Everywhere I look I see someone doing a new diet or juice cleanse. This week I decided to try a different kind of cleanse. As a mom of two kids ages 2 and 10 months I wanted to experiment with a 7 day cleanse from social media. I choose to do this because at times I found myself opening my phone and my social media almost impulsively. I would be with my children, driving in the car, laying down at night, and waking up in the morning to my phone.
In our book club book of the month Present Over Perfect (find our book club post Here) the author talks about the joy we can find in life when we decide to be fully present. She says, ““I’m learning that both body and soul require more tenderness and attentiveness than I had imagined.”
I knew that social media was distracting me from being present in the here and now, and worst of all from being present with my kids. Dr. Shefali Tsabary author of the best selling book The Conscious Parent Says, “How do we communicate worthiness to our children? Only through our presence. Our full on engaged attuned presence” I knew social media was getting in the way of being present and attuning with my children.
With these thoughts in mind I decided my attempt to be more present would include deleting my social media for a week. I started by logging out of the apps, deleting them from my phone, and telling my phone not to remember my login info. I put these things into place to stop me from mindlessly logging on, and to help stop me when tempted. I probably logged on to social media 6-7 times in the week, which sadly is a fraction of how many times I normally check my accounts.
The first couple days of my cleanse I began to realize the things that often led me to open my phone and check my social media, these things were generally boredom, tiredness, sadness, or overwhelmed. I especially wanted to get on when I was lonely. It made me contemplate the fake sense of connection we sometimes get from facebook or instagram. We can feel a small sense of connection with another person without actually seeing them, or at times without interacting with them at all.
I know from listening to Neuroeconomist Paul Zak that our bodies release the powerful neurochemical called Oxytocin when we look at or interact on social media. This chemical has many functions, including bonding with others and trust. I could see that my fake connections on social media were acting as a substitute for actually calling a friend, going on a walk with someone, or reaching out in person. My week without social media included much more meaningful interactions in my relationships.
The second few days I began to contemplate my reasons for posting on social media. I think some of it goes back to connection, many times when I post I wanted to share my life with friends or family members. I began to get honest with myself and realize that part of my reason for posting was to make my life appear wonderful and to make an image of myself that other people would either like, or be jealous of.
In our book club book, Shauna Neiquist says, “It is better to be loved than admired. It is better to be truly known and seen and taken care of by a small tribe than adored by strangers who think they know you in a meaningful way.”
I was more open and less comparative toward others when I was off of social media. I have often found that on a bad day, when I watched an instagramer who does make up tutorials, I would think to myself, “why don’t I know how to do my makeup?! I don’t have it together like so and so” Clearly these kinds of comparisons and thoughts kept me from being present and kept me from being happy.
Many of us today live in a culture where our mindset is that of scarcity. I think this is what leads us to want to present ourselves so well. A scarcity mindset means that if someone else has more, then there is less left for us. It sets us up in competition with each other because we feel there is not enough love, money, attractiveness etc. to go around. I have been trying to decrease my scarcity mindset and sense of competition, so it was interesting to see how this was playing out in my interactions with social media.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu and that Dalai Lama give advice for overcoming jealousy and the scarcity mindset in their book The Book of Joy. They said, “If you have genuine kindness or compassion, then when someone gets something or has more success you are able to rejoice in their good fortune….good for him. Just like me, he, too, wants to be happy. He, too, wants to be successful. He, too, wants to support his family. May he be happy. I congratulate him and want him to have more success.”
As I re-enter the social media world I am going to try to say these words to myself every time I see a person that has something I feel I do not. The Dalai Lama states, “at the moment that envy or jealousy develops, you no longer can maintain your peace of mind.”
It was eye opening to see how much free time I actually had once I was off of social media. I found myself having time to connect spiritually, read books, listen to inspirational talks or podcasts, call and talk to a friend, meditate, and connect better with the people at home. When I was reading or listening to something inspirational I felt motivated and like I was using my time well, this gave me a sense of accomplishment that I did not get from checking social media. I was able to do some of the things I love that I previously did not think I had time for.
Overall I felt like during my social media cleanse I connected much better with family, friends, God, and myself. I felt more able to connect with my husband when we were talking, since I was not looking at my phone. If I had a great picture that I just wanted to share, I sent it to Grandma and Grandpa, or my sister, so I could share the fun memories in a meaningful way. I was more connected to myself because without social media I had time and space for introspection. I had to sit with and be aware of my emotions, as opposed to numbing them out. I was also more engaged in the present moment. Instead of thinking about taking a good picture of what I was doing to share on instagram, I just enjoyed what I was doing.
Moving forward I will still use social media, but I want to be mindful about my intentions and limit my use. I know there are positive and powerful things I can use social media for. One of the things I have tried to do recently is to build up everyone I can on social media. I try to comment something positive on other’s posts or to like all of the posts I see. I participate in book clubs and positive groups on social media, and sometimes use it to coordinate efforts in helping someone. I will continue to use social media to pass on helpful information and try to lift others.
I want to be as authentic as I can on social media and not to just try to present an airbrushed version of myself and my family. I am just going to post the candid shots, without worrying that they look as good as or better than someone else. I also want to limit my social media time to 5-10 minutes a day. I am going to be careful about the influences I allow into my mind and heart through social media.
I love the perspective I gained from taking a week off. I am going to repeat the cleanse several times a year as a way to step back and re group. I am excited to continue dedicating more of my time to what I really love, and making more genuine connections with those around me. Have any of you tried the social media? Let me know what you have learned in the comments.