What I Learned From My Social Media Cleanse

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From December 22nd to December 28th, I took a break from social media. I wrote about my plan in a previous blog post creatively titled “I’m Taking A Break From Social Media”. I spend a lot of time on social media sharing things about my trumpet playing, my life, my growth, my podcast, etc. I wanted to see what it would be like to break free from the regular checking of views and likes.The results were surprising and showed how seamlessly social media had worked its way into my daily activities. 

Prior to my cleanse, I asked people if they had ever taken a break from social media. The answers varied, but there were a few people that indicated that a break from social media was therapeutic for them. Some even discontinued the use of social media platforms all together. My results weren’t quite that profound.

My Habits

Choosing to go on a social media fast wasn’t that big of a deal. I had no problem putting my phone down and ignoring any urges to constantly check how many followers I had. That being said,  I didn’t actually make the whole week without opening up the apps. I didn’t even make it two days. The habits I had built surrounding social media use were so strong that I ended up opening the apps without even realizing it on multiple occasions.

The first time I opened Facebook, I was working out. It’s not uncommon for me to surf Facebook while resting between sets. After one set of squats, I sat down to rest, and picked up my phone. I saw that Facebook had 5 notifications, so I opened it up and hit the notifications tab. THEN I realized I was on Facebook, and closed the app. It was so habitual for me to use social media during that part of my day, I didn’t even realize what I was doing until I did it.

Another time I opened the app I went even further. While planning out my posts on Instagram for the month of January, I decided it might be fun to post a throwback Thursday post on one particular Thursday. I remembered a funny video I posted a long time ago, but I couldn’t remember exactly how long ago. So, I opened Instagram, liked the first picture that was on my feed, went to my profile, started scrolling down to find the post, and THEN I realized I had opened Instagram. I closed it right away and laughed at myself. It was amazing to me how far I got without even thinking about it.

This brings up a much larger question: how much of life are we doing without thinking about it? If I have strong habits built around social media like that, how many others habits do I have that are fully on autopilot? 

The practice of mindfulness empowers people to live life to the fullest by simply being present; by encouraging people to live life with focus and intention on what they are doing or who they are with during the present moment.

Whether you do a cleanse or not, take a day to purposefully  pay attention to all of the habits you have. You never know what has become part of your autopilot operating system. If you find any habits holding yourself back from the person you want to be, see if they can be replaced with something more in line with your goals.. Any change will be challenging, and you will need to go off autopilot and be fully present. However, small positive changes can lead to massive pay offs over time.

My Productivity

There’s no question that I was more productive during my social media cleanse. I read more books, I spent more time with my family, and I had more time to reflect and meditate with a clear mind. This point is simple: less time on social media means more time for things that will make your life more fulfilled and more meaningful. Less distracting content coming in means more brain power to focus on digesting quality content.

My Personal Growth

Continuing the idea from the previous point, the most important thing I learned is that social media is not the driver for any of my personal growth. For some, this might not make any sense. Allow me to explain:

When you decide you’re going to start sharing everything on social media, one of your biggest concerns will inevitably be: what if I run out of content? Consistency is the key to continued growth in any pursuit, and social media is no different. It doesn’t do you any good to post 5 times a week if you can only maintain that level of content production for one month.

One of the most sustainable ways to have an unending stream of content is to share more dimensions of your life. Not just your successes, but your struggles, your habits,  and the progress you make.To let others see behind the curtain, so to speak. Not only is this method sustainable, it is also authentic, which makes you more relatable and easier to connect with.

Therefore, if one reads books and learns new skills, they will have content to share for a long time. Problem solved! But are they reading and learning to better themselves, or doing it out of fear that they will run out of things to share with others? Is it possible to learn and grow for the wrong reasons?

I’ve been realizing that personal development is the most important processes any of us can go through. Learning about yourself, what makes you tick, and why you feel the way you do, gives you the power to create a better life.  Instead of reacting to the things that happen, you can become proactive and make things happen.

To learn that my personal development journey is driven by myself, and not my fear of running out of content was very important. Diving in and reading more during that week showed me that my desire to learn and grow is separate from my need for consistent social media content. In some ways, my growth might even be impeded by my use of social media. 

Was It Worth It?

I would say my cleanse was absolutely worth it, but not for the reasons that I anticipated before I started it. I thought I would be like others and feel some kind of  release that would make me a different person. But that didn’t happen. There wasn’t a fundamental change, I just had more time (although one could argue that is a fundamental change). Learning about my personal development motivations was an unexpected and wonderful realization.

One final thing I learned from my cleanse: I missed connecting with people. I missed responding to comments or answering questions sent to me in my DM’s. It took a few days, but I missed doing my best to help others. I’m thankful for learning that, too.

I plan on doing two social media cleanses throughout the year. One shortly after Christmas, and one in late June/early July. I hope after reading this post, you’ll consider it too. You might learn something you didn’t know you needed to learn!