On Taking a Social Media Sabbatical

create

Toward the end of 2015, I was feeling a little on edge.  My mind was unsettled, anxious even. It felt like there were so many things pulling at my attention; from the important to the mundane to the downright egocentric.

Fear of missing out and comparing myself to others are two strong feelings that come up for me regularly when I’m in the throes of a good binge on Instagram.  I often find my mind swirling with thoughts like “I wish my house were that tidy and white and stylish” or “I wish all my kids wore adorable handmade bonnets all the time” or “I wish my business had 50,000 followers” or “Why doesn’t my creative space look like that”, “wait, do I have a creative space?!”, and on and on and on.

Often times I’m scrolling in the dark, my face and mind aglow with so many of these depleting thoughts.

All while I’m nursing my beautiful, healthy baby boy. Who’s wearing a hand knit sweater. In the home we own. After a fulfilling day at work in the business that I built from the ground up.  I mean, get a grip lady!

So I quit and took a social media sabbatical for 14 days.

My specific problem was this: I was distracted by what everyone else was doing on social media.  Constantly scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, I was repeatedly bombarding myself with beautiful images of what other people were doing.  I love a lot of things about social media: the connection to others, the inspiring imagery, the access to new information.

But in spending too much time on social, I was letting feelings of envy, self-doubt and FOMO creep in.  Worst still,  I wasn’t making anything myself.  For all that time spent consuming other people’s content was time NOT spent with my own creativity.

Specifically, it was time NOT spent reading, writing, baking, sewing, knitting, staring at my nursing baby, or simply being alone and quiet with my thoughts.

I was checking Instagram almost reflexively throughout my day.  First thing when I woke up. While I waited for the coffee to brew.  While I brushed my teeth. At stoplights.  In line.  While I ate my lunch.  While I nursed my son.

This last one was the kicker.

One night, as I was nursing him before bed and mindlessly scrolling though those beautiful little squares on Instagram, I had a moment.  He had stopped nursing, and who knows how long it was before I noticed. When I did eventually look down at him, he was smiling up at me with those big, beautiful eyes of his.  And I nearly missed it.  Missed it because I was looking at someone else’s perfectly curated pictures of motherhood.

To call this a wakeup moment is an understatement.

Shortly thereafter, I made the decision to quit social media for a bit.  A social media sabbatical, I called it.

For two whole weeks, I stayed off all my personal social media accounts.*  

I was expecting this to be a difficult time.  Seriously, so many points in my day were marked by checking in on Instagram and Facebook, that I didn’t know how I would feel without them there as crutches.

That’s what social media had become for me: a crutch. A way to decompress and be distracted from my own thoughts.  A way to not be alone when I was feeling lonely.  And instead of taking notice of those feelings and doing something about them, I was distracting myself from them.

Now this isn’t always a bad thing.  We need a break from ourselves sometimes, for sure!  But when it becomes a mindless, habitual, mind-numbing thing, it’s time to take a look at what’s really going on.

So, what happened during my 2 week Social Media Sabbatical.

Nothing.

I didn’t miss a thing.

But I did learn a few valuable things about myself.  The big thing is this:

I enjoy creating content to share with others.  I enjoy consuming the content made by others.

But one has to happen more than the other.  In other words:

In order to feel grounded and connected with my best creative self, I need to be creating more than I’m consuming.

In order to help set myself up for success, I’ve placed some boundaries around my social media consumption and sharing.  I developed some new boundaries around my personal & business accounts, and have a new strategy for what I will (or will not) post.

Some of the habits I developed during my social media sabbatical:

  • Leaving my phone in another room
  • Reading an actual book, from start to finish, while nursing and before bed.
  • Logging out of Facebook and deleting the app from my phone.
  • No longer taking my phone into my baby’s room at night.
  • Not checking Instagram first thing in the morning.

Two weeks went by really fast, and for the most part I didn’t miss social.

I had to stretch outside my comfort zone a bit in those moments when I would normally be scrolling.  Oftentimes I would challenge myself to settle in and let my mind wander; this is something I had no problem enjoying before social media!  Other times, I would simply choose a different activity.  I got so much knitting and reading done in those two weeks!

My mind felt clearer, and I was less distracted.  I felt more grounded, present.

