Social Media Sabbatical: How it’s going!

a 5 minute 27 second read

Having spent 8 years posting everything on the internet, as silly as it sounds, it was strange and freeing to take a trip last week (the photo above!) without telling anyone about it day by day. No post about using up food before travel, no travel chat, no sharing what we ate (which was, among vicious cacti fruit and other things, freshly caught octopus my 4 year old has been waiting months to try, but that’s another story.)

How life without social is affecting me

I’m now 5 weeks into a life after tapping the title “x” and deleting social media apps. While I’m not suddenly drowning in spare time with no to do list, my brain feels SO much calmer. My brain is drowning a lot less. It’s both the change of not funnelling half of my life to an online platform but also the lack of consuming content – which wasn’t even high for me. But it’s freed my brain in a way I didn’t know it was unclear – similar to when I quit caffeine post partum and suddenly learned how much better I felt. (Guilty spoiler: I drink coffee again despite that revelation.)

There’s a lot of brilliant brilliant conversation and inspiration on social media but there’s also a lot of noise, and it’s a whole world of it’s own – good and bad. It’s a whole universe to exist in, have emotions for and carve brain space to hold. Brain space and emotional capacity of which we have a finite amount. And like many things, there’s no one size fits all. It’s not a “good” or a “bad” platform, it’s something we can use how we want, and different personality types will use it very differently.

I knew before deleting Instagram that it was negatively affecting me, but I had no comparison so I had no real idea. As I said many times in the run up this experiment: I’ve never mothered without it. These last 5 weeks since Instagram left my phone have been the longest span of time I’ve not parented with a daily funnel out my door onto the internet. I’m suddenly seeing the full positive affect – and also where I now feel lacking. I’m learning a lot about me.

Instagram and the brain

For my personality type, who cares and feels to a depth detrimental for daily life (I’m working on it!), not being pulled into the emotions and realities of 25 people and realities before I pour morning cereal into bowls has given me so much more emotional capacity. Needed emotional space for my children and the real situations in our lives and the world around us. My brain is more present because it’s not living in another reality at the same time as my actual one. And I’m not processing my own reality to repackage and present again to an every hungry platform constantly in almost real time.  I’ve dug into a little research on this and it’s been fascinating to read a bit from experts – here are a couple to read if it interests you, but the research makes absolute sense to me with my own experience.

“Media use during an experience impairs memory for that experience”. 

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

“Unique features of the online world may be influencing social cognition, as the ability for online social settings to resemble and evoke real‐world social processes creates a new interplay between the Internet and our social lives. …evidence indicates that the Internet can produce both acute and sustained alterations… which may be reflected in changes in the brain.” (PMC6502424)

The guilt of leaving the conversation

I wondered if I’d feel a guilt leaving it behind though – because there are things in that noisy world of endlessly refreshing squares that matter to me. Really matter. Does not being present there make me detatched? Does it mean I don’t care?

I think though that social media can alongside it’s benefits also deceive us (or maybe just me) that by reading, feeling, talking about something on social media we’re engaged with a situation more than we actually are. It can fill an “action” tank it shouldn’t. There’s a level that social media engagement can make us feel like we’re doing more in reality than we actually are. It both takes our time and emotional capacity, but I think can also dull the need to make change off the internet. Maybe just to a degree, or again perhaps it’s just me. So right now it’s good for me to have the stark reality of that gone for while.  Because I want my life to bring about positive change, not just the feeling of it among other people like me on the internet.

Looking forward

And yet, as I live life without daily posting and consuming and feel the relief and refreshing and calm of that, I’m finding I do want to share there again in time. In a spontaneous research moment over coffee this week my sister and I learned with shock and yet sadly not shock that the brand SHEIN (the one that either has viral and irresistible appeal or a reputation for almost disposable fast fashion clothes and a questionable human rights record depending on which corner of the internet you inhabit) has now become the largest fashion retailer in the world. Largely because it’s cheap and easy and because of most of a generation posting about it on tiktok.

And because those values still win out.

Why I don’t want to stay away

I’m too old to be listened to by the generation growing that scary fast fashion superpower but I do want to keep making the journey of caring for the planet a little more easy feeling, a little more “together” feeling. Let’s add: a little less expensive, cos it needs to be and CAN be. And then to embrace the grey messy middle on so many things, the imperfect journey, and shun the black and white that makes it a judgy area. And with that to over and over show the simple practice of slowing down and thinking about our impact before making a different choice… to make that feel a little more normal.

So I know I’ll be back on social in some form, but it might be less about a larger following and more about slower content on blog and youtube, and definitely not till later in the year. I’m still taking time to figure out what it looks like cos it can’t look the same but I want to throw these tiny changes out to encourage people beyond just my own home.

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