I used to be incredibly busy. Every day felt like a race against the clock. Trying to squeeze in exercise daily, cooking from scratch each night, meditating, socialising with friends, cleaning the house, spending quality time with my boyfriend and pursuing creative interests seemed impossible on top of a full-time job. I just could not figure out how other people did it. Sure, when I was still a full-time student time was plentiful and idling it away seemed justifiable. But once I entered the world of work, my relationship with time took a bitter turn.
Social media detox
At the beginning of October, I embarked on a monthlong social media detox. The constant feed of perfect people with perfect lives led to comparison anxiety and in a time where I was already anxious enough with my own life (I moved house!) taking a break from the perfectly edited world of others made a lot of sense. To my delight, the anxiety largely waned. To my surprise, I also ended up having much time to spend on all the things that were important to me. I had never realized how much time I was really spending on social media. Now instead of living vicariously through others, I have been happily living my own life. When I opened my social media accounts yesterday, I found myself much less interested in the stream of information. I will try to keep up this routine, as it works perfectly for my wants and needs.
Before starting my new social media schedule, I prepared myself properly to ensure any temptations for mindless distractions were minimized. The launch of the new GDPR rules made cleaning up my emails a lot easier. Any automated emails that did continue to pour in without adding any value for me, I unsubscribed from. I also went through my Facebook friend list and unfriended anyone that was not a friend I could imagine myself ever messaging directly. I applied a similar approach for Instagram and Youtube, but instead of deleting people I did not (want to) connect with, I deleted people who would make me feel insecure, uninspired or in any way worse about myself. Lastly, I deleted all social media apps from my phone, except for Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. With a clean social media slate, I was now ready to start my new schedule:
For my daily social media allowance, I decided to go back to basics. Anything that connects me with people directly, I can check daily. In practice, this means I check my emails once a day (I do not have an email app on my phone to curb the habit of checking my emails every few hours). I don’t ever check my LinkedIn, unless I want to search something specific on there or get a direct LinkedIn message forwarded to my email. Any direct messages that come through on Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp I respond to as and when they come in. Keeping my daily social media interaction to actually connecting with people, has given me so much more time and slowed down my pace of life significantly.
The only social media I consume (almost) daily is reading blog articles. I have a list of favourite bloggers that I follow on Bloglovin. Each day, I come in early to work to allow myself 30 minutes of reading the updated posts. I love reading other people’s writing and unlike visual content, people seem a lot more willing to share the bad and the ugly on their blogs. This means I tend to feel understood, inspired or educated by reading a blog post rather than drained and anxious.
On a weekly basis I allow myself to watch any of the Youtube videos from the list of content creators I have subscribed to. Youtube used to be such a black hole for me and I could easily spend hours clicking from video to video in the hope that something tickled my fancy. Now I only follow a select group of content creators and only watch their videos when the topic interests me. Going from spending several hours daily on watching Youtube videos to watching a few select videos has freed up so much of my time that this has probably been the most significant change I have made.
I am not as active on Pinterest as I am on any of the other platforms I use. I do not follow anyone, I do not participate in any groups and I do not get lost on the site for hours. Sticking to a weekly schedule for this social media platform is thus not that hard for me and I rarely spend more than one hour a week on this site. Whenever I do go on the website, I like to search for specific content, either about home décor, fitness/health or personal finance.
I have banned both Instagram and Facebook to the monthly part of the schedule. These are the platforms that give me the most comparison anxiety. People (including myself!) tend to share their best moments on these platforms with heavily edited images, making it seem everyone is always in shape or on holiday or in a blissful relationship. Keeping interaction with Facebook and Instagram to a minimum is thus helping to keep my sanity in check. I have debated deleting both platforms completely, but since I do like the ability to get back in touch with people I have met during travels or other chapters of my life, I have decided not to for now. Instead, I now only log into these platforms once at the end of each month. I like my friends’ new profile pictures, get up to date with who got engaged/married and where their last holidays took place. I spend no more than an hour on each platform and then log off for another month without the dreaded comparison.
In just a short month, my life has slowed down and enriched me in so many ways that I can hardly believe how much time and stress I wasted away on these platforms in the past. I encourage you to take a good look at your social media usage as well. The reason I did not want to turn this post into an advice piece is that everyone values certain platforms differently. If I can give one piece of advice though, it would be this: if your social media usage is giving you anxiety or time-management issues, look into creating a routine for yourself. If you want more information on the benefits of quitting social media altogether, then check out this TED Talk by Cal Newport.