I’ve just had a 5 week break from social media. It was invaluable.
Here’s what I learnt:
I didn’t realise how strong the physical/mental habit of being connected to my phone was. Even though I knew I was kind of addicted, I thought I was ‘semi’ in control and calling the shots. Not so. For several weeks my fingers felt bereft and I turned to the phone automatically in spare moments, for example when waiting for a pot on the stove to boil. The space that was created by not doing the thing I usually do was uncomfortable!
My eyes are affected by my smartphone habits. I had much less eye-strain and tiredness on my break.
Checking Instagram first thing in the morning has a huge impact on my day. It’s not easy to ‘keep up’ with Instagram when you don’t want your son to see you on (or fiddle with!) your phone. I’d got into a habit of taking the time after my morning stretching, before my son woke, to check my feed. I see now how this sets me up for a day of reacting, instead of a purposeful day of being where I am.
Studies have shown that the mere presence of one’s smartphone in a room reduces available cognitive capacity and impairs cognitive functioning. How scary is that?
Using social media creates a panic in my physical body. I knew this before, but I didn’t realise how ‘un-panicked’ I could be. During my break, calm descended. When I then came close to social media, I felt hurried, non-present and short-breathed. Peace is where I am aiming in life, so this was quite disturbing.
I didn’t miss the inspiration. One of my reasons for loving Instagram is the inspiration I find on it. But, interestingly, I didn’t miss it. There’s enough inspiration out there for me in the real world, if I connect with it deeply enough.
I had more vibrancy for life and I felt everything with more depth. Having headspace free gave me the ability to dive more deeply into my life and really be where I was. It was wonderful! I felt more joy and I felt more gratitude for the things around me.
I need to rest. I often use Instagram to fill the quiet moments of my life. The time when there could be space. Some of this stems from a fear of doing nothing. Not being able to turn to it forced me to rest. And whilst that was sometimes painful, it made me realise just quite how tired I am.
As of last week, I’m back on social media.
I enjoy the connections I’ve made (I met with 3 people during this break who I originally connected with through Instagram), I want to express – to share the beauty that I see and the art I create. I want to make it as easy as possible for creatives to be able to green their practice and paint naturally.
But I’m instigating a new way of being. Old habits die hard, so initially, I’m having to be strong, but I hope, with time, these new practices will become familiar friends.
What I’m doing:
I’m restricing my social media time:
I am not engaging with my phone until after breakfast and I’m putting it away when I put my son to bed. I’ll continue the twice daily 15-minute mediatation followed by yoga/stretching that I got into the habit of doing whilst away.
I am not starting my creative time by going onto Instagram. When I have studio time, I’ll create first and then, at the end of my space, I’ll use residual time to share and engage.
I’m using airplane mode on my phone to help me with this. App blockers don’t function on an iPhone, so I am choosing to, unless I am actively engaging with the virtual world, to have my phone on airplane mode; that means it’s completely mute most of the day.
I’m curating my input:
I am choosing to not scroll through my facebook feed, only using it when I want to see something specific.
I am shifting my focus on Instagram – remembering that I love using it as an expression and connection tool. I am reminding myself that I am not obliged to check my feed; I only need do it when I really feel like it. And following people because they’ve followed me – pah! The number of people I follow will be guarded more strongly than ever.
I love my art. I do it because it brings me such joy. I want to share that and connect with people whose tummies flutter when they see the same things as I do. That’s why I’m on Instagram.
I’m turning my face towards real life connections:
I believe that we only have a certain amount of energy for community and if we expend it online our real-life connections suffer. I feel the dearth of real connections in my life – conversations where I can look someone in the eye, feel their energy, hold their hand…that’s magic and I need it. So, I’m making a conscious effort to go out there – I have a workshop coming up in Penzance, I’m signing up for 2018 Cornwall open studios and I’m reserving a large chunk of previous virtually-used time for being out in the world.
I feel so much stronger, vital and renewed for having a break. I haven’t ‘missed’ anything; my life is fuller than ever.
If you resonate and are thinking that you’d like to take some time off, I only have one thing to say – do it!