12 Lessons From My Social Media Detox

12 Lessons From My Social Media Detox

The last sunset for the decade in 2019. Photo taken in Elwood by Anna.

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
~ Oscar Wilde

Our world has become fast paced, connected and highly driven by instant gratification.
Wouldn’t you agree? 
While technology helps us stay connected with family, friends, start movements, see news as it breaks live, it has also contributed to a decline in mental health all over the world. 
In today's blog, I will focus especially on social media. 
Though social media at the outset is not bad, evil or toxic, becoming addicted to it is definitely toxic to our mental wellbeing. 
Comparing our lives and bodies with social media influencers, often who spend a lot of time and money to create the best curated accounts and posts, has affected many lives. Over the past decade we have seen a rapid decline in self-esteem, more cases of depression, unhealthy expectations of relationship, and unrealistic depictions of career progressions and business growth.
At the end of the day, a few factors influence how we are affected by social media. 
These include: 
1. The type of content we consume
2. How we are working on our healing our traumas outside of social media
3. Our sense of self and worth outside of social media
4. Our sense of belonging outside of the online world
Personally, I noticed my dependence and addiction to social media a month or two ago. For me, this was a wake up call that I urgently needed to do a social media detox.
I would be constantly checking my Instagram and Facebook messages, mindlessly scrolling for no reason at all, and worst of all, checking my notifications from the moment I wake up and just before I close my eyes and sleep. 
Can you relate?
My behaviour really bothered me, so much so, that I listened to the "Are you addicted to the internet" podcast by Mimi and Alex Ikonn (the creators of The Five Minute Journal and The Productivity Planner - two products that you've probably heard me rave on and on and on about). 
I listened to the podcast on a Sunday evening while doing my food prep for the week ahead - a habit that saves me about 3 hours a week! 
As I washing and chopping vegetables, something really struck a chord with me: Alex was sharing how he found himself addicted to the internet and could someone scroll and browse for hours into the night. So he needed to download apps that would kick him out of certain programs at a particular time at night and in the morning. The ‘AHA’ moment happened when Alex shared that the reason he would find himself mindlessly searching, scrolling and browsing (especially if he was away from Mimi and their daughter, Alexa) was because of ... 
Can you guess? 
I literally stopped what I was doing and stood in my kitchen dumbstruck. “Of course! That's exactly the reason why I had fallen into this unhealthy behaviour! My addiction to social media is because I am craving connection!”
After listening to that podcast, I decided that I needed to do something about this. The Christmas break was fast approaching and for the first time in five years, I wasn’t launching a business or a book, growing a brand or working through the festive season.
 “Perfect!” I thought to myself. “This is my opportunity to logout and delete the apps from my phone. I have exactly 12 days off work (I am a content marketing specialist in my day job and have to be across various social media accounts for work) to reset my social media addiction.” 
I took this opportunity by the horns and on Christmas eve, I wished all my contacts across Facebook and Instagram a Merry Christmas, and deleted all the apps from my social media folder. 
Without going into too much detail (because you will get all that juicy content in the blog below), I had the BEST holiday and social media detox.
And in today’s post, I want to share with you 12 lessons I learnt in hope that it will inspire you do a detox as well!

1. Notifications are attention whores and anxiety triggers.

Someone liked your Facebook post. 
So-and-so sent you an attachment.
“Oh, this is someone new! How did they find my Instagram?”
Trust me, I know the feeling. I have been there and done that. At first, it’s exciting to receive these notifications because they fulfil our need for significance. Essentially, notifications answer that deep yearning we all have for the question: “Do I matter?” Essentially notifications say, “Yes, you do! Look who is remembering you!”
But, and it’s a big but, my biggest lesson from this social media detox was that keeping my notifications on across ALL my devices meant that my precious attention, energy and time was being prostituted. Instead of directing my attention where I chose, notifications were like vultures hunting me down: “No, no, no, Anna, that blog you’re writing, pft, that’s not important, check out this comment on your Facebook post. This is soooooo much more important.” 
The same applied to removing my work email notifications from my phone (both my day job and my business). When I kept my notifications on, I was no longer my own master and instead all these notifications dictated how and where I spent my time and attention.
Not good.
The end.
To be fair to myself, the first time I had turned off Facebook notifications was about three years ago and last year (that’s 2019 for all those who haven’t transitioned into 2020 yet), I turned off Instagram notifications. At first, getting off that hit of dopamine and serotonin was hard, but when occasionally I had my notifications on, I recognised just how much notifications triggered my anxiety levels. 
I wholeheartedly believe that a lot of you (yes, I’m talking to you), do not have anxiety! I don’t think half the world has natural formed anxiety. Personally, I think a lot of the anxiety that people think they have is manufactured from our current lifestyles. 
Proudly bought to you by your notifications.
So if you have anxiety, I urge you - TURN OFF YOUR NOTIFICATIONS.
Until my detox, the only notifications I had on were for Facebook Messenger because for me communication (especially instant) was paramount to running successful projects and businesses, often simultaneously as working a day job.
I have since learnt that my heightened anxiety is soooooo not worth it.
And neither is yours! 
Turn those attention whores, off! 
You can thank me when your mental health improves and anxiety disappears.

