I’ve never done a social media cleanse, but I highly admire those who have done it before and continue to do so. Social media has become so ingrained in my lifestyle that I regularly find myself automatically typing “Facebook.com” into my computer or tapping the Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat apps on my phone. I tend to trick myself into thinking that scrolling through social media for a few minutes will help me relax after a stressful day of classes, only to look up from my phone or laptop screen an hour later having accomplished nothing and still feeling just as stressed out as before I started.
While social media is not inherently bad, it can definitely introduce a host of problems that I would have been better off without -- and I think this may be true for many other people, too. Personally, I don’t know if I’m capable of doing a complete social media fast for a whole month or even a whole week, but there are definitely baby steps I -- and many others in the same boat -- can take to disconnect from social media a bit and engage more fully with the surrounding world.
1. Spend time in nature.
It sounds pretty simple, and it’s something we’ve all thought of, but spending time in nature is a great way to take a step back from technology and bask in the wonder of the world around us. There are many ways to enjoy nature in every season -- go for a walk, run, swim, go kayaking/canoeing/boating, snowboard, ski, ride a bike, even simply sit on a bench in the park and soak everything in. There’s something about taking in vitamin D and enjoying nature that can open our eyes to the beauty of this world and all that it has to offer, which goes way beyond the shallow depth of our technological screens.
Many of us probably get our daily news and updates from our devices, but what if we put those away and reached for a physical newspaper or magazine instead? I find that the tactile sensation of turning a page and hearing the papers crinkle and rustle are inherently part of the joy of reading and taking in information. The same goes for reading books; I have never been a Kindle or Nook fan, as I love the feeling of holding a physical book, hefting its weight in my hands, and feeling anticipation tingle through my fingers just before I turn the page to find out what happens next in the story. Taking time to read something substantial and enthralling can turn out to be so much more life-giving and imaginative than mindlessly scrolling through memes and other people’s posts on social media.
3. Spend time with people face-to-face.
It’s not always possible to meet up with friends in person, but when we do have that luxury, it’s best to take advantage of it. Spending time with people face-to-face, rather than texting in isolation (or worse, while ignoring the people you’re currently with), definitely requires more effort on your part -- but it also leads to more genuine, open, and solid relationships with others. Being with another person or a group of people forces you to be present, to be grounded in that moment, and to give of yourself freely so that you can build the most meaningful friendship you can. Even if you’re not in the mood to be social and interact with others, you never know what taking the plunge can lead to (trust me, I’ve been in that situation many times, and choosing to spend time with others is much more often than not the better, more life-giving decision).
4. Actually relax.
Oftentimes, the reason I turn to social media is because I’m feeling stressed or mentally exhausted, and I think that going on Facebook or Instagram will help me de-stress. Nine times out of ten, this kind of thinking is a mistake. Social media only makes me more anxious and stressed most of the time, probably thanks to the constant, self-proliferating stream of information and photos of other people’s touched-up and filtered perfection.
If you feel the same way, maybe it’s time to consider alternative, more helpful ways of relaxing. Think about what truly calms you down and allows you to feel at peace. You may want to tap into your creative side by listening to music; drawing, painting, or photographing; playing an instrument; writing; or perhaps even journaling your thoughts and reflections for the day. Another option is simply to sleep … who doesn’t love a good nap? Sometimes naps can leave us feeling refreshed and give us a new perspective about a stressful situation; hence the saying, “Sleep on it.”
When it comes down to it, there are many other ways we could be spending our time rather than using social media. Let’s embrace the options we have to live life to the fullest in the here and now.