When the two weeks were up, I was a bit reluctant to log back into my social media accounts.

Ultimately I did check in on what a handful of friends had posted on Instagram, but for the most part I hadn’t missed anything earth-shattering.

And because people knew I wasn’t on social, they told me about their stuff in person.  Amazing!  In this age of social media. it’s all too easy to assume that everyone knows (or cares) about what you’re posting, tweeting, sharing, and gramming.

Now it’s been a few weeks since I’ve returned, and I can already feel myself slipping. Checking my phone idly while I have 2 minutes to wait for something.  Feeling like I “need” to post something.  Wanting to feel distracted for a moment.

And that’s okay.  The point is, I got some clarity and know what it feels like to be creatively grounded. And I can return to my mantra again and again when things feel shaky.

Create more than you consume.  Create more than you consume.

How about you?  Have you ever taken a social media sabbatical?  Have thoughts about creativity and consumption of other people’s work?  I’d love to continue the discussion with you in the comments!

*I did have to log in to my business accounts, but I would post or check for questions, and then back out quietly.  No scrolling.  No distractions.
Advertisements

19 thoughts on “On Taking a Social Media Sabbatical

  1. I am in total agreement with you and the fomo/envy creeping in. It is difficult to remember that what people, and myself included, choose to put on social media is in fact a “well curated” collection of their lives. Thank you.

  2. I think what you’ve written here is probably true for many people. And finding a balance is crucial. I’m going to think about what you’ve written and how I can bring that into my life. I also need to read more books!

  3. I had a phase where I stopped just liking FB posts and made the effort to comment. It felt more mindful but was also quite time-consuming so I had to focus on just the important friends! I don’t use Instagram because I fear it could be a very slippery slope!

  4. I frequently take social media sabbaticals. Usually when things start getting too political. (And since the U.S. has an election coming up- I will probably avoid Twitter and Facebook from… July till the election results grumbling has finished around Thanksgiving.)

  5. Hmm. I don’t think it’s possible for me to create more than I consume. There are so many other people out there creating and sharing. I’m always going to see more awesome new sweaters on Instagram than I’ll knit myself. I do have to work on the envy issue you mentioned. It’s hard to focus on my own journey as my own and not competing with anyone else’s.

  6. Your words had me tearing up- they hit on so much of what I have been feeling lately. I too have beautiful kids, wearing handmade sweaters, in a beautiful home we own, in a great town. What the heck am I feeling left out of? The perfect latte? The perfectly styled bundle of new yarn? Nope- I’m not missing out on anything.

    I’m trying to get better- leaving my phone off for periods of time, leaving my phone in the car when I take my sons to the library. But it is hard. I can’t help but wish I was parenting in a different time…a time before social media and the constant comparisons.

    Anyway- all this to say…thank you for your words. I’m so glad I found you via Fringe Association today.

  7. I used to teach The Artist’s Way. One of the weeks’ assignment was to give up EVERYTHING…no radio, no tv, no papers, no internet, etc. One woman said in shock,” How will I know how to dress my children for school.” Others quickly responded ,”Look out the window!” Of all the course exercises, this was the most meaningful to everyone. Some even continued after the week was done. Especially, when they realized their children actually talked to them over the breakfast table! Lives became more meaningful. And creativity flowed. BTW, the weather lady went back to the her passion for pottery (a calling and career she gave up to help her husband finish his education and to care for her kids) after the class; and she became a leader in the “bowl of soup” fundraising effort for feeding those in need in our community where every bowl of soup came with a hand crafted bowl.

  8. Thank you for sharing. The time we’re living (and parenting in) certainly is complex! I love your idea about leaving the phone behind on outings with the kids…it’s all too tempting to take a peek! xoxo

  9. Your comment made me think a little deeper about what I really mean when I say Make more that you consume. Thank you. What I really should say is “Spend more time making than consuming.” For me, it’s all about keeping the scale tipped in one direction as much as possible!

  10. Thank you, Wendy! It’s easy to forget that, for the most part, we’re only seeing what people want us to see. Most of us are struggling in one way or another.

  11. That makes sense. It’s important not to starve yourself on either end, your actual creative time, and the time you take to imbibe a little inspiration.

Comments are closed.