December 2020 I decided to take a month off social in the new year, no posting, no checking, no apps. A month became almost 6 weeks.
I hadn’t planned to, or felt I needed to, the idea just came to me. The more I entertained the idea, the more I couldn’t not do it.
I posted my intention to Instagram. Instagram’s where I spend most of my social media time. According to my phone stats, about 7 hours a week.
Before you balk, yes I’m on Instagram a lot, but 90% of the time (‘course I can’t be sure on this… the lines get blurred don’t they?) I’m on there to connect with and inspire others as an extension of my work. Time spent on Instagram counts as business hours.
Or that’s the story I’ve always told myself.
When we weigh up the decision to take time off social media as a business, it’s not the same pro-con list as when it’s just a hobby. When your account’s used mainly for business, you know you could stand to lose out.
Breaking the posting or engagement flow could harm the algorithm… And that’s the mental carrot forever being dangled.
Social’s not like the old days when you could post once a day to your gallery and be done with it. Now it’s all about the story-telling, the journey. Naturally, it’s a lot more work.
Video montages, carousel posts, thoughtful write-ups, all require a lot more time and energy. Yet, after the post expires on the first 9 squares (as is the case with Insta), is it as good as lost in digital space?
If you’ve seen the Netflix documentary Social Dilemma, perhaps like me you felt there was an imbalance. It didn’t celebrate the usage of social platforms with a view to widening your reach as a small business. It’s a vital part of reaching new people. Most of my mentee’s find me there.
My initial thoughts read something like:
“I’m a coach, January’s a big month. People look to me this time of year, especially going into a New Year after the 2020 we had. If I’m not on social people could go elsewhere for the help they need. I really can’t afford not to have a presence and I want to be there for my friends on there too.”
Before this personal experiment, I’d thought I was reasonably disciplined at not picking up the phone. Yet I still knew I checked it way too often. In a way, over the years I’ve needed it. I spend a lot of time by myself, the connection with like-minded creatives in one sphere or another has been welcomed. I’m also a sucker for a rude meme or insanely cute dog video.
Bear in mind that I had no idea we’d be placed into a full lockdown again here in the UK.
Inspite of my reservations, I decided to do it anyway.
You know how sometimes you just need to shake life up?
To allow for something different to emerge?
To allow for the unknown?
I semi-tentatively wanted all of that.
Far from feeling jaded about social, overwhelmed, run-down or burned out… I was mostly curious.
I thought I may get twitchy. I didn’t.
Slight exception would be my morning coffee time. It’s the only time in the day the absence is most noticeable and even then, on a scale of 1-10, it’d be a 1. That hurdle I clear by completing a session on a new brain app.
The only other time I felt myself wanting social, was the morning after the new year UK lockdown was announced. Being a rare news watcher, Instagram tends to keep me up-to-date.
Hearing the 5th January news, I naturally felt a desire to want to reach out and be in the social space with my pocket people. People I call friends and value interaction and camaraderie with, many I’ve met in person. I even wondered if January was completely the wrong month for this and I should revert on my decision.
It was the advice of a friend who said “people will manage without you just fine” that settled me. I knew they were right but when you feel you have a duty to serve others, it can be hard to stay away at a critical time. Would people think I was bunking off when the going got tough? Who knows.
I stuck by my decision.
Things I’ve noticed
Just shy of three weeks off the grid and I can tell you I HAVE LOVED not needing to constantly produce content. Much as I usually enjoy the creation of it, for now, I’m not missing it.
Call me selfish but I have the freedom to go about my day without thinking ‘I should post this’ for whoever it may encourage or inspire. I’m still contributing to subscribers and coaching clients via old-school email so I know I’m adding value to those who really want it.
Another thing I don’t miss is the information overload.
I’ve become aware of just how much erroneous data enters my brain on a daily basis that I don’t choose.
I see fewer adverts. Fewer click-bait headlines. Daily life feels like a lot less incoming digital noise.
When I want to be informed, it’s intentional and I visit websites.
Everything that matters most, I still have access to. Close friends and family I text.
The return to normal
At this stage I don’t want to… but then don’t all the best holidays feel like that?
Maybe that’s useful language, the idea of it being a holiday… perhaps a break is more like a weekend break and any longer we should call a holiday?
In fact I like that…’BREAK’ sounds like we’re not coping in some way, and maybe often we’re not… but I wonder if more people would warm to the idea of taking one if it were called a ‘HOLIDAY’. Something that’s looked forward to and not a last resort (changes blog title).
I like being on social.
And I also like being off it.
It’s been nine years… this holiday was long overdue.
Why have a social media holiday?
- If you can’t remember the last time you took a social holiday, it’s probably time.
- If you don’t feel the need for a holiday because you mostly enjoy being on social. It’s still possibly time for one.
- We know that humans in many cultures now are subjected to millions of messages every day. Even if you think your mental firewall is strong, you’re still putting yourself up for a daily barrage. Many of those subliminal messages are entering your being and ‘going in’. You may be surprised how much lighter you feel by not opening up that stream in the first place.
- If the idea of taking a break horrifies you, it’s most definitely a healthy thing to try… start with a day? 😉
- Remember, if you use your account primarily for business, you can create and schedule posts to put out. Whether this is good practice as you’ll not be around to engage with people – I don’t know. Perhaps if you’ve got any pearls on this, you can share in the comments below.
- And finally, not doing what you’ve always done may allow for new interests to come through. The very act of disrupting your regular patterns and taking your life off autopilot in this area can be an exciting thing!
UPDATE after 6 weeks
Having broken my 2021 social media posting silence after almost 6 weeks, I can’t say I’ve done so with any rules of engagement. I think I’ll let it evolve but will definitely take more frequent breaks going forward.