Life Experiments: A Week Without Social Media

As life experiments go, a week is actually a very short period of time, most experiments, especially those meant to improve one’s physical or mental health should last no less than 21 days – A lot of my thinking on life experiments is informed by Anthony Ongaro from Break the Twitch – I encourage you to follow his blog, YouTube Channel and Podcast for tips, tricks and ideas.

On Thursday, August 2, 2018 I kicked off my Summer Staycation, and opted to try lighten up on my phone usage, in particular my social media and MSM news consumption. I know from careful observation of my actions and habits that I am prone to going down the social media rabbit-hole, wasting countless minutes (and sometimes hours) scrolling endlessly through my Facebook and twitter feeds.

At the same time, while I have made deep cuts to my social media “friends” lists and the accounts I follow, so much negative content still creeps in; I also recently watched the CBC 6-Part Series, Back in Time for Dinner, and the scene that struck me above all else was when they reached the 80’s and were watching a repeat of the OJ Simpson Bronco Chase, the Mother of the Family remarked that one of the things she had noticed was that she wasn’t watching 24 hour news, and it was reducing her levels of stress and anxiety.

Before leaving my office on the 2nd, I communicated my intention to power down, both professionally and personally, I issued a bit of a “manifesto” for my week on LinkedIn, copied it to Facebook, and then tweeted and Instagrammed my original LinkedIn Status. I also disabled notifications for social media apps on my phone, which in turn disabled notifications to my Smart-Watch (which I originally purchased for its step counting/activity tracking functionality) so that the apps couldn’t push to me.

It takes me about an hour to drive from my office to my home, I almost immediately noticed my watch was entirely still, only alerting me to a singular text message. As soon as I pulled into my driveway, I started into my usual routine, of checking my phone to see if anything interesting had happened in the last 60 minutes (I listen to podcasts on my drive home, so even if the world was burning down, I wouldn’t have heard the news unless it was happening on one of the roads I use on the trip home). And, just like that, I found myself scrolling for five minutes before I became conscious of what I was doing. I promptly deleted the short-cuts to my social media apps from my home screen, to at least create some friction between my and my mindless scrolling habit.

Habits are hard to break, I had to compromise with myself, because Instagram is by-and-large a positive place to hang out online, I allowed myself to keep up with my IG Feed, however, only when I was already doing something unproductive, like watching TV (hello multi-tasking), or if I had just updated my own feed. Otherwise, I avoided any TV playing the news, as well as my Facebook and Twitter Apps.

On Sunday, my 8-Step Meal Prep blog post went live, I allowed myself to log-in to Facebook and Twitter to share a brief promo; of course, because social media is truly an addiction for me, I found myself scrolling my FB Feed. In the first 5 posts, I found 4 negative posts and a meme about cats that was actually pretty funny. It snapped me back out of the scrolling trance pretty quickly – I didn’t need or want to hear about this on my week off.

Last Thursday Evening I concluded my experiment, I turned notifications back on, and placed my social media apps back on the home page of my phone. I’m still noticing how often my watch vibrates, and how quickly I can get sucked back down into a social feed vortex. I didn’t miss all the news, I knew that Toronto Flooded, and that the Saudis have picked a fight with Canada; but I also know, that I don’t need social media to keep my company, and that I feel less anxious when I don’t expect my watch to buzz, and that I can find better and more productive ways to fill my “down time”.

I’m back on social media with a renewed focus on mindful usage, and I’m ready for my next life experiment – starting August 15, I’m starting a 45-day hydration challenge, no alcohol and at least 8 glasses of water per day. Follow me on IG @danielle_s_russell for regular updates.

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