A Different Kind of Cleanse for 2018
My Week Exploring What It Really Means To Go On A "Social Media Cleanse"
This past weekend, I decided that I was going to delete my social media for a week. Yes, you’re right- that means Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, etc. The only one I found myself having to keep was Facebook, and that was for messages from my school organization. I’d heard of several people doing this in recent past, and that plus a couple of other factors pushed me to just do it.
Have you ever heard a friend say they’d go with you to something because, “Oh, we could take cute Insta pics there?” or have somebody spend more time posting their cool meal on every social platform rather than having actual conversation with you at a restaurant? Are you one of those people? I can put my hand up and say that I have totally been there. It wasn’t until more recent months that I really started noticing it in not only others, but myself, and it really started to bother me.
This summer I worked at a camp where we didn’t have our phones on us except for maybe an hour or two a day, and even then the service was horrible. It was during these few months that I really learned to appreciate what is was to not be so concerned and connected with social media all the time. Yes, I’d still post pictures on the weekends, but it wasn’t consuming hours of my day. We've all read the articles about how millennials and younger are growing more and more attached to their devices in hand.
Last Friday night, I went with a friend to go see a dance performance at UT called “In The Ether.” It drew attention to how we are influenced by social media in the sense of how we both respond to and change what we’re doing to make our lives seem more “ideal”. Now, I’ve always been interested by dance, but this was the first time I’d seen a piece that really spoke to me. I totally understood everything the piece was trying to say. The rest of the show, I couldn't stop thinking about how much I wanted to delete my social media, and by the end of the show, I’d made my choice to do so. All of the scientific evidence supports it- so why aren't more people paying attention to how this new science is influencing them?
So, is a social media cleanse right for you? After deleting all of mine last Saturday night, this is how my week went:
Sunday, I got up early to go and collect Thanksgiving boxes with my mom at church. The whole time, I found myself wanting to post pictures of what I was doing, but I kept asking myself why? Was I trying to prove to people online that I was a good person for volunteering at my church? Sunday was hard, because I was still in the habit of reaching for my phone every couple of minutes and wanting to check Instagram, because we all know Sundays are the best to post, right?
Monday was my first weekday without my social media. At work, I was surprised to find an entire Thanksgiving lunch banquet being thrown for staff. It was amazing. Again, I wanted to post pictures on Snapchat, so I could show people what a cool job I had, but I couldn’t. Instead, I found myself talking to the other women on staff sitting at my table. I’d never spoken to them, but I found we were having effortless conversations about world travel, family traditions, and even politics. These were conversations I might have never had if I'd been preoccupied by my phone the entire luncheon.
Tuesday, I got to go eat dinner with my boss and friends from the camp I worked at this past summer! It was so nice to see some of the people who I’d spent 3 consecutive months with in one place again. Other than pictures of us as a group at the end of dinner, we were all having nice conversations with each other. It felt so good to be fully present with one another and to practice active listening. We were in the moment, and not distracted by our phones. I only looked at mine maybe twice the entire evening, so I'm going to take that small accomplishment.
Wednesday, I was sent on a wild turkey chase, literally. I got to deliver 125 pounds of raw turkey to my relatives' houses, as I’d volunteered us all to help cook them for a Boys and Girls Club Thanksgiving dinner the following day. Along the way, I got to see my mom, grandparents, and a cousin. At my aunt’s house, they're currently fostering kittens, which of course, I had to stop and play with for half an hour (I even picked one out for my apartment, but we’ll have to see if we go through with it…). Either way, who can complain about playing with kittens?
Thursday was my organization’s Boys and Girls Club Thanksgiving party, where the kids of BGC and their families were invited to share a meal with us at a nearby elementary school. I got to set up and serve people from my city, while interacting with the kids who I got to see throughout the semester and their families. My grandpa spent hours beforehand cutting up the 5 turkeys my mom, aunt, and grandma had collectively cooked. It was nice not just to give back, but to do something together as a family in the spirit of a holiday that I really love and appreciate.
Friday morning I woke up early to go make sandwiches with my grandparents at our church for Mobile Loaves and Fishes of Austin. I not only wanted to thank them in some way for all the work they’d done for me this week, but get to spend some time with them in a setting that didn’t involve them giving me anything or doing anything for me in particular. I just wanted to be in their presence and show them that I loved them, and it was great. And even better? I didn't even think of my phone once.
By now, I don’t even really miss social media. I find that my life is just as hectic and busy without it; I don’t know how I ever balanced the two. Even now, thinking of downloading my social media apps doesn’t sound appealing. I worry that I’ll fall back into a mindset of comparing myself to others. Not once, but on several occasions, I caught myself complaining that I hadn’t gotten enough likes on an Instagram post, and I was so mad at myself for letting me get to that point of reliance on others’ approval.
While doing this mini-experiment the week before Thanksgiving was a total coincidence, I think it really highlighted some important things for me. Thanksgiving was the last holiday I got to celebrate with my dad before he passed away, so it'll always have a special place in my heart, but this week has revealed to me all the extra time I have to spend with the people I love and really give back to my community when I’m not so focused on myself and purely benefiting from the people and places around me. I'm genuinely thankful for the people and resources I'm surrounded with, as I've seen them actively at work in my life this week.
I don’t think several days is enough time to really “cleanse” ourselves of the habits instilled within us from social media usage. I know that my habits are far from being gone, but I’m not trying to perfect myself over night. From here on out, I think I’m only going to let myself view social media on the weekends, limiting myself to 2 days a week. Just as with any other bad habit, you can't just stop over night. It takes training your body and mind to work toward something different, channeling your time and energy into something else instead. Who knows what my habits will be like over the upcoming holiday breaks, but I think it’s more important to focus our awareness on noticing the habits and being conscious of the effect they’re having on our mentality and lifestyle is more critical than it is to focus on being at our perfect end goal or simply on what others' think of you.