising again immediately. Lesson learned.
They say it takes at least 30 days to form a new habit, so in theory, I am “almost” there. I will keep you up to date on how it goes!