Showing posts with label Social Media. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Social Media. Show all posts

Are Social Media Breaks Effective?


I am a big advocate of taking a break from social media.  As in, deleting the app from your phone for a set period of time.


Every December for the last couple years I have taken a break from social media.  Both times it has been a great reset, and I return refreshed and ready to set some boundaries.  However, if I’m honest, the effectiveness of those boundaries has varied.  Sometimes I set a rule or limit for myself that ends up being way too easy for me to cheat on, and I fall right back into old habits.  Sometimes my willpower lasts for a a couple months before those old, well-worn patterns start to re-emerge.  


It’s easy to dismiss slightly unhealthy social media habits as if they don’t matter - but they do matter.  Why else do we even feel a need to take social media breaks?  We know that social media can suck away at our time, at our lives.  That’s not really a small thing, is it?  It’s well worth the time to figure out how to combat the pull toward wasting time on social media.


Social media breaks can be so useful for clearing your mind.  There is a sense in which social media acts on our brains like a drug - we get a little dopamine hit every time we get a new notification on social media, and it keeps us coming back for more.  Social media breaks allow your brain to…for lack of a better word…detox from that loop, so that you can make decisions about your social media use with a clear head.


Did you get that last bit?  


You detox so you can make decisions.





Social media breaks by themselves are limited in their usefulness, in my opinion.  You might gain a little space during a period where you want that time back (new baby, the holiday season).  You might feel refreshed while you are off it - you lose that “yucky” feeling, you waste less time, you realize how nice it is to not have that opportunity for comparison constantly within reach.  But the second you upload that “I’m back!” post, you’ll be right back where you started.  UNLESS, you use your break to come up with a plan.  


This is how I handled my social media break last year.  I didn’t just take a break to get back a little time and attention for my family during Christmas (though that was a nice perk).  I read books about social media and found resources for creating digital boundaries.  I sat around and thought a lot about what I liked about social media, particularly Facebook, and what I didn’t like.  I made some really hard decisions and developed a plan, and when it was time to get back on, I followed through on those hard choices.


And I have to say, I’ve never been so satisfied with my Facebook use as I have been this past year.  I don’t feel sucked in by it like I used to, and the thought of giving it up for good isn’t even so crazy.  


But…that’s because I made some actual changes to my Facebook account that allowed me to be successful, and I kept the Facebook app off my phone.  If you take a social media break, but don’t use your break to be 100% honest with yourself about your social media use, how it’s negatively affecting your life, and how to change it - your break, in the long term, is probably going to get you exactly nowhere.


I know this because that’s what happened last year with Instagram and me.  With Facebook, I emerged from my break with some really clear ideas about what I wanted out of Facebook, and what specific steps I needed to take to make it what I wanted it to be.  I did not take the time to be so self-reflective about Instagram, and I have to say that this fall, I find myself right back where I was last year - hating how Instagram is sucking so much of my time, but unsure how to fix it.


You know what I’m going to do?  I’m going to make some obvious adjustments right now (why wait until December?), and then I may very well take another social media break, this time focusing my attention on Instagram.  I need a game plan, and I need time to sort it out.  That’s the key to having an effective social media break - coming up with a plan while you’re away.


Have you taken breaks from social media?  How long were your breaks?  Were they useful for your habits longterm?


Social Media And Me: An Update

 


Last year I unfriended half of my Facebook friends. 

It seemed like a drastic move, but it was the culmination of months of evaluation of social media and how I was using it.  I hated how my first instinct in the morning had become checking my phone.  I hated how I would randomly find myself with my phone in my hand and social media open, without actually remembering reaching for my phone.  I hated how social media had affected some of my friendships, and how it was affecting my own attitude toward the world.  I hated that it was stealing my time.


At the time, Facebook was my biggest struggle, so that is where I put all my thought and effort.  What were the things I liked about Facebook?  What were the things I didn’t like?  How could I make adjustments to keep the aspects that were useful to me and discard the rest?  What was making me waste so much time on Facebook, and how could I eliminate those factors?


After a lot of thought and even prayer about the subject, I decided the only thing that would help would be to drastically cut my friends list, unfollow a bunch of pages, and keep my Facebook use to the function that was most useful to me - which was sharing photos with my close family and friends who appreciated seeing them.  I wrote a whole post about my unfriending process here.  I think it even shocked some of you!  But I knew in my heart it had to be done.


