Embracing the void: thoughts on my social media ban

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I fully expected my social media ban to be uncomfortable. But never did I expect that it would uncover some deep and existential personal issues. Or as my friend Jenny just said in helping me brainstorm for this post:

I took a break from social media and it kinda broke me.

I started a monthlong social media ban on a whim. In fact, I only dreamt about doing one, woke up the next morning, and decided to start immediately.

I posted on my accounts saying I was taking a break, and promptly deleted the apps from my phone. I logged out on my browser just in case I stumbled across Facebook by accident and I was logged in.

There were some sneak cheats, one to get in touch with a family member and another to hide an Instagram post that didn't post correctly from a third-party app.

Anyway, let's get to the meat of this experiment.


I Didn't Miss Social Media Per Se

Why did I do the ban? Because I was finding myself mindlessly scrolling through Instagram. I would open apps right after I closed them, expecting to see new content. Somehow social media grabbed me by the hand and said, "Here, I promise I'll show you pretty things that will make you feel good."

I wanted to stop feeling that twitch to check my Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts.

I wanted to live in the moment and not feel like I had to capture it in a quippy tweet or a picture-perfect Instagram post.

Well, it turns out that wasn't what I was getting out of social media to begin with.

My Online Shopping Increased

Since the social media ban began, I've shopped a LOT more online. Which totally defeats the purpose of my prior shopping ban.

So it became clear: social media and shopping is filling some sort of void within me.

What Void Am I Trying to Fill?

Do I feel more complete if I have access to social media and get social validation through likes and comments? Do I feel better about myself if I am buying new shiny things?

Yes and no.

Early on in my social media ban, I felt this sense of "why am I doing this?" in regards to blogging. I realized by sharing post updates on Instagram, I was essentially publishing a new photo and then waiting to feel "heard" through likes and comments.

Without the notifications, it felt like I was shouting at clouds over here on the blog.

But it also made me realize that most of my traffic is coming from Pinterest, so posting on IG is kind of fruitless anyway.

So I quickly got over that feeling of pointlessness and kept going on the blog.

The Distraction Factor

So, I love my job. It's challenging and I love to be challenged.

But it can be hard to get yourself into a flow. In fact, it can take up to 23 minutes after an interruption to get back into the zone.

I realized the core of my issue: This need for distraction is procrastination at its finest. If I have a difficult task in front of me, I will look for distractions instead of buckling down. A distraction, whether social media, texting, or shopping, is like permission not to be really focused and get hard work done.

So it’s not social media that’s the issue, it’s me.

Welp, What Now?

Well yeah, that's a great realization. Yay for self-awareness. But what now?

Do I continue the social media ban? Nah. It wasn't social media to begin with.

Do I do both a social media ban and a shopping ban simultaneously? No. That won't fix the heart of the issue.

What I need is a hard lesson in FOCUS.

I just signed myself up for a Mindfulness Focus course via my idol/hypothetical pal, Leo Babauta of Zen Habits.

Focus and Productivity

I used to kill it with focus and productivity. I'd talk all about scheduling blocks of bulk work, getting up early to write, and turning off iPhone notifications to kill distractions.

All that needs to happen for me? I need to get back to that.

What's your relationship with focus versus distractions? Does social media provide a welcome distraction for you, or do you manage to keep a healthy relationship with it?

Cover photo by Kari Shea