Social Media Sabbatical (Day 2)
I don't really know what prompted my decision to give up social media for a month. It is not like a put a lot of conscious thought into the matter. The other day when driving to work it dawned on me that it would be good for my well-being to try and kick this "time suck" of a habit for a while and see what happens. So here I am.... two days into my social media fast.
I have three personal social media accounts: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I also have a Facebook page/work account for my book, Slow Your Roll- Mindfulness for Fast Times, which has just over 16,000 awesome followers. For transparency's sake, let me clarify. I will still post two times per day on my work account (memes, blog posts, and articles). Each post will literally take a few seconds, and then I will be off. The goal is not look at my three personal accounts at all.
This exercise is not a condemnation of social media. I have nothing against it. If the truth be told, I actually love it (probably too much!). Even though I did not initially put much thought into my self-imposed break from social media, upon further reflection, I now have a couple of objectives with this experiment. Firstly, I want to break the bad habit of wasting so much time in this virtual parallel universe and live life where it is intended to be lived, in the real world. I often find social media to be an endless rabbit hole. Once I get started scrolling, it is hard to stop. Minutes can turn to hours in what seems like a blink of the eye. As a mindfulness teacher, I want to practice what I preach. Cultivating a more mindful relationship with social media is a positive step in that direction. Secondly, I do not like anything having a hold over me. In other words, I want to free myself from my addiction to social media. My goal is to break this habit in a month. Once I do this, I hope to be able to return to social media in a more measured/limited manner.
Just two days into this sabbatical I have already noticed just how often I turn to these accounts without even thinking. Whenever I have a moment of downtime, I catch myself reaching for my phone. In fact, I find myself doing this so often, that it is disconcerting. It seems like I was using social media as an emotional pacifier. Whenever I did not want to deal with something, I would pick up my phone and start scrolling, numbing myself to the world around me. This habit so ingrained in me, I do it automatically, with no thought whatsoever. It is like a reflex action.
I have always heard that every time we get on social media a hit of dopamine is produced in our brains. This chemical messenger is also associated with food, drugs, sex, and gambling. I can say without a doubt that this is going to be a hard habit to break. I keep reaching for my fix--- a craving emerges--- then I reach for my phone and catch myself. This cycle happens over and over. This is madness. There is a neurological component to my dirty habit as over time "neurons that fired together wired together." Therefore, thanks to neuroplasticity, it is deeply etched into my brain and will take some time to undo.
Most of the time I enjoy seeing what my friends are doing on social media. However, sometimes, the drama gets to be a bit much. The negativity can also be downright overwhelming. We now live in a society where everyone wants to emote non-stop. This is one of the reasons for my social media diet. Similar to eating too much for Thanksgiving dinner, my mind gets stuffed with too much consumption on social media. Like the old Tom Petty song goes, "You're jammin' me, your'e jammin' me." I am sure many will say the same about some of my posts. I certainly understand.
Social media encourages us to care too much what other people think. As comedian Marc Maron wisely said, "Have you ever had that moment when you're updating your status and you realize that every status update is just a variation of a single request: WOULD SOMEONE PLEASE ACKNOWLEDGE ME"?
This should be interesting. Stay tuned.....
Greg Graber, the author of Slow Your Roll- Mindfulness for Fast Times, teaches mindfulness and Social & Emotional (SEL) skills to schools, top sports teams, and various organizations around the world. Graber, a frequent keynote speaker, currently serves as the Director of SEL at Lausanne Collegiate School. He may be contacted through his website: www.greggraber.com