2. Social media is hard work.

When I started my social media detox, I deleted: 
  • Facebook
  • Messenger
  • Instagram (I manage 3 accounts - 2 of my own and one for work)
  • Slack (it’s a work messenger platform) 
  • Snapchat (why I still have this is beyond me because I stopped using it ages ago) 
Altogether, I deleted five apps from my phone and you know what I realised after 12 days of not posting a single update, or a single Instagram story or logging into work? 
Social media is HARD WORK! 
It’s hard work to keep abreast of people’s posts.
It’s hard work to keep sharing parts of your life and energy online.
It’s hard work to plan content. 
It’s hard work to respond to everyone.
It’s hard work to engage and be connected.
And when you work 9-5, run a business from 5-9, are trying to maintain a social life, are ready for a relationship, need to sleep (yes… I’m aiming to get 6-8 hours daily as a new goal for 2020… and the jokes on me because I don’t enjoy sleeping), and exercise, I learnt that the time I was spending on social media was a lot of hard work and the detox helped me see how much of that hard work I needed to reverse engineer into smart work (I can hear my singing teacher applauding at this sentiment - thanks Susan!)
So the lesson here is that yes - social media is hard work. 
And if it’s something you are doing to build a brand, personality, share valuable content and connect with people, the work is worth it. 
The key is to make it smart work.

3. Improved mental health. 

If you are new to my blog - welcome! Lovely to have you here. As someone who has written themselves out of depression and transformed traumas and pain into my purpose, I am super passionate about everything related to mental health. 
To those who are regular blog readers, you are already aware of my life’s work and mission. 
So let me tell you just how happy I was for those 12 days that I was not on social media. Granted, yes, there was Christmas and New Years (both of which as per my personal tradition I spent alone … and before you go “awwww poor you” let me tell you, I’d rather do those events alone rather than with days filled with drama), and it was the festive season - being off social media meant: 
  • I had no one else to compare my holidays with
  • I could go to the beach and take photos for myself 
  • I didn’t need to feel anxious about responding to Christmas and New Year messages because… (that’s right) - I had advised everyone that I won’t be available.
It felt great! 
So I learnt that, while social media also adds tremendous value in my life especially with learning about mental health, self-regulating my usage actually contributed to improving my mental health.

4. Creating space for other joys.

You know that activity that oozed excitement from every pore of your body when you were five years old? 
Or that book you want to read or puzzle you want to complete? 
Or that business you want to start? 
Or that relationship you want to grow? 
Those are all possible when you take a detox from social media, evaluate how you use it and then create a healthy relationship and contingency plan with it. 
Deleting the apps meant I had no way of easily accessing my accounts (because let’s face it, social on desktop sucks and also I think I opened my computer twice in 12 days over the break). It also meant that the time that I spent on those social apps and the space they took up in my life - was now open for other joys. 
So I started and finished one 1000 piece puzzle and then embarked on the challenge that is this 3000 piece puzzle that two weeks later, I’m still working on.
I did heaps of reading and uncharacteristically for me (because I have had such terrible previous experiences with online dating), I downloaded Bumble (because after six years of single life… I am ready for the next chapter).
I noticed that part of my dislike for online dating was … 
drum roll 
It was another social media platform - and when you’re managing 5 other platforms, adding another one to the mix is increasing those anxiety levels ten-fold. 
But with the extra space in my life, I calmly created a new profile and had a great experience from it! 
So there you go - social media detox helps create space for other joys in your life and that’s why I recommend it!

