Inspired by Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism, I decided to take a much-needed social media sabbatical. Highs, lows, and everything in between, here’s what happened when I quit social media for 31 days.
I love social media. With just a few clicks, I can check in with high school and college friends, share compelling articles, and give my opinion on the latest Janet Jackson documentary. Great, right? Eh, it’s not all peachy as we know.
Over the years, I’ve spent a ridiculous number of hours engaged in value-less online debates, doom scrolling, and watching dumb “challenges”. Remember being intrigued by how many crates someone could walk up without busting their behind? I’m embarrassed.
Yes, social media has SOME positive benefits, but if not careful, can also be a huge time drain. Inspired by Cal Newport, I took a break. Through my experience, I want you to assess the $25,000 question: Should You Quit Social Media?
My Growing Social Media Habit
I first joined Facebook in 2005. Yes, back when there was a “the” before Facebook in the URL, and you had to be a college student to use it. Back then, I primarily used Facebook to connect with high school friends, and occasionally post pictures of my amazing (and studious) days as an undergraduate at Bowling Green State University, Ohio.
Due to Facebook’s limited user base, and lack of add-on features like messenger and status-posting, it was a fairly quiet platform at first. Well, aside from the hundreds of wall posts you’d get on your birthday. The best part was there were no random conspiracies or “fake news” stories swirling around. That’s right, so-n-so’s “intellectually challenged” Uncle couldn’t post random YouTube videos about the Government putting microchips in BBQ-flavored Doritos. Ahh, the good ole days.
As the platform evolved, I became a regular user. The ability to share my assorted musings on money, sports, politics, music, dating, and whatever else, became a staple in my life. Over the years, I expanded my social media presence to Instagram and Twitter, using all three to share as much education, encouragement, and entertainment as possible. My mission.
Taking a Break
In early 2021, I realized I was spending a bit too much time on social media, as evidenced by iPhone’s screen time metrics. I decided to limit my social media use to 1.5 hours a day, across all platforms. Minimizing distractions was a game-changer. As my ability to focus without distraction improved, my productivity increased. Which left me more free time to read!
I read a book a month and cruised down my “to-read” list of nonfiction. Finally, I got to Cal Newport‘s books in the fall. If you are unfamiliar with him, he’s the author of Deep Work and Digital Minimalism. After finishing both back-to-back, it became clear that I needed do something I’ve never done in over 16 years of social media usage: take a break.
The timing, however, wasn’t great. I was in the last stretch of my daily #365DaysofWellbeing Twitter campaign, so I decided to finish out 2021 with an online presence and then remove all apps. I decided January 2022 would be an entire month of absolutely NO social media.
The first day of January was, strange. I was so used to waking up and checking all social media platforms first thing in the morning, and then multiple times throughout the day. All of a sudden, the most entertaining app on my phone was “Weather”. Avoiding the desktop websites was also challenging.
As the month went on, the “cravings” subsided. Resisting temptation got easier, and after a while I didn’t even think about what I was “missing” online.
More importantly, I learned how to replace my social media habits with more quality activities, such as:
- Daily morning walks
- Daily personal finance research and writing
- Reading two chapters a day
- Evening drum practice
- Speaking to close friends/family on the (gasp) phone
- Evening home organization projects
In just a couple weeks, I tripled my productivity. I was thinking more clearly, could better estimate how long tasks would take me, finished tasks without being distracted, and straightened out my physical space.
More Time For Paid Projects
Having a better grip on my time also allowed me to take on more paid financial education projects. For example, each Friday I provide virtual financial counseling in an online community for problem gambling therapists.
I’m getting more accomplished in less time, which means I have “more” time to earn additional income. If you were wondering where the “money lesson” was in this musing, voila!
It must be added that this new-found appreciation for time just isn’t about money, though. I thoroughly feel better since becoming more intentional with my time and practically eliminating social media. I even have a stricter “wind down” routine where I:
- Stop work by a certain time
- Enjoy an un-rushed shower
- Reconcile my daily planner (planned vs actuals)
- “Gun myself” with my Theragun percussive massager
A couple nights a week, I even allow myself to (GASP) watch 30 min of TV. I’m living a more balanced life while still being extremely productive.
Should You Take a Social Media Break?
While I do think social media breaks are AH-MA-ZING, you ultimately have to gauge your own relationship with social media. Only you know the degree to which you use and rely on social media.
Take an objective look at your screen time metrics and decide for yourself if you undoubtedly gain more from investing your time and energy into social media than what it costs you. Just don’t make any excuses for yourself; be honest.
It’s your call, but I (and Cal Newport) encourage you to try a 30-day break. If after 30 days you want to go back to using social media exactly as you were before, you can. If you doubt you can be disciplined enough, don’t count yourself out before you try. That applies to life!
After my 31-day sabbatical, I did “check in” on my social pages just to say “Hi”. I don’t plan to stay around for long though; I really dig life without it.
Once I am ready to come back, I will return with super strict rules like desktop only, less than 15 min a day, defined posting goals, and only on the platforms that are truly worth it. Intentionality!
P.S. This journey of my social media sabbatical was originally shared in my weekly newsletter. After some thought, I decided to also publish it as the blog post you’re reading. Every week in my newsletter, I share tips, resources, and insights on how you can strengthen your relationship with money. Most of these topics don’t end up as a blog post.
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