5 Things I Learned From 40 Days Without Social Media
5 Things I Learned from 40 Days without Social Media
For the 40 days of Lent 2017, I decided to give up social media, which, for me, included my two most time-sucking accounts – Facebook and Instagram. True to my grandma’s Lenten rule that “Sundays don’t count” (because they aren’t part of the 40 days), I allowed myself to spend about 5 minutes on social media each Sunday, primarily allowing check-ups on family who live far away and friends who are pregnant, have a newborn or have recently done something life-changing, like purchase a home or get married.
Fast-forward to Easter 2017 and I can definitively say that my life has improved in ways that I could never have guessed. Here are my five biggest lessons from 40 days without social media.
1. My one and only expectation of these 40 days sans social media was that it was going to be hard. Really hard. But guess what? I have a secret that I’d like to share, so lean in close. It actually wasn’t that hard.
Having a family member with cancer is hard. Not knowing where your next meal is going to come from is hard. Feeling hopeless under the confines of depression is hard. Giving up social media is not.
Sure, I had to adjust during the first few days or so, but eventually I got used to not compulsively checking my Facebook/Instagram apps on my phone and/or computer (sometimes, I’ll admit, at the same time!) and actually felt a sense of liberation for not being a slave to a screen.
2. Have you heard of the “mommy wars”? If not, let me enlighten you: Moms can be each other’s worst enemy. Bottle fed vs breastfeed, co-sleeping vs. sleep training, working or staying-at-home… the list goes on, but it ultimately means that moms are often very quick to judge one another for making whichever choices conflict with their own.
As it turns out, other moms weren’t actually my own worst enemy – I was. Without realizing it, I was constantly comparing myself to every other mother and person my age and would contradict my desires by simultaneously feeling guilty for not staying home with and making festive, age-appropriate crafts for my daughters, and longing to be a world-traveler with no responsibilities or commitments.
Constant exposure to everyone else’s lives (or at least the lives they choose to share publicly) was damaging in ways that I didn’t even realize. But since I haven’t been on social media, I’ve felt surprisingly more secure, satisfied, and happy with my own life, because my self-worth need not come in the form of “likes” or shares, but instead in the form of real, live relationships that mean a heck of a lot more in person than they do on a screen.
3. For me, life on social media meant that every time I did something fun, especially with my husband or daughters, my first thought was to take and post a picture. When something funny happened in my life, my immediate reaction was to write a post about it. I didn’t realize how negatively those thoughts impacted my ability to actually enjoy those moments. In fact, now that I’m social media-free, I have discovered a newfound joy for little (and big) moments that I had missed being a part of because I was either a) looking down at my phone, or b) distracted by deciding how I wanted to represent the moment to the rest of the world.
4. As a full-time working mom of two little girls, I have never felt like there’s enough time in each day to do all the things that need to be done. I used to lament the fact that I was only ever able to get through one book per month (my book club selection, as it were) although I always made a New Year’s resolution to read at least 25 books per year. I always wished that I had the time to become a “yogi,” but was never able to identify enough free time to establish a yoga practice.
Well, as it turns out, without the time-suck that is social media, I have found out that I actually do have free time. In fact, I’ve found the time to establish a yoga practice and have read 10 books – all in the past 40 days! (Cleaning my house is another story… but you can’t win ‘em all.)
Listen, I know that life can be hectic and that the elusive “work/life balance” is hard to come by, but the few minutes here-and-there of Facebook/Instagram scrolling add up, and I feel a heck of a lot better about myself when I practice yoga or read a good book than when I stare at my phone.
5. We live in a world that is consumed with social media; of this, I am well aware. However, I now feel like I know a secret that no one else knows, or have some major kind of inside information. Which I guess I do. The secret is this: giving up social media, it turns out, has actually given me my life back. And I’m not going back.
© 2017 Emily Pelkowski