5. Heightened sense of awareness in self-regulating your consumption.

On Sunday the 5th of January I re-downloaded all my social media apps.
Instantly, my anxiety levels rose.
They kept climbing, especially after I saw that I had dozens of notifications and nearly 20 unread Facebook messages (Instagram was a bit better). 
Since I was hyper-aware of how tuning back into the social media world triggered my anxiety, I decided to turn off all my notification settings - yes, even messenger.
My governing thought was: 
“How I spend my time is not determined by the urgency of your message. I determine how I spend my time and I will respond to messages when I choose.” 
So now, when I go into Facebook, Instagram and Messenger, I am also hyper-aware of behavioural patterns like mindless scrolling. Though on the whole I’ve been quite good at self-regulating this pattern, there was one morning last week when I reverted back to it. It took about two minutes before my awareness kicked in and I instantly closed Facebook or Instagram or whatever the platform was. 
Because I started the social media detox with a clear purpose to reset my addiction to social media, my level of awareness has become much more heightened since returning back online - well to social media. You know what I mean! 

6. Improved focus and attention span.

After reading the previous lessons, this one reads like a given.
Let me tell you that the first two days (Christmas and Boxing Day) were the hardest.
Because I felt like I was missing a limb: every time I would go to check my phone, I would recognise that there was nothing to check. So I had to rewire my physiology to do something other than check my phone every how-ever-so-minutes. It’s like when a smoker quits smoking, they now need to fill that space in their life with something else.
As a result of rewiring my physiological responses, my focus and attention span improved!
So instead of being distracted, I was focused and ‘attracted’ (see what we did there), to the task at hand. 
And even though I’ve since returned onto social media, I am taking micro-steps in training my focus muscle.
In a world that is vying for our attention, feeding us a constant drip of distractions, this can be challenging. The way I see it is is that if I’m focused on the work at hand, this means I deliver better quality and more valuable work. The more value I bring to this world, the more I am serving God’s mission through my life and being God’s hands on Earth. And the more I do that, the more hope and healing I am spreading in this world. And to me, this matters more than any riches in the world.  
So if you also feel robbed of your focus and attention span, it’s never too late to reclaim your ownership. 
The question is, will you?

7. Recognising how much shit we consume and how it negatively affects our well-being.

A very prominent realisation came to me about a week into my social media detox and it was this: 
I didn’t feel I missed out on anything.
(WOAH much?)
The next realisation was that actually, a lot of what I have been consuming on social media was absolute shit! And I don’t know if it is news to you or not, but consuming rubbish social media does to the soul what consuming junk food does to the body: it slowly (but surely) deteriorates it. 
Something I’ll be doing in the next month, is examining the accounts I follow and hiring, firing and promoting accounts depending on how much value they add to my life. 
Because if I consume healthy food for a well functioning body and nervous system, I must equally consume valuable content for a well functioning mental well-being.
Wouldn’t you agree?

8. Self-care is my personal responsibility. And #1 priority. 

For as long as I can remember, I have been harping on and on about how taking care of yourself health must be your first priority.
Before taking care of your family, partner, kids, job or business, you must take care of yourself.
Quite simply, because on the non-extreme spectrum, you cannot pour from an empty cup or give when you have nothing left to give. And on the extreme spectrum, you cannot help anyone if you are feeling quite unwell, bed bound in hospital with strict instructions on who can visit you and when they’re allowed to come. 
How did I learn that self-care is my absolute #1 priority during my social media detox?
Because I practiced more of it! 
I wouldn’t wake up and check social media straight away or go to bed looking at my phone. 
I would wake up and take care of me.
I would add water to my cup so that it was over-flowing and I vowed to myself, to remember this lesson when I got back onto social media. 
And you know what, for the most part I have. 
It’s been a week since I’ve returned online and until I have taken care of me, I do not post or contribute online. 
It’s that simple.
And you know what, it works!
Because when I do post something, I am happier, more radiant and more in alignment with what I share.
And contrary to what some may believe - self-care is not selfish.
Self-care is the most generous gift you can give to everyone around you.
The question is: do you care enough about yourself, to take care of yourself before you take care of anyone else?

9. Likes, comments, shares and algorithms do not determine my self-worth. I do. 

There has been much shared about this. I’ve just started reading “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown and has a section on scarcity and how that affects our self-worth.
But I will explore that in a different blog.
Today, I want to share with you my lesson from the detox. 
In the 12 days that I was off all my socials, I learnt that my worth is not defined by some algorithm, and computer systemised program that is absolutely devoid of feelings and emotions.
Neither is my worth determined by someone’s comment or the number of likes I have on a post.
Only I determine my self-worth.
And in the 12 days that I spent off social media, it was as if for the first time in a long time, I saw myself for who I am and you know what, I really liked who I saw in the reflection. 
I have worked hard to become this person and though some love me and others loathe me (I do not live in an illusion to think that there are people out there who do not like me because it’s true), I know what I bring to the table.
And when you know what you bring to the table, it becomes easier to define your worth.
However, to really step into your power, you must do the work.
You must heal your traumas.
You must rise.
Because if at the moment, your life is influenced with the thought of how many likes, comments and shares it’s going to get… then let me break it to you.
You may need to look at yourself in the mirror.
And ask: 
“Do I even like me without the need to be validated?”