Since I took the steps I outlined in that post, I have felt so much more free in regards to Facebook.  It’s not the time suck for me that it used to be.  I might check it once a day, but since I cracked down on my notifications and the people I follow, there is rarely something new.  I hop on and I hop off.  I’ll occasionally share albums so my grandparents can see my photos, and occasionally I’ll share an article that I find interesting, but that is rare.  My Facebook use overall has probably declined by 70%, and it feels great!


However, Instagram is a different story.





Is it possible that all my bad social media habits just switched over to Instagram?  Did the pandemic throw me off, since social media was the only way to connect with my friends for a while? I don’t know what went wrong, but Instagram has been slowly taking over my life this year, and I’ve realized that it’s time for me to re-evaluate that platform now.  I’m hoping I can make a similar transformation to my relationship with Facebook, because once again I find myself with my phone in my hand and Instagram open, without knowing how I got there.


I hate how social media (Instagram) steals all the free moments in my day.  Yes, they are small moments, times when I’m waiting for a child to finish a worksheet so we can move on to the next subject, or waiting in the line at the grocery store.  The ten minutes after my Bible reading in the morning, when I type out a quick Instagram post.  A half hour after my workout when I post a short video.  


But all those “small moments” add up to a lot of time, time that could be better spent on other things.  I could read a book while waiting for that worksheet.  I could shoot a quick text to a real-life friend in the grocery store line.  I could spend ten minutes memorizing Scripture.  I could take some time to just be still and think.


Those things are all worth so much more, in the long run, than a few hearts on Instagram.


So it’s time to evaluate Instagram.  Usually I would wait for my annual social media break, but after having a chat with Derek, I think I’m going to try a different approach to making Instagram adjustments.  More on that coming up this month.


Do you have any boundaries in place for yourself in regards to your time on social media? Or have you taken any measures to make it easier?

Why And How I Deleted Half My Facebook Friends



It's been two weeks since I cut my number of Facebook friends in half.

In November I decided to take a social media break (I wrote a little about why here), but through the entire year of 2019, I've been slowly starting to question the role that social media has been playing in my life.  I knew I was on social media way too much, using it as a distraction from the boring moments in my day.  The last straw was when I started to find myself holding my phone, scrolling through Instagram, without consciously making the decision to pick it up.

So right before Thanksgiving I got off Facebook and Instagram, which I've never done before.  During my break, I read several really helpful books, and took a good hard look at Facebook and Instagram to figure out what role I really wanted them to be playing in my life.  Maybe I'll discuss Instagram another day.  I'm still figuring that one out, since like it or not, Instagram is kind of the place for bloggers to be.  But today I thought I'd share one thing I figured out about Facebook over my social media break, and it's this:

Facebook keeps people from fading from your life.




If you had mentioned this to me a few years ago, I would have viewed that as a good thing.  Now, I'm not so sure.  I have started to consider that maybe some people are meant to fade from your life, and that doesn't have to be a bad thing.

There are people who aren't really friends, just acquaintances that passed through your life for a time. There are friends that you used to have alot in common with, but over the years you've drifted apart.  There are people that you were hoping to develop a friendship with, but years have passed and nothing has ever come of it.

I've always had a hard time letting people go, and I do still think there is value in being a tenacious friend, in making the effort to keep in touch with people who mean something to you.  But it's a tricky thing to balance when social media now gives you the ability to superficially keep in touch with your cousin's-husband's-sister who you met once five years ago.  Or that one person you hung out with at camp, but really don't know at all.  Or someone you used to work with, but who you haven't seen in five years.

Fifty years ago, you would have gradually lost touch with these people, no harm, no foul.  I used to think that was sad, but now I wonder whether it was a blessing in disguise.  These days, the social norm is for these relationships to linger indefinitely on Facebook, because no one wants to hurt the other's feelings by "unfriending" them.  If you dare to unfriend someone, you have to be prepared for the possibility of a conversation when you eventually run into them...or drama behind your back.

It must have been simpler back in the day when people were just allowed to drift apart.



