Ever been overwhelmed by the rate at which you consume information? Ever been haunted by the unrealistic expectations set by careful curation on influencers’ social media feeds? I have absolutely been there. Sometimes it’s so bad that I want to disconnect from technology altogether and really experience life and information in the context of my physical being. However, it’s 2021 and we’re still homebound due to COVID, spending hours for work and play connected to the internet, the news, and other forms of media. My job as a communications professional involves hours on social media staying up to date with trends, local movements, and newsworthy information. To balance this with my own personal social media presence feels like living a virtual life where I’m consuming news about major historical events, feeling immense pressure from highly edited lifestyles, and convincing myself that I’m somehow not being productive enough. My tipping point was January 6, 2021. I decided I needed to take a social media break.
“But Marcella, how will you do your job?” I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to fully disengage from social media. Thankfully I figured out a workflow that works for me while respecting the boundaries I wanted to set with social media.
Facebook was not going to be a problem for me. I honestly only keep an active Facebook account for the sake of posting to the various business pages I manage. So keeping myself from checking Facebook on my phone was easy. If it’s not easy for you, I recommend just removing the app. Scheduling social media posts on a desktop is far easier than dealing with the mobile app’s interface. Since my desire to check my Facebook account is nonexistent, I simply turn off notifications on my phone. I don’t even feel like I’m missing anything.
My main addiction (and the source for a lot of unrealistic expectations and anxiety) stems from Twitter and Instagram. These platforms, while potentially spaces to share interests and personal news, have become theaters for hot takes, breaking news, and marketing strategies. While, yes, my profession involves social media marketing, I don’t do this for brands interested in selling a product or service. I needed to rid myself from that toxic environment. I manage social media channels for non-profits looking to share their interests and alliances looking to share valuable information and uplift voices throughout the community. I’m not trying to sell you expensive dinners, I’m mostly posting about beekeeping and farmers’ markets. When it comes to an individual’s social media presence, I found Alicia Kennedy said it best in her essay On Online.
I want to return to a place where Instagram and Twitter are spaces where real people can share thoughts and pictures without there needing to be alternative motives behind it. I can share pictures of my food or unedited photos of my partner and I on a hike simply because they make me happy and they are authentic representations of myself. I don’t need to build a social media empire. I just want to share! We’re in an age where individuals can post (sometimes unverified and dangerous) resources on Twitter or highly edited photos on Instagram. When this is a perception of reality, things get overwhelming and, while I’m not a psychologist, I’m certain there are negative consequences there too.
So to avoid Twitter and Instagram I did the following:
First, I signed out of my personal accounts on my phone and any other device I use to access these platforms. Now I only receive notifications (if any – I’m still a human that needs a work-life balance) for work accounts. Because of this, my desire to check Instagram or Twitter constantly has gone down: the feed is no longer my own.
Second, I reserve my scrolling time for work hours. I do my copywriting and curation from my laptop, organizing posts on either Hootsuite (if available) or a Google spreadsheet. I can post to Twitter directly from my laptop, but Instagram, unless accessed through a platform like Hootsuite or Buffer, has a mobile posting platform only. No biggie though! If I’m interested in sharing a post to my story, or reposting another organization’s information I use the save feature, which I can then access from the account on my phone and post that way.
Finally, I replaced my scrolling habits with other activities. Working from home, I didn’t realize how much extra time I seem to waste on social media. Sure, I do my occasional TikTok scroll. Yes, I still read the news. But I also spend more time listening to new music, reading, or actually paying attention to the movies and TV shows I put on. There are so many hours in a day, how many can you waste on toxic diet culture and misinformation?
And I must close with this: it’s an immense privilege to “take a break” from overwhelming information at all. Social media to me is often the space where I see violence, death, and destruction. I’m often not physically living through it. I’m aware of this privilege. I’m also aware of the privilege involved in having a job that I can do from the comfort of my home right now. I’m doing my best to be understanding that social media is part of the problem, but these harmful things don’t only exist solely on the internet. Real suffering happens in real life.
I hope if you’re able to take a break from social media overload that you take an opportunity to do so. I hope that everyone can find ways to manage stress amidst our collective uncertainty. I hope I was able to provide some methods to aid in that stress relief.