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December 10, 2016

Two Nice Things that Happened When I took Two Months off of Social Media.

facebook opium

“I just need a little break,” I thought to myself. 

No, this wasn’t a boyfriend I was breaking up with.

It was social media.

My daily life had become one big massive overload of information…and I was tired. Tired of seeing it all.

Obviously, it was my choice to keep scrolling through my Instagram or Facebook feed. But generally, I try not to invest my time and energy into anything that isn’t beneficial to me—so, finally, I decided to just stop.

Take a break from the noise.

And so, I deactivated my Facebook and Instagram accounts and deleted the apps on my phone.

Sounds simple enough, right? Well, here’s what happened.

First, I was surprised at how much of a habit it had become for me to check my phone. For a few days, I kept opening my phone and clicking on the empty space where the app had been. But finally, I stopped subconsciously doing it.

The next surprise was how much time I suddenly seemed to have. Anyone who knows me will know that I’m almost always busy and feeling that I’m constantly chasing my tail. I was spreading myself way too thin and not giving any of my time or care back to myself. Combine this with a compulsive scrolling habit and I was left feeling run down and burnt out.

Then came the shock.

I was genuinely surprised to find out that I actually wasn’t that busy—I’d just filled up all the little time gaps I had.

I remember sitting on my bed, trying to open Instagram, instantly realising that I couldn’t, laughing to myself and then looking at the wall thinking…now what?

Enter a massive surge of productivity.

I was reading much more (averaging a novel every two weeks), meditating, getting my laundry done, replying to direct messages more quickly, and my mind was so much quieter.

I could hear myself think. It used to be that whenever I was bored or waiting in line or eating lunch or whatever, I was online, checking notifications and replying to messages and scrolling through my feed and basically filling up that pocket of time with mental activity.

We think we’re just scrolling through but we’re constantly analysing what we see, commenting with things like “omg, that place looks amazing, I’m adding that to the travel list” or “awww, they’re the cutest couple ever” and all of those related thoughts that relieve us of boredom.

But what about when those thoughts aren’t there?

Well, you get to see where your thoughts and attention actually go, and there might be some awkward silence as you’re alone with your thoughts for the first time in a while. You know, that awkward silence when you’re waiting at a cafe and you see everyone else on their phone. I decided to go into this awkward silence and find out where my thoughts went and what I was feeling. No distractions. Diving in, face first.

After the initial bit of discomfort and explaining myself over and over to people when they’d ask for my Insta or to add them on Facebook, I’d tell them I didn’t have either. They would just look at me with a look of utter confusion and ask why.

I learnt to absolutely love it. My quiet mind was much more effective in practicing mindfulness.

My “little break” ended up being over two months of no social media at all.

The point isn’t about actual social media in itself as if it’s a bad thing, because it’s not bad at all. It’s more about how we use it so frequently and spend so much energy on it that it distracts from the present moment.

We have a limited time on this beautiful planet of ours, and I want to soak up every second of it.

 

~

Author:  Tralee Tarpey

Image: Flickr/Taco Ekkel

Editors: Waylon Lewis & Caitlin Oriel

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