I’m writing this on Sunday afternoon after having a self-imposed day of solitude. On Friday evening after work I was feeling really overwhelmed looking at my social calendar for the weekend and decided to cancel everything and take some time to regroup and reconnect with myself. I’m not sure if it’s the weather changing (winter is coming), or whether it’s hormonal (I’m anxiously awaiting my period), but the feeling of claustrophobia and frustration was so strong that I felt that the action of cancelling my social engagements was justified.
After the initial relief of cancelling my plans, I felt euphoria - I can do WHATEVER I want. I am going to write 10 pages of my memoir! Bake! Read my books! However after a few hours, the mood changed to unsettled and fidgety - I have so many options, which do I choose? Maybe I’ll just scroll through some blogs and the news, and before I know it I’ve ended up back on Instagram - albeit on my laptop rather than my phone as I’ve deleted the app.
The pull of social media is fascinating and awe-inspiring to me. I am someone who has repeatedly told myself and others that I want to change my habits around social media and I’m even in a social media ‘black out’ - which means no posting and no scrolling. However I still feel the desire to go on there and see what ‘the world’ is doing. Why is it that on a glorious and cherished day of freedom I find myself down the rabbit hole of comparison?
Social media is designed to be addictive and to make us feel like we are less than. The more we feel that we are ‘not enough’, the better the targeted advertising will work it’s magic into making us think that whatever the latest product is will ‘fix’ us. For anyone who worries about what others think of them, or who struggles with an inner critic (I would argue this is 90% of the population), then social media should be bad news, a clear no-no. And yet it’s much more uncommon to be a non-social media user that an avid instagram-er these days, especially for millennials.
My therapist this week reminded me that a compulsion to use Social Media is like any other addiction - and if you have one addiction, it usually has friends (I highly recommend Russel Brand’s book Recovery if you are interested in this concept). As someone who has (up until this point) struggled with compulsive drinking, compulsive skin picking and co-dependency, I feel like I have as a part of my recovery become more aware of the familiar feeling I get when I feel compelled to go on instagram, have a drink, or ‘correct’ an imperfection on my skin. I am sure many people are in a similar position to me with regards to my instagram habit but perhaps don’t view it in the same way. If they are happy with their social media usage then that’s great, I just know for me it is easy for it to become another unhealthy habit that makes me feel worse about myself and sucks up more precious time.
A few months ago I installed an app on my phone to show me my phone usage. I was pretty horrified to find that some weeks I was averaging 5 to 7 hours A DAY on my phone. I don’t even know how that was possible (although unfortunately my meditation and playing music are taken into account here so are skewing the numbers a bit). The most worrying was that Instagram was ALWAYS the most used app, with around 2-3 hours a day clocked up scrolling, posting, commenting and replying. I’m pleased that since I’ve deleted the app on my phone my phone usage is between 1 and 2 hours a day total (again, including my meditation and music), and i’ve been going several days without logging on (I can still log on my laptop and the chrome browser, although trying to minimize this as much as possible).
Throughout December I really want to be intentional about how I’m spending my time and also noticing what comes up when I feel compelled to go on instagram, facebook or even check the news. Is it loneliness? Disconnectedness? Fear of missing out? I’ll report back how the experiment goes and for now, you can reach me anywhere other than social media :)