I made the decision to take a breather from social media last year after a particularly devastating breakup in the middle of 2017.
I started by deactivating my Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts and then deleting these apps from my phone. Next, I chose to live in a place with no WI-FI so I wouldn’t replace the time off social media with binging on Netflix shows. Finally, I told anyone who would listen that I was on a social media break, so they would hold me accountable.
I started off thinking I would do it for three months, but three months went by and the benefits of being off social media were so great that I decided to extend the break for another three months.
For anyone thinking about taking a break, consider the benefits I gained outlined below. I hope they convince you to take this huge leap.
1) I healed faster:
After reading copious articles on how to get over a breakup, I found that one piece of advice was consistent — to not stalk your ex on social media. The only bullet-proof plan against stalking was to deactivate and delete my social media apps off my phone.
With little distraction left, I soon found that I was spending more time acknowledging the throbbing pain that I was feeling in my chest and the panic attacks that came at 4am when my mind realized that the nightmare I was having was my reality. Left without the distraction of mindlessly scrolling down my feed, I had no choice but to confront my pain head on by processing my thoughts and feelings, which I did through a lot of writing, crying and sitting in candle-lit rooms drinking wine. When I tired of these tactics, I began to come up with more interesting ideas on how to ease the pain I was feeling, and that’s when the fun truly started. I do not believe I would have come up with these ideas had I had the option of binging on social media and getting a rush of dopamine here and there, from a like or two.
2) I picked up new hobbies and did bolder, fun stuff:
One of the ideas on how to ease my pain that came to mind was signing up for contemporary dance and French classes. For my contemporary dance classes, I picked three songs that reflected the healing journey I was going through. My plan was to nail three choreography routines, perform and record them. I enjoyed those dance classes thoroughly and my instructor was right when he said that I would soon fall so deeply in love with dancing that I would forget that my motivation starting off was to get over an ex. As for French class, I got to pick up a language that I had studied for eight years and that I had let slip. For three months, I went to both classes three times a week. I would get home feeling accomplished, happy and, most importantly, too tired to think about my heartbreak or my Instagram.
If these classes weren’t enough, I picked up motorcycling AND went to Greece by myself. I do not think I would have had the mental capacity to dream all these activities and make them a reality if I had been distracted.
3) I started to think more imaginatively:
I was freeing up about two hours each day by not being on social media, amounting to 14 hours in a week. Rather than being on my phone during my commute, I’d either be reading or staring out of the window thinking about random stuff. When I got home from work, I spent some time lazing on my couch, book in hand, drinking a glass of wine. During these periods of deep thought, I came up with ideas that I consider rather artistic (and I find this intriguing because I always thought I had no artistic bone in my body). Some of the best and fun ideas that I came up with were designs for outfits that were then brought to life by my tailor. Here is one:
4) I procrastinated less and got a lot of stuff done:
Before this social media break, my best procrastination tools were Facebook and Instagram. I soon found there were no better procrastination tools out there for me and I had no choice but to start working on projects that I had been postponing for weeks, months and some even for years. I got to achieve the elusive state of deep work, hacking through my to-do list distraction free. Some of the tasks I accomplished during that period and that I am most proud of include: studying and sitting for my GRE exam, applying to my dream master’s program and finally, developing and launching a new community organizing project in Nairobi called Baraza.
5) I slept better:
Finally, my sleep improved extraordinarily probably because after dance and French class, I was exhausted. I also attribute my ability to sleep well to not spending time on my phone while in bed (a habit that can disrupt your sleep cycle and exacerbate insomnia). My morning routine also changed and rather than grabbing my phone to check on social media as I always had, I began to meditate every morning, which set me up for calmer days.
I got back to social media a few weeks back (for a total of three weeks) and it was great reconnecting with friends, but I soon found that I was tired and almost neurotic from all the mental stimulation and all the dopamine I was getting from likes on my posts. I’m now on another two-week or one-month break (I’m keeping it flexible to suit my needs) to allow me to finish some big projects.
Am I over the heartbreak? Not yet, but I’m getting closer and closer and truly immersing myself in this distraction-free healing journey and reaping all its benefits while at it.
Have you ever taken a social media break? Or are you thinking of taking one? I’m curious to hear about your journey.