In November of 2021, my son got Covid. It was back when everyone had to stay away from others for 10 days so we all stayed home. We canceled our trip to Florida. We canceled Thanksgiving. And then my husband also got Covid and it turned into 3 dreadful weeks of just being home. I’m sure many of you experienced this same story at some point… probably even the canceled trips or holiday plans.
I can tell you I didn’t have the same attitude I did when Covid entered our lives in 2020. I didn’t clean out the closets and start trying new recipes. I just went on Instagram. A lot. It was my window to the outside world and a way to connect with people while I was stuck at home. When everyone was recovered and the kids were back in school, I found myself checking Instagram so many times throughout the day and even picking up my phone for no reason whatsoever. Apparently I’d hit a new level of photo addiction and it didn’t feel good. I knew it was time to break the habit.
Little side note: I don’t do Snapchat or Facebook. Facebook got deleted years ago because of all the drama. The articles people post, the arguments people have… It ruined my day enough times that I just didn’t want to spend time there anymore. I post my blogs and sell things on marketplace and that’s about it.
Okay, back to breaking the social media habit. Deleting Instagram felt a little bit scary for me because I’ve relied on it to help prop up my social life through Covid and it had started to feel like an essential part of maintaining friendships and even, making them. If you know me, you’ll know friendship and community are really important to me. I invest a lot of time and heart into cultivating a sense of belonging. I was nervous that stepping back from social media would isolate me. The first few days were hard and I noticed myself picking up my phone with nowhere to go. Eventually, I stopped picking up my phone as often.
I didn’t delete Instagram with any expectations other than to stop being so glued to my phone but over the 30 days I was off of it, some really big things happened.
- I began to be more present in my actual life. The more distance I put between myself and all online interactions, the more grounded I felt. It was even a physical feeling. I would think about Instagram and then realize I wasn’t going to check it and I could feel my thoughts settle back into my body and away from an “out there” digital space. My body started feeling present in the spaces I was physically in. It’s hard to explain but it felt good.
- I took less photos. This might sound like a negative but it’s not. I still took photos but they were purely for my own enjoyment. Capturing the moment for our family instead of my 500 closest friends helped me just take the picture without trying to make sure it was great. And then we’d move on to the next moment. No food pictures, not a single photo where I was thinking about what I’d caption with it when I posted it. Just the memory and then back to living in the present moment.
- My phone usage went down A LOT. With my phone spending more time on the counter, I used it about 30% less. That adds up to a lot more time living life. I read somewhere recently that people spend about half of their waking hours on their phone. That’s half their life. Half their LIFE! It’s something to think about.
- This last one was a huge surprise. I felt less lonely. It’s ironic that staying off a media tool built to create connection actually lead to feelings of loneliness. I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about this very thing last week that talked about how women are “often online and increasingly lonely” and I related. And it’s not like I don’t see people or have friends. I work really hard to maintain my relationships. I think what happened was that I didn’t see all the fun things others were doing, the highlights of people’s lives and who was hanging out with who. I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything. It was the most unexpected part of my social media break.
Since that 30 day break, I’ve deleted half the accounts I followed. I’m going to delete more. I’m down to design/decor, a few celebrities I like and friends. I add and deleted the app about once a week because I don’t have the self control to just leave it alone when the app is on my phone. I still like to check in, post a photo and see what’s going on but that month break was such a reminder of how life used to always feel and I want more of it. I want to be engaged in my real life… the one that’s being lived away from a phone screen. I want to feel present and grounded. And I like feeling less lonely. Real friends will check in, regardless of your social media presence. I know people use Instagram for work and business so I know not everyone can just step away for huge periods of time. But take a break. You might be surprised by how good it feels!