8 Lessons From 8 Days Without Social Media
I've just got back from a really relaxing holiday and part of the reason I was able to fully switch off from work and enjoy every sea swim, slice of pizza and sip of Aperol Spritz (I give in, I'm converted!) in all their glory was the fact that I deleted all of my email and social media apps for the whole time I was away.
I had been planning this digital detox for a while because my unhealthy attachment to my phone had been making me quite anxious, both from feeling the need to be "on" and working all the time, and from the inescapable stream of other people's lives and businesses that I sometimes just can't handle seeing.
As much as I love Instagram stories, for example, I occasionally have to step away from the never-ending showreel to save myself from falling into a dark (and unproductive) hole of comparison and overwhelm. I also wanted to do a bit of an experiment on myself, to see what would actually happen if I existed only offline and put my business on temporary hold in the name of a good rest. This way I could prove to myself that it can be done and therefore I can do it again.
I'm glad it also means I can share my experience and hopefully reassure you that you can step away from social media when you feel the need to. Small business owners are often under a lot of pressure to be everything in our businesses, but being switched on 365 days a year just isn't sustainable and burnout is a dangerous game. Here are 8 lessons I learnt from my week (and a bit!) offline, why don't you try it for yourself and see if you notice the same things?
The world isn't going to end if you go offline
It really isn't! I think a big part of our problem with technology addiction is this underlying fear that we're going to miss (or miss out on) something hugely important if we leave our phones at home or don't have Wifi to check Facebook. The reality is, the people who matter most to you can still reach you if they need to, and the rest of those status updates are likely to pale into insignificance if something truly world-altering did happen.
You don't need to see things the moment they happen
It's uncomfortable to admit, but don't we all just love a "Like"? Those little buzzes and pings can be so satisfying, each one another dopamine hit, so sometimes you just want to watch them roll in. This, I have learnt, is not OK. I used to have my Instagram notifications pop up on my phone's lock screen, but since having a week away from it I've now turned them off so I have to actively go into the app to check for activity, which I'm trying to do twice or three times a day at the most. As above, nothing life-changing will have occurred between check-ins and you'll be able to concentrate much more easily on your work!
People are patient and understanding
In a world where Amazon can deliver your order in a matter of hours, it's easy to fall into thinking that 7 days is a long time. For a bit of perspective, planet earth has existed for over 4.5 billion years, so I'd say that 7 days is a pretty insignificant number. As long as you have a polite out-of-office on your emails and anywhere else that you receive messages (there's now a function for this on Facebook business pages), you can safely assume that your clients and anyone enquiring with you will happily wait a few days for your reply. If anyone gets in touch and finds it unacceptable that you're taking a short break, then perhaps they're not your absolute dream customer anyway.
You can read a whole book in the time you would have spent scrolling!
I always used to think I was a slow reader and got really frustrated reading books; I hardly read at all as a teenager when most of my friends were avid readers. I've recently discovered that I love reading (especially personal development books but you can't beat a good story either!) and while I was away I read one and a half brilliant books that I'm sure would have stayed firmly in my suitcase had I have had my phone to stare at. I've now decided to carve out time every day to keep my reading momentum going because it really does bring me so much more joy (and so many more opportunities to learn!) than the tiny screen in my palm.
You'll talk to your partner more (I know, this one is sad)
This is another one that's painful to confess, although I do think we're all guilty of it from time to time. That thing where you look up across the sofa and realise that you've both been sitting in silence in your own little worlds for ages. Then, even when you have put your phone down to have a real conversation, it'll make a noise and you can't help but wonder who or what it could be that's demanding your attention, so you're never quite all there in the moment. On this holiday, without the distraction of endless notifications, my boyfriend and I talked more, played cards, admired the views and savoured the food in each other's company, and I felt like I was truly there. It's worth trying a digital detox just to notice how much more present you are with your nearest and dearest, if nothing else.
Your phone battery will last longer than a day!
Yes, you read that right. Smartphones are actually capable of lasting two, even three days without being plugged in when they aren't using the internet! I only used my phone for taking photos (and the odd Boomerang!) and a few Whatsapp messages with my family and close friends on the couple of days when the intermittent AirBnB Wifi was working, and apart from that, all my phone was good for was making actual phone calls. It just goes to show how energy-sapping all these background-updating apps are, and maybe that's a message in itself?
Your mood can't be dictated by a stranger's breakfast snap
This one's not to be taken literally, although sometimes a picture of some gorgeous latte art and a croissant in a trendy cafe is enough to trigger negative feelings. More so if you're already a bit low and happen to be indulging in some off-brand Shreddies and a cup of tea that you've accidentally let go too cold (nightmare scenario, I know). On a serious note, unless you've achieved admirable levels of emotional resilience, you can't help but be affected by the hundreds of images that you look at every day. Taking the example of Instagram, our feeds are literally called galleries, so of course we curate them only to include the highlights of our lives. This means that when you see a perfect-looking scene or selfie, it may not tell the whole story, but if you're feeling vulnerable it's easy to tell yourself that everyone else's grass is greener than yours and let that kill your good mood. When you switch off, you can regain control of your feelings and get some perspective on the reality behind social media's shiny veneer.
You will give your mind space to breathe and think of new, creative ideas
I anticipated quite a lot of these lessons before I started the digital detox, but something that I didn't expect was how much going offline would free up my brain to refocus and generate new ideas. It's actually a bit scary to think about this constant white noise that we have playing in our heads as a result of being connected in the online world, 24 hours a day, all year round. When I switched off the noise, I could suddenly think straight again and now feel a renewed energy to tackle some things in my business that I'd not been able to get clear on for weeks and even months in some cases! This has inspired me to take a step back from social media more regularly to allow myself to stop curating and start creating again.
What is your relationship with social media? Do you think you could manage a week without it? I'd love to hear your stories, and please let me know if you give digital detoxing a go thanks to this post!