One day I woke up and realized that a majority of my friends list on Facebook were these kinds of relationships.  People I don't really know anymore, or never really knew at all, had all this information about everything that was going on in my life, and I had information about what was going on in their life too.  But without ever putting in the effort to be an actual real-life friend to each other.

Not everyone should have unlimited access to your life.

And some people are meant to be in your life only for a season.

As I contemplate all of this, I also fully resonated with this article about how we make unfriending too much of a "thing".  I actually think we have made Facebook interactions in general too much of a "thing". The article mentions that we have started "validating our real life friendships by our online friendships", as if we aren't really friends with someone unless we are also Facebook friends with them.  I especially liked the question the author asks:

"When we feel like we need to add someone as a friend or maintain their access on Facebook in order to substantiate our interactions in reality, haven’t we reversed the natural process?"

And yes, I think we have.  




Personally, Facebook's most valuable functions in my life have always been as a convenient platform to share multiple photos with my grandparents and aunts and uncles (and other people who care about my children and don't get to see them often), and as a tool to facilitate real-world, face-to-face interactions with people.  

So during my Facebook break, I really started thinking about how to make sure that Facebook was serving those specific functions in my life, and drawing the line there.  To a certain extent, I had allowed social media to fill other functions in my life without my conscious permission.  I don't want Facebook to be a boredom buster, a friendship barometer, a self esteem-booster (or conversely, destroyer), a platform for all my thoughts (that's what this blog is for), a tool for life-comparison, an acquaintance-spying tool, or a cheap substitute for meaningful friendships (more on this coming in another post I think).  

I want Facebook to be just what I said - a photo-sharing tool between close friends and family, and a facilitator for setting up my face-to-face interactions.  That's all.

In order to fit Facebook into the box I had decided on, I realized that I was going to have to unfriend some people.  That's a hard decision to make, because for a lot of people, unfriending is taken as a personal insult.  I was afraid that some people, people I still like and wish the very best for, would take it that way.  I know some people probably did take it that way, but I posted this before I started purging, in an effort to explain:


"Hi Guys! I wanted to let you all know that in the next few days I'll be whittling down my friends list. Since taking my Facebook break, I've realized that some people struggle with social media more than others, and I am one of those people. I knew when I came back to Facebook I was going to have to make some changes, and this is one of them.If I disappear from your friend list in the next couple days, I hope with all my heart that you will know that it is nothing against you at all! This is more about my own personal social media mental health (how's that for a made-up term?), in an effort to maintain a proper balance in my digital life. If you ever want to connect or get together with me, I would absolutely welcome interaction outside of Facebook, through a text, phone call, email, snail mail, etc!  I'm thankful for all of you, and what you've added to my life over the years! I hope we can connect in the future outside a screen.  <3"


And then I took the advice and encouragement from someone who has done this before, and I cut over half of my friend's list.



Time will tell if there will be unforeseen negative repercussions, but so far I've received mostly positive responses.  I'll continue to refine my friend's list until I've achieved the balance that I'm looking for, but for now, I feel lighter.  I'm satisfied that Facebook is now more functional as a tool that serves me, instead of the other way around.  And I'm spending much less time on it.

The hardest part for me in purging my friends list was deciding who to keep and who to let go. As I tried to make some hard decisions, I was heartened by this quote from Digital Minimalism:

"It's worth noting that refusing to use social media...to interact means that some people will inevitably fall out of your social orbit - in particular, those whose relationship with you exists only over social media.  Here's my tough love reassurance - let them go. The idea that it's valuable to maintain vast numbers of weak-tie social connections is largely an invention of the past decade or so...Humans have maintained rich and fulfilling social lives for our entire history without needing the ability to send a few bits of information each month to people we knew briefly during high school."
-Digital Minimalism, pg 155

Let them go.

So I held my breath and took the plunge.  I kept some people that I am hopeful will turn into real-world friends, but I may have to do another purge in the future if nothing comes of those relationships.  I let go of some people that I genuinely like and wouldn't mind being friends with - but I've been Facebook friends with them for years, and we never see each other anymore.

I hope those people will understand that even though we are no longer Facebook friends, that doesn't mean that I don't want real-life interaction with them.  I am hoping that anyone who really would  have liked to keep in touch with me will reach out to set something up, or send a note, outside of social media.

And for the ones that don't - well, I guess we were meant to fade from each other's lives after all.






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