Every now and then I would see someone say "I won't be on Facebook for a while, I'm having a social media detox" and then disappear into thin air, and I'd think "Jammy so-and-so! There's no such luxury for an entrepreneur with their own business."
However, when I had breaks from social media - while on holiday, or on a day when I need to be present and attentive like a training course or family occasion - I would feel a certain sense of relief.
Then one day in Autumn last year, I realised that I was wasting a lot of time getting distracted by my phone and absentmindedly browsing through Facebook and Instagram.
I was giving in to this distraction despite having plenty to keep me busy at the time - one of my VA clients was mid-launch, another was front-loading lots of work because she was about to go to Peru for a month, and I had decided that was a good time to work on a new website (this one.)
In other words I really didn't need the distractions. I also found myself doing the same during my downtime, in the evenings and at weekends, when I really didn't want to be on a screen and seeing things pop up that I had scheduled for clients. I love my clients, but we all need a break, right!?
I use my social media accounts for both personal and business purposes, so when I was compulsively browsing the apps during my evenings, days off or holidays, I was constantly seeing notifications from my clients' social media accounts - particularly on Facebook. Sometimes I would spot messages on Facebook from clients or even my clients' clients. This meant that I never quite felt like I was off, feeling bad if I didn't respond to something I'd seen straight away.
In short, I I felt like I was never really "off" when I wasn't working, but when I was working, I felt like I a big chunk of my mind was somewhere else, floating around somewhere. If that sounds familiar, you can download my free cheat sheet below.
Then I read the book Deep Work by Cal Newport, which had a whole chapter on ditching social media. It suggests you ask whether the benefits of social media worth the costs in terms of the distraction it presents from doing, what he calls "deep work" (I'm sure I'll be writing more about his insights in future blogs.)
When I thought about it, the benefit I got from having social media was being outweighed by the loss of focus, time wasted, and my general sense of wellbeing. So, although I didn't go for a total social media detox, I decided to remove all the social media apps* from my phone.
Oh my days... I felt like such a rebel! I mean, what's the point of a smart phone right!?And at first I had a serious case of FOMO (fear of missing out) but it has made a world of difference to how I feel.
There were a couple of things I immediately noticed.
For a least a week I noticed how often I compulsively picked up my phone to look at social media, even though the apps weren't there any more. It probably took a few weeks for me to get out of the habit of picking up my phone just to look at it.
I thought I was going to miss loads of stuff and maybe I probably did miss a few things (I know there are a lot of birthdays that I only know about because of Facebook), but I didn't miss as much as I thought or if I did I didn't know about it and no-one died.
How much OTHER people were on their phones!
Now I didn't have my face in my phone all the time, and once the compulsive checking for nothing wore off, I realised how time other people spent looking at their phones. At first, this would annoy me - you know how we newly zealous can be a bit judgemental without meaning it - but after a while I just relaxed. I used it as a chance to do some people watching, and in time those closest to me (i.e. my husband) seemed to naturally spend less time on their phone when they were with me and more time either talking or just being.
So, very quickly, I realised how addicted I was to social media (albeit a mild addiction compared to some) but that stopping wasn't going to be as bad as I though. And there were other benefits too, but I know you're busy, so I'll just share my top three.
As the compulsive phone checking abated, I felt more like I was in control of my social media rather than it controlling me. Did you know it fires up the same parts of the brain as seeing loved ones, winning money, and taking cocaine?
I still used social media on my laptop and tablet as I use it for clients, my own business, and to stay in touch with certain friends and family but I now used it a lot more purposefully, mostly logging in only during working hours and for specific purposes.
Since removing social media - particularly Facebook - from my phone, I feel like my brain has the chance to have a proper break from client work when I'm off. As a result, I am able to better re-charge so that when I come back to my client work, I have a clean perspective, a clean slate. Rather than feeling like I never really stopped working anyway, which can be depleting over time, even when you love your work.
When I removed social media apps from my phone, it was one less distraction during my working day. Even though for a while I kept picking up my phone to check it, once I remembered that there was nothing to check I could just put my phone down and get back to my work, or book, or movie, or conversation, rather than getting distracted and find that 10 (or 30) minutes later I was still not working on that thing I was meant to be doing for a client or for my website or for myself!
Yes, I can still browse Facebook or Instagram on my computer if I want to, but it somehow requires more conscious thought to open a tab on my computer than to look at my phone, so it's not so easy to get distracted in the first place (though I still have to be careful not to let a funny post distract me from whatever reason I logged on in the first place.)
Occasionally I see something and think, "That would make a great pic for Instagram," or I don't quite get in on the action of a family joke early enough in our little group Facebook chat, or miss someone's birthday. But when I ask myself whether the benefits of removing these apps from my phone outweigh the costs and the answer, for now at least, is a resounding YES!
I'm not saying this is something you should definitely do, as we're all different, and maybe you have more self-control than me 🙂 but it's worth considering if you find that your social media apps are distracting you, overwhelming you, or encroaching on your sense of wellbeing.
If you're thinking of ditching the social media, whether by removing the apps from your phone or in another way, here are some ideas for you:
Do you struggle to switch off? Do you compulsively check your phone or regularly "lose" yourself in social media? Or have you found a way to manage your social media so that it doesn't manage you? I love to read your tips, tricks and insights, so please share in the comments box below.