Not living by living on social media – an experiment on cutting it out

Early this year I undertook a digital declutter.  What on earth is this?  It’s a deliberate removal, sort out, and general reassessing of your of social media, email, and other online information.  I did this as part of an international informal experiment, just to see what happened.

I’ve never been a big user of social media, but I was aware that my usage was creeping up and it wasn’t always helpful.  We all know that mindless use of social platforms eats away at our time like almost nothing else.  Social media is wonderful, it connects us, and makes communication easier in some cases, but as a therapist, I also know about increasing research that tells us social media is also making us actually feel more isolated, more lonely, and more anxious and depressed.

How can this be? You only have to look at the average Facebook account. Everyone is living it up, all the time. Everyone has a loving family, lots of friends, perfect children, having parties.  And some of them are those people who look like they have everything.

It’s a lie.

And yet we compare ourselves to them, and we feel inadequate. And lonely.  Social media is something we do in isolation.  We are alone, even if we are surrounded by others.  The recipient of our interaction chooses whether to interact back. The human version of this would be to walk down the street randomly saying what is in our heads to no-one in particular.  Sounds strange? Yet we do this online constantly.

So I was interested to find out what would happen if I shut down even my limited social media to only work related email. Just that. No Facebook, no Instagram, no messaging, cancelling my unwanted email.  It was more difficult than I thought.  I had got used to just having a ‘quick look’ at whatever happened to be my favourite social media that week.  In spare moments, waiting for something, standing in a queue.

I was actually wasting time. I wasn’t as aware of my surroundings. Every mind-wandering moment when you just click on a notification means you are not focussing on here and now. I was surprised by how many times in a day I had got into a habit of ‘just checking Insta/FB/fill in blank’, that I didn’t even think about it. And are all so busy aren’t we? How do we have time to do this? Don’t we want that time back?  I did.

So I followed the rules of the digital declutter (there was some leeway to account for essential work use – and that means really essential).  Everything else had to go.  I did fail a couple of times.  I would urge everyone to try it just to see how difficult it is.  I’ll post later about some tips I discovered.

Fear of missing out?  Yes, that’s a big one.  But think about this – what life might we be missing out on whilst we’re too busy being on social media?

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