What I Learned (About Me) By Taking Three Months off Social Media

Before I dive into today’s post, I simply want to share this beautiful post from Ann Voskamp written during this past Holy Week. And her beautiful ending:

Whatever cross we’re carrying, it grows light when we let Jesus carry us.

However hard this week is, this was Jesus’ hard week & He overcame & if we come to Him, we can too.

Back in January, I shared that I was going to take a break from social media for at least two months.

Being a writer, I’m under a lot of pressure to build what’s commonly referred to as a “platform.” Being a writer trying to get a book published makes that pursuit of platform even more important.

I had started to notice that pursuit sucking some of the life out of me. To be honest, attachment to the headlines has always been a bit of a soul sucking thing for me, even before social media. The conversation around the breakfast table in childhood was usually about politics or current events. Even now, with dementia chipping away at her mind, my Gramma will get feisty about politics. I could never stand it. It was boring. Annoying. Oddly repetitive.

Obviously the last year has been filled with headlines and plenty of conversations like that. Many of us are still having them. Friends and family on opposite sides of the aisle, opposite sides of issues, vehemently defending their stance, violently tearing down others.

I defended my time on social media because it was “platform-building.” But I can’t blame it all on the need for platform because, if I’m honest, perhaps 10% of my time on social media was spent using and building platforms. The other 90% was spent… doing basically nothing. Just mindlessly scrolling through feeds, seeing what my friends were up to, commenting on posts, etc. Exposing my mind and heart to pointless debates and arguments, slowly breathing in poison, really.

Two months off seemed like a much-needed break.

And can I just say, you all are so unbelievably supportive.

After making that announcement in a blog post, I got emails from so many of you who were legitimately excited for me. You shared your own stories of getting rid of Facebook or taking a break from social media and offered encouragement and prayers that this time would be a time of refreshing.

Thank you!

Can I just say, I learned so much about myself in this process, and I actually highly recommend it for that specific purpose. It revealed things about me that I don’t know I would have realized otherwise.

How much it was a brainless habit

I was shocked- absolutely shocked- during the first week as I would find myself picking up my phone, opening it and immediately, almost without thinking, scrolling to the place where my social media apps used to be. It was like muscle memory. Any time I picked up my phone, it was the first thing I did. Any time I turned on the computer and opened up the browser, it was the first place I would go. It took perhaps a week, if not more, for my muscles to realize that things had changed.

How much it was an escape

Looking back on my struggle with pornography, I know it was mostly motivated by the desire to escape. My struggle with fantasy was much of the same. It was how I got away from the hurt and frustrations of life. When we face stressors in life, we choose to cope in various ways. One of those can be to escape. It shocked me to realize that I had reverted to some of my old (unhealthy) coping mechanisms, like escape. Just, instead of escaping to pornography, I was “escaping” to social media.

Too many people were peering into my personal life

You realize who your real friends are when you stop updating hundreds of them all at once. As I took time away from social media, I started to question some of the choices on my friends list. Why do I follow that person? I don’t even know them? Why am I letting that person have access to my personal page? I haven’t seen her in twenty years- why am I friends with her? We don’t even talk! It made me question my connection and connectedness and whether I was being intentional in my friendships or simply passive.

How much happier and less stressed I am when I’m not trying to multitask

I do love a good opportunity to multitask. It’s fun for me to have three different things cooking at the same time. However, there are certain moments and certain tasks that shouldn’t share time. For instance, when I’m playing with my daughter, or when I’m talking with my husband. One of the main reasons I felt convicted to do this social media break was because I noticed that my daughter was swatting my phone away from me in frustration and that I would be talking with my husband and also scrolling through my social media feed. I was starting to divide my attention, and it would frustrate me. Deep inside, I had started to view them (my family) as an inconvenience. With social media cut out, I found myself being more intentional about spending time with them and it was far more enjoyable!

At the beginning of February, I decided to make two months into three. Because, you guys were right. I enjoyed it so much. And even though I was still hoping for a book contract, I realized that the pursuit of platform wasn’t truly worth the joy and freedom I was feeling. So, I extended it to the end of March, with an occasional pop on Facebook, mostly to message some friends I missed dearly.

Day 21

Something that was really fascinating to me though was day 21. It’s often said that 21 days is the amount of time it takes to form a new habit. That’s how long it takes for the new pathways in your brain to form.

After a week or so, my brain got the hint that I wasn’t going to be mindlessly opening up social media, and I began to enjoy being intentional about other things. However, day 21 was markedly different. I suddenly felt “tempted” to get on social media.

What’s one quick peek at Facebook?

What if you look up someone else’s public Instagram?

It was like the agonal breathing of an old neuro pathway. That day, more than any day 1-20, was actually challenging. It’s like I wanted social media. I wanted to be on my phone. No particular reason at all. I just “needed” it.

And once I made it through that day, it feels like everything changed. By mid-February, my daughter could walk off with my phone and I wouldn’t notice it was missing. One Saturday, I got to the end of the day and realized I hadn’t been on my phone all day. I didn’t even know where it was.

I honestly considered giving up social media all together.

Then, of course, wouldn’t you know, God brought me an agent. Yes, that’s right! I’ve finally been able to sign with a literary agency and now actually have to work on building my platform… like it’s my job. Because now it is. So scrapping social media is no longer an option.

But I am so thankful for this time away from social media and how it has changed how I live life.

Instead of a brainless habit, using social media is now something I intentionally do. And because of the updates to Facebook and Instagram while I was away, I’m actually annoyed and don’t like the new layouts, so I’m even less likely to spend time there. In fact, I spend maybe 5 minutes on each per day. Whereas before I could spend hours just scrolling through.

Instead of using escape as a coping mechanism, I’ve reestablished healthy coping. You’ve heard it before. It’s not enough to simply cut something out. You have to replace it with something else. Because of this time away, I’ve tapped into some old joys and hobbies. I’ve had more time to read and write. I’ve taken more walks, had more conversations with my husband, gone on more outings with my daughter. It’s like I’ve been engaged in life, and it’s a beautiful thing.

I cut out connections. One of the first things I did when I got back on Facebook was unfriend a bunch of people off my personal page- people I haven’t actually talked to in years. People I didn’t miss in the slightest while I was gone, and some other people I just unfollowed because their pages are so full of controversy and angst, and I don’t need that. Basically, I curated the voices I allowed into my heart and life, and it was freeing.

I’ve learned to be more intentional. Sometimes, I think, multitasking is the lifestyle of the confused and aimless. If I wake up and don’t have a plan for the day, I’ll waste the day. So, I tried different “intentions” during my 3 months away. I tried to be intentional about reaching out to friends- picking a friend each week to reach out to. I tried to be intentional about loving my husband, playing with my daughter, and so on. I started making daily to do lists. Eventually, I settled into a rhythm that works for me and my family… just in time for our second daughter to join us and throw it all off the way newborns do. 🙂

All-in-all, I feel freer. I feel less stressed, less burdened by over-connection and over-exposure and a desire to escape. This feels like a taste of the abundant life God promises us.

If you haven’t tried cutting ties with social media, I challenge you to do so. You might just be surprised by what you learn!

Just watch out for day 21.