As you may have seen I decided to switch off completely over Christmas, and by switch off I mean literally and metaphorically. There were many reasons I decided to do this, but the catalyst was reading ‘How to Break Up with Your Phone’ by Catherine Price. If you haven’t read it yet I encourage you to do so, its both fascinating and terrifying! I realised I was relying way too much on my phone and spending far too much time mindlessly scrolling on Instagram, Facebook and anything else, as a distraction at any point during the day when I needed one – sitting at my desk between clients, waiting for the tube, waiting for my supper to cook, in the bath etc. I had put in place some measures to stop me using it so much like screen time and time outs on apps, but I wanted to see how I would feel if I got away from it all completely. So, I deleted all social media apps off my phone and, for a few days over Christmas, turned my phone off completely. Sounds scary but it was totally liberating! So, here are 5 things I learnt;
1. I didn’t miss it/them! – Rather than missing social media and my phone as I thought I might, I actually loved it! I didn’t miss the mindless scrolling and instead I used the time I might usually spend on my phone relaxing, with family and reading, which was wonderful.
2. I didn’t miss anything – I was a little concerned I might miss out on something really important by not being on social media, but I didn’t! The truth is that anything REALLY important to do with family or friends we hear about through other means rather than social media. The things we THINK are important when we are on social media all the time actually really aren’t when we take a break from it.
3. Social media was affecting me more than I realised and not always in a positive way – Whilst there are many wonderful accounts on social media that are full of support and positivity, there are also many that are not. I was becoming overwhelmed by a lot of the hate and aggression I was seeing on social media daily and people attacking others for what they were putting out there. (This seems to be particularly apparent in the nutrition world but that’s a whole other topic for discussion in itself!). It’s also really easy to compare ourselves to others on social media, focusing lots on what others are doing which can make us feel inadequate. Without realising it I was doing just that, and it was definitely affecting me. We hear a lot about social media affecting people’s mental health and I was fully aware of that fact but oblivious that it might be affecting me personally. I thought I was fine and strong enough not to be affected, but I was wrong! Having just started a huge new chapter in my life, I was more vulnerable than I realised, and I was comparing myself to lots of people subconsciously. Instagram made me think that everyone was totally nailing life, whilst I was lagging behind. So, switching off really helped me realign my thoughts on me, my business and whats important going forward. As a result, I have a renewed sense of focus and clarity which is so liberating.
4. I rely so much on my phone for even the smallest things – I realised that everything is on my phone from my calendar, alarm clock, reminders, banking, communications, maps etc. Although some of this hasn’t changed now, I do now have an alarm clock. That, in itself, helps me use my phone less and I now no longer have my phone in my room at night.
5. Being present is amazing and just ‘being’ without distraction is so good for us – without my phone or social media as a constant distraction pulling me towards it, I was much more present and was able to fully enjoy and appreciate time with my family and friends. I realised my default when I had nothing else to do was to look at my phone to fill the time but without it, I was able to just ‘be’, to relax, to take in everything around me and to give my mind a rest from the constant stimulation our devices provide. As a result, I felt much more relaxed and less anxious.
Rather than 2 weeks off social media I ended up taking almost a month off! However, I am now back on it but with a different mindset around it. I no longer have the apps on my personal phone; I now have them on my work phone/iPad that stays in the office and doesn’t come home with me. I also have specific times/days I use them. Most importantly, more than ever I want to use my account to educate, empower and inspire my followers about gut health and nutrition. I will no longer be using social media to scroll mindlessly through to see what everyone else is doing as I know that doesn’t serve me well, instead I want to provide information and inspiration to my clients and followers to help everyone live a healthier and happier life.
I hope this might inspire you to assess how you use your phone and social media, to take stock and really see whether it could be affecting you negatively. I thoroughly recommend you read the book I mentioned above, it will change the way you view smart phones and instantly make you more mindful of the way you use it. Don’t be scared, give it a go and let me know how you get on!
PS. I am by no means perfect! I am trying to use my phone more consciously now but sometimes get sucked back in to using it more than I should, but I am working on it!