Hey everyone, Its been a while. This week I came back from an 8 week long blogging and social media break. The break was a planned one, which ended up lasting a little longer than I had anticipated (mostly because of unexpected life happenings).
Also, just to be clear, although I say social media break, I didn’t completely go into full ghosting mode . I was still occasionally present on Facebook and Pinterest through scheduling programs to keep this blog ticking over. It was more of an Instagram Detox. Because lets face it, its the only social media that needs such drastic action sometimes.
Anyway, this is a long read without the usual styled pictures to keep your attention (ha!) – so grab a coffee (or tea) and settle in!
My cynical self is picturing you reading this article, and rolling your eyes at the cliche of it all. ‘Yet another article on the perils of social media and the road to enlightenment once you quit . I get your wariness; I really do. But if it helps, this post isn’t about me trying to sell the benefits of taking a break from social media or quitting even.
I’ve long since resigned myself to the fact that social media isn’t going anywhere and that any discussion related to it will never be black or white – just grey. It’s a part of our lives now, and we just have to learn to live with it. Right?
What this post is however, is an honest reflection of my time away and the things I learnt as a result. It might strike a chord with you or it might not. Both are OK.
WHY I DECIDED TO TAKE A SOCIAL MEDIA BREAK
In terms of my business, 2019 was an amazing year for me! There were quite a lot of ‘pinch me’ and ‘I never want this to end’ moments that still feel so surreal when I think back on it all. I published my first book Home Sweet rented home, I launched the #howirent series, I flew to Atlanta to talk at the Haven Blogging conference, I was featured on sites like BBC, Marie Claire,and I worked with some dream brands like John Lewis, IKEA, and Next Home!
During that time, my Instagram audience grew! While it was incredibly humbling to know that so many people wanted to follow me – and were interested in what I had to say, it was also a little daunting. You see, having a larger account comes with a lot more . . . well everything! More responsibility, more judgment, more scrutiny, more pressure.
For me the biggest struggle, was the pressure – most of which I’ll admit came from me.
- The pressure to always get it right.
- The pressure to keep posting.
- The pressure to be available at all hours of the day.
Sometimes it felt like a constant battle of trying to prove to myself and others that I deserved that following. That everything was awesome and I was a total Boss Lady juggling ALL the things.
I realized that for every positive of Instagram (and there are many for which I am grateful), there is a negative that requires some form of sacrifice. For me that sacrifice became my creativity. Towards the end of that year, I noticed how difficult it was for me to come up with fresh ideas. I also noticed that my standards were slipping – the content I was putting out was un-inspired and lack luster
Or maybe that was me being too hard on myself? Who knows. In any case, I told myself I needed a break. I was exhausted.
THE SOCIAL MEDIA DETOX
I deleted all the social media apps from my phone. I know going cold turkey was a little dramatic, but I couldn’t trust myself not to ‘just take a peek’ and risk getting sucked into a vortex.
Of course, the first few days away from the virtual world was tough. I found myself mentally waiting for notifications that wouldn’t come. The urge to pick up my phone and start scrolling Instagram was constant. And un-relenting. Also worrying. I guess I had become a little more dependent than I had originally thought.
After a long while, it did get better. The desire to always be near my phone wasn’t as strong, the feeling of FOMO (fear of missing out) disappeared, my anxiety leveled out, and bizarrely, I began to feel a sense of freedom. It was like a shroud had been lifted from my mind and I could suddenly think a little clearer.
Here’s what I learnt.
5 THINGS I LEARNT ON THIS SOCIAL MEDIA BREAK
1. Gratefulness. Taking a break from social media when your social media is your business is a financial privilege
Oh, yes, it is.
A big one. Which is why I cant be out here telling everyone that they need to do it, because I know for some people it is just not possible – especially if you are single, or happen to be the sole breadwinner of your family.
When I worked as a health care professional, my annual leave was paid although never more than two weeks at a time. Taking a break as a freelancer was a different type of experience. The part of my business that needed my physical presence to make money came to a standstill, which was a little scary at times.
Thankfully, two things worked in my favour ;
- My husband is in full employment (another privilege), so I didn’t have to worry about things like the rent being paid on time.
- My blog was making a passive income from ad and affiliate revenue. It didn’t need my presence to make money (I’ll talk more about that in the future)
I suppose another appendix to this point is also thankfulness. Learning to count your blessings.
Social media has created a world that glorifies the idea of ‘being busy’. Too busy to socialize. Too busy to care about the world around you. Too busy to be thankful. Too busy … always too busy until you’re not. Guess why?
2. I’d forgotten how good privacy felt.
I read a quote the other day that everyone has three lives: a public life, a private life, and a secret life. And I suppose how we decide what fits into which life depends on the individual. My public life is what I feel comfortable showing on Instagram and my blog. From pictures of my home, my daily activities, to my experiences as a black British Muslim woman . . . I share it all . My relationship with my husband and son however, I deem to be part of my private life, so sharing of that is kept to a minimum. And as for my secret life . . well I don’t really have time for one!
