Right before the end of 2018, my capacity for checking, scrolling, and tapping came to an abrupt halt. Frustrated with the flood of sponsored partner posts as well as posed selfies of only the most professionally manicured type, I needed to reboot. It was tying my mental health and creativity to their productivity, which of course ran the course of frustration and cynicism at length. But, the reality is people use Instagram and Twitter and Snapchat to make a living. It’s the only entertainment industry that doesn’t call itself that and, after more than 8 weeks away from perfected lives preserved under glass, and several important altered habits later, I feel less affected by it.
Here’s 5 ways to digitally fast without giving up on social media:
- Limit materialistic accounts
Don’t want to feel out of style or frustrated with your closet? Feeling pressured to get that new thing? Put simply, unfollow materialist accounts and step out of the retail ring for a bit. Seriously. Soon, you will feel lighter, and less concerned with online sales and the other creative ways companies find to separate you from your money. Without reminders to look at new things, and then want them, you’ll save money, time and energy in surprising ways. I unfollowed 40 accounts, one of which partnered with ethical brands for capsule wardrobes that advertised a white winter dress priced at over $300 USD as an “essential”.
- Muting is your friend
If you don’t want to burn a bridge by unfollowing a friend, colleague, or family member, mute accounts that trigger your inadequacies or present unrealistic perfection. On Instagram, both posts and stories can be muted. That way you can break for while, without breaking up the potential for connection or common ground in the future.
- Open when you are ready to post
Have you read your screen time reports lately and found yourself shocked at how many times you pick up your phone in a day? How many times have I intended to do something specific, like text a colleague, when I mindlessly opened IG out of habit? Too many times. Point blank, it annihilates focus and has addictive qualities. If you feel unproductive or constantly out of time, turn off notifications and use Instagram or Twitter just when you are ready to post something. I needed to expressly pause my impulse to constantly “check” and I found myself finishing projects like cleaning up the basement storage with my husband where we fawned over favourite baby items and thumbed through real photo albums!
- Remember, it’s not necessarily a break
I used to find myself scanning Instagram as a “coffee break” in between tasks throughout the day but not only was it always longer than expected, it was far less refreshing than anticipated. With spare minutes on hand, filling the mind with more clutter (as each post is associated with unpredictable news or, depending on the relationship, more comparisons), is not a mental break. It can actually trigger stress hormones and prevent you from reflecting and thinking, which are essential for a true break from any kind of work, at home or on the road or in the office. My work flow improved for day to day tasks and big vision projects took on shape more easily too.
- Start and end the day in a new habit
Truth be told, my social media feeds were the first and last thing I saw each day. Ugh. Not my spouse, kids, or even my loyal dog. It felt out of balance and it began to demand more and more of my time. For some people, it can affect sleep too, not only because of FOMO and blue light issues, but also as a result of stimulus control – using your bed to watch movies, scroll social media or reply to emails associates it with cognitive activity, and, regrettably, not sleep. I decided to spend time with the “thickness of creation” as Eugene Peterson puts it – that is, doing tangible things, like cleaning, read a paper book, or playing a board game. This part you know already: store and use your devices in another room and if you must keep your phone as an alarm, put it into airplane mode.
In the morning, plant your feet on the floor and plan to open the digital world after you’ve set the tone for the day. For instance, read your emails when you get to work. You don’t need to be mulling them through the shower, breakfast, or sending the kids off to school with a preoccupied mind. Take back some control of your day. It’s the only one you’ll have for the next 24 hours and you’ll need the mental energy to not only make it, but learn from it in a healthy way.