A guest post by freelance writer, Rebecca Vant.
Social media had taken the world by storm in the post-2000 era. It took me longer than some to find my way into its clutches, but I eventually found myself there. As a freelance writer, I have the freedom of making my own hours and have social media at my fingertips at all hours of the day. This is my story, and what I experienced when I decided to cut the social media life line.
My Story – Cracking the Social Media Cravings
Why I decided to take a social media break is not important. Let’s just say I felt that something needed to change in my daily routine to better myself and it was a convenient target. So on a whim, I decided to take a break from the rat race and stop checking my social media accounts. I was amazed at the results and it opened my eyes to some realities.
First off, I was not a social media hound. I did not need to look at it when I was away from the house. I generally only accessed it from my laptop at home, even though it is downloaded on my phone. Many of my friends and relatives admit that they look at it almost all day. These are not teenagers or young adults; forty and fifty-somethings have told me they wake up in the middle of the night and check social media, just in case they missed something after they went to bed. I was a casual user, but it was enough to make a difference when I stopped ‘using’.
The first day, I was uncomfortable. I was wondering what was happening in my social world that I was missing out on. Was someone hurt or did a new, enlightening meme make its way onto my page? What did people think about my declaration post that I would be gone for while? Did people put messages on it? I admit it took quite a bit of restraint not to find out the answers to these questions, especially when it was just a click away as I tried to focus on my writing.
Day two, still uncomfortable and having cravings to see what was going on. But the constant nagging to check did seem to subside a bit, making it more tolerable. By day three, I began noticing I was feeling more relaxed, more than I had been in quite some time. Then it hit me…I was over the withdrawal stage of an addiction.
Yes, I said the ‘A-word’. When you remove anything from your life, a substance, an activity or a relationship, and it causes withdrawal symptoms, I would call that an addiction. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, this is a synopsis of addiction:
Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.
While it may not be as dramatic as a drug, alcohol or gambling addiction that can affect your health, relationships and finances, social media can still have damaging effects. And limiting it can have some benefits, which I was about to find out.
Positive Changes When I Took a Break from Social Media
The first benefit I noticed after I stopped craving interaction on social media was relaxation. I felt less stress than I had in ions, yet I was under a heavy workload with many large writing projects and quickly approaching deadlines. But yet, I was more content. The benefits continued to show themselves.
I began conversing more with my husband and attending to domestic issues I had procrastinated on finishing. I began focusing on better health habits and slept better each night. Odd. If anyone has asked me before this experiment whether social media affected my personal life, I would have emphatically replied “No!”, yet that seemed to be the case.
Then, I noticed a change in how much work I could complete. I have always been a fast writer, usually outperforming my colleagues in productivity, but I excelled. I completed more assignments in less time, which as a writer, means more money. How much productivity loss had checking social media cost me over the years, in both dollars and lost hours? Wow. Was social media really affecting me, a casual user, this much? If so, how was it affecting those that were much more addicted than me? It was an eye-opener, to say the least.
Finding Balance with Social Media Interactions
So does this mean I am giving up social media? Absolutely not. It is the best way to stay in touch with my family and friends that are spread out all over the country. But a good thing can also become destructive. Like anything that is addicting, moderation is key. Even something that makes you feel better can be harmful if misused. Recognizing this fact is the key to finding the right balance and making it benefit your life, not control it.
I don’t have a fix-all for how to manage social media in your life. It all depends on the person and their situation. But I know going forward, I am more aware of how it impacts me on an emotional, physical, productivity and financial level. Take your own break and maybe you will have an epiphany like I did. Stay happy, stay healthy!