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Social Media: A Mindful Manifesto

I recently took at mini, partial digital detox and was surprised at how easy and beneficial it was. A few people were interested to know my tips so I thought I’d capture my why’s and how’s in blog form for anyone who needs a nudge to do the same.




Fears & Misconceptions


Reflecting on why I hadn’t done it sooner I realised I’d had several issues and cognitive distortions going on around this topic that the break helped me to see clearly and reality check. Maybe you’ve had these problems too?

  • FOMO – this is the obvious one, that we’ll miss important updates and information. Social media is designed to make us feel this way and it’s a powerful pull. My experience was that I didn’t feel that I’d missed out at all, in terms of connection to others and quality information I actually gained when I spent less time on it.

  • Shoulds – 'should' is a swear word in my therapy room and I often challenge clients on their shoulds because they are usually linked to perfectionism, the inner critic or conditions of worth that hold us back. I had started putting pressure on myself to post regularly and stay up to date with everything and everyone. It’s a) not possible and b) a recipe for burnout if you try.

"I didn't feel that I'd missed out at all, in terms of connection to other and quality information I actually gained when I spent less time on it"
  • Addiction – our devices are designed to keep us hooked. A lot of my usage was out of habit and I was telling myself lies about being in control of it. Just like someone with a substance problem might need to go to rehab, I needed to totally step away to reset my habits (though of course this was a lot easier than overcoming serious and debilitating addiction).

  • Fear of the impact on my business – I was worried that if I stepped away I’d lose potential clients and event ticket sales. Whilst that might be the case if I had no social media presence at all, a week or two made absolutely no difference. The reality is that people’s feeds are so saturated, less can actually be more.

  • Unrealistic expectation of what a digital detox needs to be. I didn’t want to lock my phone in a safe for a week, I still wanted to be able to call and text and use google maps etc (and play wordle, that’s one addiction I’m not ready to give up!!). I didn’t have time for a 7 stage process or to move to the wilderness to live off grid and start an organic farm (the latter is hugely tempting NGL but realistically wasn’t an immediate option). I just wanted to not use social media for a week or two. I don’t want this blog to be another guide to what you “should” <puts another pound in the swear jar> do, I hope that it will give you food for thought and provide prompts for you to make decisions about what’s right for you.

 

No need to disappear into the wilderness to have a break from your phone.


What’s your ‘why’?


It’s an annoying fact of human nature that we often let things – especially where our wellbeing is concerned - get pretty bad before actually doing anything about it. I’m usually very proactive but I’d let my phone take hold of me to the point I was spending hours a day scrolling and clicking. I knew it was contributing to a period of low motivation and sadness about the world so I decided enough was enough. The apps were removed. I was free….ish!


This is the vibe (not literally, no littering please!


To actually undertake a digital detox or behaviour change of any sort – which takes effort – you need to have a genuine, strongly felt reason why. This can’t be about anyone else (that turns it into a should) it needs to be for you.


Reflection (maybe grab your journal):

What would you like a social media/phone detox like to do for you?

What put’s you off doing it – what are your fears or assumptions?

What is actually realistic for you in terms of phone use? Think certain apps, amount of time, genuine need etc.

 


The how: 3 simple steps


This is just what I did and is not an instruction manual; you do you.

1.      Have a ‘fuck it’ moment and just decide that you’re taking a break. Choose a small amount of time you’ll be away for and communicate this if needed, perhaps so friends don’t worry or your customers know how to contact you.

2.      Have a think about what you will do when you feel tempted to reach for your phone. Make tea? Meditate? Pet your dog? Read a book? Prepare for these moments as they’ll definitely come along.

3.      Delete the relevant apps off your phone. Go live your life.

 


Mindfully reconnecting


Towards the end of my social media break I cracked out my journal and made some lists. This was to help me process my experience and make a plan for how to mindfully move forward. Here’s what  I wrote:


What I like about social media:

+ It connects me to other practitioners

+ I learn a lot and quickly

+ I enjoy sharing ideas and information in a creative way

+ I get clients and ticket sales from it

+ I find out about events I’m interested in

 

What I don’t like:

-  I get easily distracted and lose focus

-  I spend too much time on it

-  It can encourage negative comparison

-  I can quickly feel overwhelmed

- The pressure/expectation to ‘create content’ regularly

- Too much exposure to suffering (especially the random nature of this, one min a cute dog meme the next a war zone)


What I noticed about my week+ off:

  • I felt more present.

  • I did more reading and writing.

  • I connected over phone and in person more and enjoyed this.

  • I had lots of thoughts like ‘I should take a photo and put this on social media’ which disturbed me a bit, like my actions were content and not just experiences to be enjoyed in the moment.

 

Conclusions:

  • I will still use social media because of the benefits that matter to me

  • I need to acknowledge and accept the addictive nature of it and plan how to mitigate this

  • Posting all the time makes my locus of evaluation more external (about others – likes, reactions, comments etc) than internal (my own valuing).

  • Less is more!

  • When I took a break it felt good & nothing bad happened

 

I then brought all these reflections together into a final list and I decided to share this as well because it might help me be accountable:


The Plan

  • Max 3 posts a week

  • Only use social media at specific times of 15-20 minutes – use a timer!!

  • Use focus mode on my phone when I am doing notes, writing etc

  • Take a week off every other month (or more if needed). Do not schedule posts for this time to normalise not having a constant online presence

  • Set aside time to clean up my follow list

  • Watch the news at set times on TV/radio or read specific websites for limited times instead of sourcing it through social media


No plans go perfectly so I’ve also scheduled a check in for myself a little down the line to see how I’m getting on.

 

Reflection:

How are you feeling right now? What has come up for you reading this? What are your next steps?

 

After reading this are you thinking of doing a digital detox of your own?

  • Yes, I feel inspired!

  • Maybe, not sure I'm ready

  • No I don't think I need to at the moment

  • Not now but I do think I'd benefit


More support

If you need some one to one support with phone addiction or you’d like to explore your relationship to social media in more depth, counselling might be the right thing for you. How we use social media will be connected to our attachment styles, insecurities and individual life situations; sometimes we need to understand these things more deeply to move forward.


You can email me to enquire about availability or use the BACP find a therapist directory.

Further reading suggestions on this topic can be found here: https://uk.bookshop.org/shop/NRwellbeing

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