I started 2019 with a social-media cleanse. I didn’t plan it. In fact, I didn’t realize I was going to do it until I clicked “submit” on my New Year’s Eve post discussing the year ahead being about purposeful self-growth, honoring intuition and focusing on my therapy practice’s continued evolution. Suddenly, the thought came to me that social media would be a barrier to those things. I didn’t exactly know why, but since I had literally just posted that I wanted to honor my intuition more, I decided to go with it.
So, the next day, New Year’s Day, I deleted the apps off my phone and my cleanse began.
As my wife jokes, I have an obsession with accuracy. So, I’ll note briefly that I did still pop onto social media for the sake of my business a couple of times a week, but did so on a computer so as to not get sucked back into the mindless scrolling that so easily happens when this stuff is loaded up on our phones.
The cleanse was difficult at the beginning because, like any deeply engrained habit, I would mindlessly pick up my phone looking for my social-media fix and would only remember about the cleanse after seeing the only app in my social-media folder was LinkedIn which wasn’t worth deleting since I have zero interest in scrolling through LinkedIn. Disappointed but resolute, I would quickly redirect myself to looking for interesting podcasts and answering emails efficiently. This went on for a few weeks until my brain became programmed to know that social media wasn’t on the menu. And honestly, I started to enjoy it.
Now, it’s been more than five months and, interestingly, I’m mostly still off of social media (I dabble in Instagram which is pretty unobtrusive for me). I had never set a timeline for this little experiment and just sort of took it one day at a time. As it turns out, a day hasn’t come where I’ve really wanted to go back. A big part of that is due to the many undeniable benefits that have come with this new way of existing in the world and, the real reason I’m writing this article.
First, it was a big step toward showing myself that I could really get past my mind. We all have that thing in us that pulls us to what’s easy; that’s because the brain is extremely lazy. The brain is constantly trying to conserve energy because it is an immensely powerful organ. Part of how it does that is by influencing us to choose what seems like the easiest path, which is often the path of the known. For me, the path of the known was that multiple-times a day break where I got to check out of my present and check in to whatever was happening on my newsfeeds. Logically, the path of the unknown then was getting through my day without those check-outs from reality.
Next, I interact so much less with the news, which has turned out to be a true act of self-care. While it is important to have an awareness of what’s going on in our country and in the world, in many ways social media inhibits our ability to choose when and how much news we get. I didn’t realize how much that was taking a toll on me until I was away from it for a while.
Another benefit of being off social media is that I’ve filled the time I would have been spending on my newsfeeds with other, more valuable things such as reading a few pages of a book (I downloaded the Kindle app on my phone) and listening to podcasts. Or, on the non-technology side, taking a few minutes to sit quietly or purposely take some calming deep breaths.
Perhaps my favorite benefit though is that I have an increased ability to miss people again! Something I didn’t fully have an awareness of before this experiment is that when you’re constantly seeing what your loved ones are doing both in picture and text form, it’s more difficult to really, truly miss them. And let’s be honest, the phrase “let’s catch up” hasn’t really had meaning since the early 2000s, before social media gave us a window into everyone’s lives. This year so far, I’ve been seeing my friends, family and community in more purposeful ways and engaging in conversation that has more of that catching-up quality to it because we really are! It’s a good feeling and it’s been a lesson in appreciating the people I have in my life.
I’m not sure whether staying off of social media is really sustainable, but for now, I’m going to keep rolling with it and see where I end up. What I do know is that I’m incredibly glad to have listened to that voice of intuition that suggested that social media might be a barrier to accomplishing my goals this year. While I don’t think that that’s true for everyone, for me in this moment, going social media-free has been an impactful and liberating experience and a pretty interesting experiment.
Kristina Furia is a psychotherapist committed to working with LGBT individuals and couples and owner of Emerge Wellness, an LGBT health and wellness center in Center City (www.emergewellnessphilly.com).