Social media is ever-present in most of our lives. No matter where you go, you’ve always got that handy little device in your pocket or close at hand. How many times a day do you hear that familiar notification sound and reflexively glance at your screen to see what’s going on? Pavlovian responses. It’s something that we do so unconsciously now that we usually don’t even notice how frequently we’re doing it. I’ve been absent over the past few days from my social media platforms. I decided that I needed a bit of a break, and boy did it do some good!
This isn’t the first time that I’ve unplugged from social media. I find it to be a very useful exercise to do a couple of times per year. As a matter of fact, I turned off all notifications for my social media apps more than a year ago. The only way I know that someone has posted something, someone has commented on something, someone has liked something, is by opening the associated app and seeing what notifications I have. (So if I’ve not reacted to your post, or replied to your comment quickly, I apologize, but now you know why.) In my humble opinion, it is insanely refreshing.
The first few days were weird. I was so used to getting multiple notifications a day that I kept checking my apps every couple of hours to see what was going on. I quickly realized how often I had been checking my phone and started to lessen my use. Now, I check my social media platforms a couple of times a day. Know what I’ve missed? Not a thing. Breaking that conditioning was a freeing exercise. I’ve noticed my use has gone down considerably. I’m no longer just falling into that time-waster of an exercise.
This all came to the forefront over this past long weekend. I had felt the urge to disconnect for a few days, so the long weekend was the perfect opportunity to do it. I did not check my social media apps on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Instead, I was fully present in the real world; living in the moment. My three day weekend ended up feeling like I was off for 5 or 6 days. My weekend didn’t rush by in a flash because I tried to be mindfully present. But that’s just my experience.
I’m not saying that using social media or having notifications is a bad thing. I have simply chosen to make the switch for my own personal well-being and sense of not being over-saturated. I won’t judge you for not following along. I spent so may years of my young adulthood tied to my computer, chatting with friends from around the world on every imaginable platform. For years, if I wasn’t at school or at work, I had 2-3 different instant message platforms running so that I wouldn’t miss being able to connect with people. Now, I am trying to do the opposite – to sever that constant connection so that I can feel more complete and real.
Some of the best vacations my wife and I have had were the ones where we were totally disconnected. Our first few trips to Disney World found us arriving at the resort, putting our phones on airplane mode, and leaving them that way for the duration of the trip. It was so liberating! Sadly, this has become harder to do because of our cell phones becoming more integral parts of our lives for various functions. But I can continue to leave my social media notifications turned off.
When’s the last time you took a social media break? Have you ever? Are you controlled by the urge to continually check your notifications? Do you suffer from phantom notification syndrome, where you are sure you just heard your phone beep or felt it vibrate, but when you check there’s no new notification? Is your FOMO overpowering you and making you feel the need to know what everyone else is doing or thinking as soon as they post? If so, maybe it’s time to try a social media break of your own.
For anyone interested, here are a few links to articles on taking a pause from social media: