Social media has been part of my identity since 2005 or over half of my life.
I’ve signed up for every social media site invented. MySpace, MSN, Bebo, Piczo, Twitter, Formspring, Google+, Blogger, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Pinterest, TikTok. You name it, I’ve been addicted to it.
Hours spent curating the About Me section on MySpace, days spent obsessing over the cruel words of anonymous bullies on Formspring, and years trying to perfect my Instagram grid.
Social media is undeniably a core part of the millennial experience; without it, I’d have been an outcast among my peers. I wouldn’t have learned basic HTML, kept up with the latest gossip or been able to get to know my soon-to-be uni roommates.
But I’m 27 and as the pressure to stay consistently up-to-date strengthened, the hours I wasted crept up to a point where I felt a callus forming on the part of my little finger where my phone rests.
So, I deactivated my accounts and deleted the apps and this is what I’ve learned so far.
What I miss about social media
Seeing what my friends are up to
I definitely miss not being privy to Insta stories and life updates from my friends. I’m not talking about the people I used to know, but my actual real-life friends.
Knowing they’re out at special events and not seeing the drunken events or being unable to congratulate them when they post milestone pictures is sad.
An easy solution is to only follow my inner circle, but I just know it won’t be enough and I’ll start following strangers to feed the dopamine desire.
Learning about things I never knew about
This was one of my biggest fears when coming off social media because without Instagram and TikTok, I wouldn’t have learned or known about things like gentle parenting, interior design or body positivity.
Just by interacting with my FYP, TikTok fed me content that I thrived off of. It exposed me to people outside my regular circle, people with different opinions who could teach me things I’d never learn in my day to day.
I definitely miss this, but it was outnumbered by the amount of content that filled me with chronic anxiety and FOMO.
Following certain influencers
For all the bad that social media offers, there were definitely a few gems I miss following. Unfortunately, people don’t really have blogs or websites nowadays, so I’ve had to just accept that I can’t keep up.
What I don’t miss about social media
Spending all my time scrolling
We’re all guilty of racking up hours spent swiping in all directions, trying to get our next fix. I always thought I could control my time wisely by using Do Not Disturb and Focus Mode features, but it just didn’t work.
Since deleting the apps I’ve gained hours every day to spend on other activities. They aren’t always productive, but most definitely better for my mental health.
Even though I rationally know that Instagram isn’t real life, the negative impact on my mental health was tiresome and difficult to overcome.
No matter how many times I mass unfollowed accounts that weren’t serving me, I couldn’t help but compare my ordinary life with everyone else’s highlight reel.
We’re not built to watch other people’s epic holiday or amazing party from the comfort of our sofas in scruffy PJs with our hair up in a messy bun. It’s just not natural.
Budgeting has always been a really important part of my life, but it was falling apart.
No matter what I tried, I couldn’t stop impulse buying after being on Instagram or TikTok for longer than 10 minutes. An advert would appear on my feed or my favourite influencer was showing off their new dress and I had to have it.
What I do now I’m not scrolling
So, I’m going on about saving all this time by deleting social media. What exactly am I spending that time on? Below are a few of my favourite habits and interests I’ve picked up now I have ‘the time’.
Read physical books
I’ve wanted to curl up with a book of an evening for years, but I couldn’t ‘find the time’. I started using Audible to combat this and I’d still recommend audiobooks. Especially for biographies or non-fiction.
However, in the past six weeks, I’ve read three non-fiction books of varying genres and it’s been fantastic for my brain.
Leave any recommendations in the comments.
Try new activities and hobbies
It’s amazing how much you can try when you’re not scrolling on TikTok. Since deleting social media I’ve done the following things I absolutely wouldn’t have before:
- Cycled around the park
- Group meditation in a yurt
- Improved my mindfulness
- Sat in Starbucks and read a book
- Bought and recreationally used a film camera
- Gone to the spa and for a swim on a Sunday morning
- Watched TV shows like The Repair Shop
- Made bread from scratch
- Planted flowers and herbs from seeds
My mind has more space to listen to what it needs, including when it needs to move. So, while I used to spend a lot of time procrastinating a daily workout, I now go for a walk, swim or pop to the gym for a class most days.
How you can reduce your social media usage
Completely removing social media isn’t an option or a desire for everyone. It’s something I needed to improve my mental health, but I don’t judge anyone else for using it.
Social media is a wonderful tool for people to run a small business, connect with like-minded people or buy things from local people (I really miss Facebook Marketplace!).
However, if you want to reduce your screen time and become more mindful of your social media usage, here are a few of my tips.
Delete your apps
Depending on your favourite social media sites, deleting your apps and only using your tablet, laptop or PC to use them can help reduce your usage.
Without the temptation and ease of a phone app, you can be more purposeful with when and how you use social media.
Turn off your notifications
I did this years ago and it really helps to not get accidentally dragged into your apps while you’re just minding your own business.
It allows you to choose when you use your apps, giving you a lot more control than you may think.
Take a detox
Plan in regular social media detoxes where you completely delete your apps and potentially deactivate your account.
You could commit to one day a week or month. Perhaps you can just listen to your body and delete the apps when you feel heightened anxiety.
Whatever you choose, switching off regularly will positively impact your mental health.
Reassess your social media portfolio
Delete or deactivate your profile on social media sites you don’t enjoy. My catalyst was Twitter and I realised I only kept Facebook to tag my family in annual birthday posts.
Choosing to only spend time on social media sites you enjoy can help reduce your screen time and frustration.