We’ve all been there. The first thing millions of us do upon waking up – whether it’s before we crawl out of bed or have that first cup of coffee – is grab our smartphone next to our bed and open up the ol’ Twitter feed (“What did Trump tweet at 2 AM this time?”) or scroll through all the latest gossip on Facebook. It’s also one of the last things we do before going to bed. There’s always those picture-perfect people who are showing off photos of their latest vacation that reminds you that YOU should be on vacation. Then there are the “popular” posts by your friends and family that make their way toward the top of your Facebook feed that are either so controversial or maddening that they have six hundred comments on them, and you can’t help but read through all of their drama.
I recently decided to take a break from most social media activity.
This meant taking Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram off my phone, and getting back to doing other things with my time, like playing with my kids or reading a book or even watching a movie. It was unbelievable how much more conscious I was of the moment when I wasn’t glued to catching up on what everyone else was doing or trying to be clever enough or funny enough with my own posts.
There wasn’t any one thing that led me to this decision. I had thought about letting them go for a while, but still held on. I would tell myself I needed it to stay in touch with old friends. But then I realized that I really wasn’t staying in touch with anyone in any real way.
There was something else, though.
I realized I could trace back a lot of the worst moments of my life and even some of my most stupid moments could be traced back to the Internet. I thought about the times I’d been fired from a church job in 2005 because I happened to blog my innermost thoughts and they came back to bite me. Or the times I’d spent trying to build a music career on Myspace in 2007-2009 instead of giving my best efforts to my day job that actually paid the bills. Virtually every painful experience I had was connected in some way to my being online and trying to make a name for myself in some way. There were other painful experiences I won’t get into now but again, they had their roots in online behavior and social media.
I began to wonder what would happen if I suddenly didn’t have the temptation to promote myself all the time. What if I wasn’t checking Facebook all day or minding my Twitter replies or trying to have the perfect photo for Instagram. I didn’t want to completely lose touch with anyone or delete my social media channels, didn’t want to add to the general drama of Facebook by saying, “I hereby swear OFF Facebook, and if you are still ON Facebook, you are a loser.” I just needed to back away from it.
The easiest way for me to do that was to take them off my phone. That was the device that tended to go with me wherever I went, so by not having those apps, I was far less likely to waste time with them.
Social Media promotes business (Including This Article)
It’s no secret that if you want to build a brand, start a website, start a company, or be a writer, sooner or later, you’re going to need social media. This is the smartest and can be one of the most effective (and cost-efficient) ways to promote your work. Literally thousands of podcasts, blogs, and YouTube channels talk about the crucial importance of having an active presence on as many social media channels as you can – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and SnapChat being the biggest players in promoting content. This is where you connect with other content creators and those who watch or read your work. It’s how authors connect with readers and get their names out there. Make no mistake, there IS a use for social media. And if you’re trying to promote anything, you’d better learn how best to utilize them.
So, yes, I get that by posting an article about getting off the Internet, I am contradicting myself for posting it and then promoting it on my social media outlets.
That’s why I want to be clear about two things:
1.) I don’t have any intention of completely abandoning social media (nor will I only post when I have something to promote
2.) This is in no way intended to be a morally-superior guide to life. Just something I observed in my own life and thought I would share it. This is working pretty well for me currently. It doesn’t mean it’s the ONLY way, or even necessarily the RIGHT way, just my way.
Here are some negative effects that too much social media use has had on me
First, I admit, my impulsiveness can get the best of me, and once I get sucked into something, it can be hard to get me away from it. So when I was monitoring my YouTube channel or Twitter replies and feedback, I was monitoring it religiously. From checking my analytics every five minutes to watching videos on how to get even MORE traffic and build MORE of a brand. I don’t do anything without jumping into it all the way. This means that when I wasn’t at work or thinking about my job, I was constantly focused on building something ELSE. I was focused on growing traffic or getting Facebook likes or getting blog comments. This doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with that. There’s not. If you want to build a name for yourself or grow your audience, you need to pay attention to those things. But for me, the cost came in the time it further disconnected me from my family. When my wife was having to repeat herself a hundred times because I didn’t pay attention the first several times she said it. It meant I would get impatient the moment my kids interrupted me.
Second, it kept me either glued to what everyone else was doing, or worse, wondering what everyone else thought of me. Or it kept me glued to the future. What could I do to get more traffic? What could I do to build my channel? What was the secret sauce to making a video or a blog post go viral? Again, nothing inherently wrong with that, but it was either fueling my anxiety or keeping me in the past or the future, and THAT took me away from RIGHT NOW. The present. The only moment I really have.
As a spiritual leader for most of my life and career and having grown up in a family of spiritual leaders, I am well aware about the importance of being mindful of the present. Ideas like prayer and meditation and caring for others are deeply rooted in the idea that the PRESENT MOMENT is all we really have. We can’t do anything about the past, and we cannot worry about the future. But we can put all of our focus and might and intention into RIGHT NOW.
And for me, having my phone constantly turned onto social media – even for good reasons – took me away from right now. And I needed to escape that.
Am I telling you you should get off of social media? Not really. But I would challenge you to ask yourself some questions about your social media.
Think about the following questions.
- Does your social media ever cause you anxiety for any reason? (Like someone’s dramatic comment on Facebook that you fear is about you? Or maybe you post something and someone gets offended?)
- Do you find that the time you have spent on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter could have been used more productively? (Like meeting up with friends or spending quality time with your family or loved ones? Or maybe even catching up on sleep?)
- Has social media ever complicated anything in your life? (a relationship, a friendship, a job)
If you answered YES to any or all of the questions above, I would strongly advise you to consider spending less time on there. Like I said, staying away from all of it isn’t necessary or even the answer. And there can be anxiety or stress or complications in anything, but by simply removing the urge to be online every moment (such as removing the apps from your phone), you may find that you have much more time to actually do the things you love.
Leave a Comment Below.
If you’ve taken a break from social media, how has it affected you?
What did you notice about your time or yourself when you took that time off? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment below and tell us your story.
And now, with that, I’m off to post this article and promote it shamelessly on my social media.