The beginning of the year is usually characterized by a flurry of excitement. People share their goals, resolutions and we’re bombarded by the pressure to “Start now, get it done, to do something, do it differently, anything new…” with the various slogans and fresh start adages as everyone tries to find a sexy & captivating way of spinning the “New year, New you” buzz.
After exchanging the expected pleasantries, this year, I opted out of this frenzy and took on a social media fast. What started off as a 21-day challenge resulted in a 3 month sabbatical from the scrolling timelines of my digital media accounts.
In 3 months I found that:
- I don’t know anyone’s birthday anymore – FB has made me so lazy, I seem to have erased the memory file that stored birthdays. To all my January, February & March friends – Happy belated birthday!
- Filling idle time with productivity is easier said than done – for the first two weeks, I just wasted my new found time – exchanging the time to catch up on series and tv shows. After 3 seasons of “Love It or List it:, I surmised that I might need to have a bit of a plan. Only when I intentionally chose a “filler” task did I have an alternative for the time.
- The world might not be a great place but I don’t need to know everyone’s opinion about it. Part of the fast meant unplugging from News media as well. Now I remember why I’d cancelled news 4 years ago – without the constant flashing of anger, fear-mongering, corruption, intolerance, ignorance & disaster flashing at me in technicolor with emoji enthused effects I felt the anxiety seep away. No longer was I irked by the shocking comments, or hateful spewing or drivel that came out of people’s mouths and minds. This was probably the least successful to avoid completely as people often mentioned something they had seen in the news, and of course I had to keep abreast of natural disasters albeit days after it had hit the headlines.
- I’m a sap at heart – I missed all the gooey love filled posts of my friends with their families, or those learning something new, even the sometimes peculiar “I cooked this” food posts. (It’s only rice but who am I to judge?). Yes, I know we all post our best selves- “blah blah blah it’s not the full picture…” but so what, sometimes you need to pat yourself on the back for a job well done and it’s OK to have a few hundred people be part of it and celebrate with you.
- I can’t remember half the people on my timeline anymore – are you sure we went to school together?
- Everyone’s an expert! From parenting quips, to health hacks, what’s best for your life is plastered all over with little but 2 minutes worth of evidence. Now I’m not knocking all social media “advice”, merely questioning whether I want to be plagued by all the information that’s out there. The worst for me is seeing friends blast each other for their choices – to vaccinate not to vaccinate, breastfed vs bottle fed, vegan vs meat lover. I’m happy to try new things but please don’t bash me for my choices. It’s just not that serious.
- Getting lost in a book hasn’t felt so good – with no notifications to disturb me, wait, never mind my kids still live here. I had to go old-school and get books from the library; which in itself I generally enjoy except I didn’t have my wise “Good Book Appreciation Society” on-hand with a list of recommendations so there were a lot of hits… and a lot of misses.
- I couldn’t avoid social media completely – I needed my Monday Transformation Church sermons – so instead of YouTube I opted to listen via podcast.
- I learnt “Baby Shark” in Chinese, Russian & I don’t know what other languages – my toddler’s could not be convinced to give up his obsession with YouTube and I wasn’t willing to give up my sanity breaks either.
I could continue to list the many different reasons why my time away from social media was significantly positive, and I really can’t hail the benefits of the break enough, especially to declutter the toxicity that was starting to build as a result of my wanting to comment, speak up, say something against what I believe amounts to injustice.
That would only be one side of it though. There’s a part of me that enjoys being challenged by the varying perspectives and the constant engagement that comes with social media platforms. Being physically far away from my comfort zone, it also feels good to feel connected to what’s happening back home. I definitely had to be more intentional about reaching out in other ways with the humans whom I love.
The most important lesson, though, was that I felt in control of my time again. I’d always been intentional about taking time to enjoy the view, but this was different. I wasn’t itching to know the latest news, or to be the first to post, or even to beat the algorithm at its dirty game. I could live each day in pace with myself. I’m not deleting my accounts and neither do I intend to do so anytime soon, but I’m definitely more mindful of the time I spend scrolling, and with notifications still off – there’s still a little peace to be savoured.