10. Social media is a tool and I choose how I use it in my life.

Like I mentioned in the introduction, social media is neither good nor evil - it is simply a tool and like all tools, it’s how we use it that matters most.
For example, a hammer can be used to build something beautiful or as a weapon. 
Does that make the hammer good or evil?
But the choice and intention behind how the hammer is used can have constructive or destructive consequences. 
Similarly, I recognised that how I use social media can play a constructive or destructive influence on my life.
So one decision I made since my detox, was to use social media as a creator and extremely limit my consumption. As an extrovert, who loves to connect people and share stories, writing and lessons from my life, this is the most constructive way I can use social media.
Everyone is different.
What works for me, might not work for you.
What a social media detox will do, is give you the required reset to figure out the best way forward.

11. My time and energy are valuable and I must treat them as such. 

This lesson ties closely with points 8 and 9, so I will be brief. 
Initially I wanted to write something about economics, business and the concept of supply and demand but I will probably save that for another blog. It’s currently 12:02 am and a brain fog from the Melbourne fires and smoke is settling over me.
So in lieu of that, let’s explore this concept like so…
My actions determine how much I value my time and energy.
If my actions are numbing and mindless, then I am showing my mind, body and spirit, that my I do not value them.
And in the quantum world, what we give, we receive. 
So if we want to receive more value, we can only do providing more value.
How do we provide more value?
First and foremost, from recognising the unique value we bring to this world.
And by becoming citizens of value. 
Being off social media for 12 days, helped me see clearer all the ways I add value and in doing so, it has also helped me see just how valuable my time and energy are and must not be wasted mindlessly on activities that don’t matter.

12. I have everything I need (and some) already in my life! I am enough.

Last, and most certainly not least, one of the most crucial lessons I got from my social media detox is that I already have everything I need (and some) in my life. 
How did I get to this realisation?
The people who wanted to talk to me, called.
The things I wanted to do, I did.
The places I wanted to see, I explored.
And not once did I compare my life to anyone else’s because my life, was simply enough.
And that, was all that mattered.

Ending notes… 

You see, in a world that wants to feed you fear instead of love and push its own agenda down your throat, standing up and standing out requires great courage. 
Recognising that actually, you are enough, then becomes your success.
The only reason most businesses are even in business, is because they feed off of your fears. 
One quote that comes to mind that perfectly describes this is something by English-American feminist and author, Dr. Gail Dines who said:  “If tomorrow, women woke up and decided they really liked their bodies, just think how many industries would go out of business.”
It’s true isn’t it - many industries would go out of business if one day collectively women woke up and decided that they were enough.
And after spending 12 days off social media during this festive season, though I shared 12 different lessons, I think the one that has brought me the most peace in my life is recognising this…
I do.
I have.
And I am,
I hope this blog inspires you in someway.
Maybe you will do something small to reclaim your time and energy, to step into your power, or simply to recognise your worth.
Because, truthfully, I wouldn’t be sharing these lessons if I didn’t believe that they could help you.
And the expression goes… 
You can only take the horse water, you can’t make them drink.
I decided to listen to a podcast and drink.
What will you choose? 
Because more than anything, it’s the choice you make, that defines your destiny.

Founder and director of The Butterfly, Anna believes that everyone’s pain has a purpose. On a mission to spread hope and healing like wildfire, she teaches people how they too can transform their traumas. She is the author of Unmasking Depression and Lovely - Poetry on Love and Loss, workshop facilitator for “Own Your Inner Light - A Transformation Workshop” and 2016 semi-finalist in the Australian Women's Weekly and Qantas Woman of the FutureConnect with her on Facebook and Instagram for more stories and insights.

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Absolutely great blog Anna. Thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Great lessons and although i agree with all 12 i resonated to 7 with social media being full of crap that we are constantly consuming. This is why i limit my time on Social Media, 10 mins on my commute home from work and thats that and i have a no technology Sunday which is when i switch off my phone and focus on me 😁. As always, great blog xx


Well rewritten Anna and well done


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