Before I begin my blog post I just wanted to say; PLEASE don’t read this and feel bad! If you can, read my thoughts on my digital consumption and take them as one viewpoint, or maybe coffee addled ramblings! I’m not putting myself down here, I’m proud of what I’ve decided to do. I just know that if you’re reading this, you might already be beating yourself up about how much you check Facebook or Instagram, and I’m trying (perhaps in vain) to persuade you not to do that whilst you read this blog post. Deal?
I have been feeling ‘bad’ whilst checking social media for years. Not always mind you, sometimes I found it exciting or interesting and it definitely served as a good distraction from unhelpful thoughts when I first moved to London and was terrified for about 18 hours per day. I don’t think social media is bad in itself; I mean I think Facebook is pretty rubbish to be honest, for me it’s all ads and no light relief from everyday life. But the thing that was really getting to me was that I nearly always felt some kind of negative emotion when I was checking social media. Loneliness, jealousy, anxiety, guilt and frustration to name but a few. And I was totally addicted! So addicted… I felt myself panicking if my phone wasn’t in sight or had run out of battery. Checking social media was a trigger for anxiety and it was also a sign that I was feeling anxious. It wasn’t serving me anymore, so I decided to address that directly a week ago. I’m on a digital diet!
I tried a few things before this; I tried making sure my phone was out of sight, or leaving it in a different room. I tried only checking social media for a few seconds at a time. And they were all fine, but I knew I needed to do something more. I spoke to my sister when I decided to try and not check social media for a week. She’s really good at boundaries and goal setting and together we set some rules –
Only check social media for half an hour per day, after 7pm
Be aware of how many times we’re checking other messages and emails
That was it! We also agreed to let each other know how we were doing.
On day one, I felt an emptiness in my stomach. Honestly! I felt a bit sick and anxious like I was craving something (which I was). But almost immediately I felt relief. I didn’t have to check social media. I had excused myself from that repetitive, unsatisfying activity, and I found that extremely relaxing. But it was tough!
One thing I’ve noticed is how much more productive I’ve been. That wasn’t my goal, but it’s a nice outcome. I have applied for three artist’s commissions in the past week, worked my two day a week job, studied for my Masters and worked on my current commission. And it’s been much easier.
From day three, to now, which is day 7, it has become easier and easier. I get tempted all of the time, especially just at that moment when my concentration wanes and I need a bit of a brain-break. And also first thing in the morning and last thing at night. But I’ve done pretty well. I’ve even used Facebook for work without scrolling or checking my notifications.
Train journeys have been much more relaxing too! I’ve even looked out of the window (imagine). I have been noticing where I am, and how I am, much much more recently. And I’m quite excited at the opportunity that’s going to give me to make decisions that will make me happy. I know it’s a lot to expect from just not checking Instagram but I mean it!
I have been taking photos during the day and then posting them in the evening in my half hour slot, to keep up with the social media activity I want to maintain for my career. I could probably get better at that, but I’m going to just enjoy the relief of not checking it 100 times a day for a few weeks first! I’m also missing the attention I was getting when I was posting loads of times per day, to be honest with you. But I’m OK with that, and I think it will get easier.
So there it is, my digital diet. I’m going to carry on, absolutely. I am almost certain I won’t go back to my previous habit with social media. But wish me luck, because I was pretty addicted!
Written by Najia Bagi for Elevate. Find out more at www.najiabagi.com