Despite not having a religious bone in my body, every year for Lent I give something up. In the past I’ve given up alcohol, online shopping and chocolate, to name a few. I like to abstain during Lent because it’s not just after Christmas (when New Year Resolutions are just begging to be broken) and it lasts longer than a month. This year we’d suffered a miscarriage just a few days before Lent started and so everything was painful, but especially logging onto Facebook and Instagram where the world and their dog were sharing news of new babies and healthy baby scans (well not actually their dog obviously – although that would be quite cool if dogs had puppy scan pics!). It wasn’t that we weren’t happy for our friends and family, but it was all a bit too raw. Therefore, this Lent seemed liked the perfect time to give up social media.
As with many of the things I have given up in the past, once the decision was made to stay off of these sites I didn’t actually miss them. Shamefully though, what I did seem to miss was wasting half my life on my phone! So my Duolingo app and the BBC news website got a lot more of my attention than usual.
In particular, I found the break from Facebook to be a huge relief, almost like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I realised that I was often judging Facebook posts and their posters (and not usually in a good way!), thinking things like “Why on earth is so and so wasting their lives (and mine) posting rubbish like this?” or “Do we really need to know this?” or “Instead of asking Facebook why not Google it?” or “Gosh, so and so is really very left/right wing” or worse still “Crikey – my family/friends/acquaintances are racists!”. Plus it annoyed me that I would check in several times a day to see the statuses of people that I haven’t seen in the flesh for years. I realised that none of my real friends really post much on Facebook and so I wasn’t even using it for what it was intended for, keeping up with the lives of the people you care about.
When it came to Instagram I did miss it more, or rather, I felt the urge to go back to it after the experiment had finished. The reason for this is twofold, I have one personal Instagram account where I follow a very select few close friends/family members, including my son who uses it a lot, so I can catch up with my besties and families but not worry about people I don’t really “get”. However, I also have a public cooking account where I publish pictures of my food (yes I’m one of those!) and follow a whole heap of vegan chefs and foodies – which I love, because I’m food mad. So both of these accounts offer me exactly what I want and nothing less than what I want. Plus on the whole I think you get a lot more positive content when people are just posting pictures, which is where Instagram is a winner for me.
Easter (the end of Lent) was a while ago now and I have not even peaked at Facebook, in fact, I’ve deactivated my account, because I know that I am a better person without it. I am not getting wound up by petty little things or allowing myself to be dragged down by negativity and useless comparisons. I have higher self-esteem, feelings of self-worth and just feel like a nicer person. Plus I get to concentrate on what people are saying to me, or to understand what is happening on the TV, as my head is not stuck in my phone all the time.
I cannot recommend a digital detox highly enough.