This social media break has made me think about what I share and my intentions for doing so. We all want to be liked and accepted for who we are but at what cost? Seeking validation from strangers is a slippery slope . . before you know it you are getting carried away and crossing boundaries you never thought you would.
I also realised that I was starting to view everything I did or was going to do as potential ‘content’. Sometimes I would catch myself tailoring seemingly organic moments into content. The urge to share was always so strong. Be it a quick snap, a few words, a funny story, just so people knew I was doing something. Buying something. Visiting someone. Had a life. People needed to know I thought. But did they?
Living a life influenced by social media, just meant I never had the opportunity to really enjoy things in real time.
So as you can imagine, without Instagram to distract me, that changed massively. I didn’t know what other people were doing and I didn’t have to share what I was doing. I was finally able to be present . Live in the moment as they say. That felt weird initially, but then that feeling was quickly replaced with a sense of relief.
I enjoyed this new found privacy.
3. My attention span had become that of a toddler.
My habit of mindless scrolling endlessly on social media has had a huge impact on my ability to focus. My thoughts were often scrambled, flitting from one thing to the next so sporadically.
A thirty second video was too long. Watching TV shows without checking my phone was a challenge . Reading a page of text was exhausting. Brainstorming seemed redundant. Multitasking was an excuse. I was constantly restless.
I knew it was something I needed to address during this break. So, I started thinking of other things I could do to help me focus better. Things I enjoyed doing before social media took over my life. Activities that weren’t necessarily interior design or business focused.
I started reading fictional novels again and with that, I re-discovered the beauty of stillness and the joy of my own imagination.
4. Instagram stopped being an extension of my blog but rather my blog ’itself. While chasing the likes, I was losing sight of the why
This wasn’t necessarily a good thing, not for someone like me who prided myself on having a well established blog.
You everything started with this blog – Grillo Designs. This blog was where I first found my voice and a sense of creative belonging. I would spend hours cleaning up outdated links, improving my photography, and learning about SEO. I churned out organic content weekly. I showed up when I said I would because I loved helping people find solutions to their problems and tap into their creative sides.
But ever since Instagram, my blog has taken a back seat. Without wanting to – I’d boxed myself into the role of Influencer, which meant all the hours I would usually spend creating useful (and sometimes lengthy) content for my blog was spent obsessing over the perfect picture for Instagram – a platform I didn’t own. I constantly worried about things i had no control over, like how many likes a sponsored photo would get, who saw my posts, what my aesthetic looked like, how I was coming across, etc.
I’m sure you’ve heard millions of people talk about the dangers of putting all of your eggs in one basket. They’re right.
Its so important to invest your time wisely, starting first with the things you actually do own. Diversify your income, and never rely on just one platform to grow. So yes,while Instagram is an important part of my business, sort of like the arms and legs of a body, my blog is the heart and soul. And I had forgotten to nurture it.
5. Virtual life can sometimes be all engulfing. You start to forget about the people who are physically around you. . .
The realisation that I was neglecting real life because of social media (mainly Instagram) was a hard pill to swallow. It was glaringly obvious though. I just hadn’t taken time out to really think about it (like is said, always busy busy) . I’d always pushed the thought away because I couldn’t handle the guilt of what that actually meant.
And what that meant was that I was starting to adopt some really unhealthy and anti-social habits. I was using my phone far too much in front of my son. I was sacrificing time alone with my husband for nights of scrolling on Instagram. I mean I couldn’t even watch a movie with my husband without my phone in my hand, let alone have a really deep conversation (what even was a conversation without emojis??). God imagine how he must have felt. Well actually I do.. it was often the cause of many ‘could have been avoided’ arguments.
I was spending huge chunks of my time talking to virtual friends or strangers, but forgetting to check up on the people around me. It seemed I no longer prioritised the relationships I had built that weren’t connected to my online world.
Isn’t that a sobering thought?
POST SOCIAL MEDIA BREAK
But hey even after all that…here I am.
I’m back on Instagram. Back on Social media. Like I said, this isn’t a ‘here’s why you should quit social media post’. It more of a ‘sometimes its good to acknowledge the effect social media has on us, so we can learn ways to to counteract’ kind of post.
It starts with simple things, like monitoring your usage. Setting boundaries by turning off your notifications or messages . Planning social media use around your family life and not the other way round, if that make sense. And most important of all, recognising when you are starting to become a little obsessed and drawing back ever so slightly.
Here are a few tools that you might find helpful should it ever come to that:
- StayFocusd Chrome Extension
- Self Control App – A Mac App that let’s you block certain websites
- OurPact – Block social media apps from your phone! Originally made for parents to control their kid’s phone usage
- Instagram Usage Limit: You can set your daily usage limits on Instagram
I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR YOUR THOUGHTS? HAVE YOU EVER TAKEN A SOCIAL MEDIA BREAK?I IF SO, DID YOU LEARN SOMETHING NEW ABOUT YOURSELF?