Have you ever wasted away the morning on Instagram? You wake up, spend what feels like 10 minutes scrolling through everyone’s posts from last night, and all of a sudden it’s been an hour you have to go to work. You didn’t have time to make coffee so you pick one up on the way, and “rush mode” only ends when you pull into the parking lot. Yikes.
I found myself wasting away mornings like this on Instagram, while the whole world woke up outside of my window. If it wasn’t Instagram, it was Snapchat or Tumblr. Mindless scroll time occupied too many hours of my day. I deleted Twitter in high school, but Snapchat, Tumblr, Instagram, and VSCO remained. I also removed Netflix.
Here’s what happened when I deleted them!
I changed my philosophy: if you don’t create time for yourself around your work day, your whole day becomes work. Your shift is only a portion of your day, but it’s easy to feel like work occupies your whole life when you lose so much time to social media. What else could I be doing with my time to create space for myself and my personal growth? I decided to drop social media for a month to see what new activities and hobbies sprouted in place of scroll-time.
WOW! I’ve done a lot of cleanses; fruit cleanses, cayenne pepper lemon cleanses, spiritual cleanses…. nothing was as rewarding as my social media cleanse. I realized so very much about the way social media impacts my perception of self and my world.
Sleep schedule and time management: My sleep schedule improved because I wasn’t up all hours of the night on “Scary but True!” Tumblr pages or binging on Law and Order: SVU. I got to bed on time almost every night, got a full 8 hours, and woke up feeling refreshed in the early morning. I managed to carve out 4 hours every day before I went to work! I set up a table in my front yard under a tree and embroidered there or read my book while I sipped on coffee every morning. Time well spent! And it brought so much more peace into my day. The mornings felt infinitely longer and more fulfilling. (I read 6 books in the month I had off of social media! I haven’t read that many books for pleasure in YEARS, nevermind in a one-month time period. I also spent a lot more time practicing the ukulele!)
With no social media to fall into for 2 hours after work, I made more plans with friends. A lot of my relationships became so much stronger. I also realized how much I appreciated certain people in my life that I never seemed to have time for… as it turns out, a lot of my time was spent on my feeds. I didn’t realize how much until I no longer had social media!
Appreciation for the world and people around me: For the first week or so, I kept having the urge to grab my phone and take a picture of things. My meal, my friends, my adventure, etc. When I realized I didn’t have anywhere to post my day, I was able to step into it fully and detach from the alternative universe of social media. I was fully present and fully appreciative! I really didn’t know the extent to which seeing the world through a phone screen had diminished my appreciation for the NOW.
Self love! : This one I expected. Social media is an outlet for my insecurities! We post our highlight reel, and spend hours immersed in other people’s highlight reels, knowing nothing of the life beyond their photos. I found that I had created an image of the “ideal me” on my Instagram. I found the “real life” me striving to be a version of myself that I’d cultivated on the internet! How silly! I was feeling inadequate to a cherry-picked representation of myself. That, and I followed a ton of accounts of people I just found to be beautiful. Comparison became second nature. Not having exposure to this factor of social media SERIOUSLY elevated my self love, self esteem, and confidence. Eliminate the insecurity-inducing factor and eliminate the insecurity! Seriously. It works. (When I returned to social media, I did a massive cleanse of the accounts I followed just because I found them to be attractive or have a “cooler life” than me. @KylieJenner)
Combats social anxiety: We’ve all found ourselves in a social situation that’s a little uncomfy for us. This is exactly why we walk into rooms and see 10 people sitting in a circle on their phones. When there’s nothing to say, just open Twitter, right? Lose yourself in your screen! Every time I resorted to this crutch I kicked myself. Deleting my social media forced me to start conversations and progress past any social anxiety/fear I was experiencing. I made a lot of new friends and stopped experiencing social stress altogether! I no longer doubted my ability to engage with new people 🙂
Stress doesn’t equal success: With Netflix, I realized my entertainment was all criminal and political shows. These shows set the pace of my life at a really stressful one! Just in my personal experience, I had to question why my version of entertainment was so damn stressful and especially on Law and Order: SVU, upsetting. I was desensitizing myself and didn’t want to keep that up. My Netflix break helped me realize that I was also holding myself to the standard of Olivia Pope while I tried to finish my Government major and work a political summer internship. I wasn’t creating my own experience because I was holding myself to a standard of high-stress = success. No way! That’s not me. I realized I’d been doing this for years. Seriously, my whole life thinking that if I was overloaded with work and stress, I was successful. This was a huge revelation that my cleanse revealed to me. I now hold myself to my own standard and recognize that my vision of success isn’t the same as everyone else’s! I think a lot of people feel that once you’re successful, you’ll be happy. For me, being happy means you have succeeded!
“What’s money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do.”- Bob Dylan
The return to Instagram:
After this cleanse, I decided to permanently remove myself from Snapchat and Tumblr. Tumblr was super escapist; I went there to look at pictures of beautiful places and beautiful homes when I felt a yearning to travel. Since deleting it, I’ve done a lot more ACTUAL traveling! I slept on RI beaches with friends and woke to the sunrise, went on morning hikes, got more involved in community work, and took my van on a handful of new overnight adventures. I’m currently planning a potential trip to Denver at the end of the summer and preparing for a 3 week trip to Russia in January! (BRR!)
Snapchat was just way too centered on the self. I wasn’t documenting my life on stories for me, but for the perception other people would have of my day. What the heck! Taking so many selfies and trying to look cute in all of them is also just a lot of work! Most importantly, Snapchat is such a crutch for keeping in contact with people. I would send a Snap every now and then to friends from out-of-state and consider that “maintaining the friendship”. Deleting Snapchat lead me to actually Facetime and call a swath of friends I love and adore but hadn’t done any real “catch up” with in a long time.
I decided to return to Instagram because I use it as a platform for my art and as a platform to celebrate my veganism via @BESTVEGANFRIENDS . I recognized that NONE of these apps are inherently unhealthy, but can become so if you don’t use them mindfully! I returned to Instagram, deleted anyone I followed just for aesthetics/self-comparison, and reshaped my approach to using it entirely. I now stick to mostly my art instagram (@JENNASCOUTART) and BVF. A super helpful trick was turning off Instagram notifications, too! When I post to my personal account, doing this keeps me from getting wrapped up in how many likes I get, or picking up my phone to check my post every 15 minutes.
If you’re considering doing a social media cleanse, I highly recommend! Journaling through the process to track your experience is also great for reflection when/if you decide to re-download these apps. If you need an extra push, just watch that episode of Black Mirror where the whole world operates on how many “likes” you get. Terrifying! Create your own reality folks; but create it in the tangible, present world. It’s much more rewarding 🙂