At the beginning of November, we challenged our little group of followers to 30 days without checking in on the socials. While our challenges are typically of the nature to push users to think about their relationships with their tech use, this particular one stemmed from my own conviction to take a break from the newsfeed cycle.  

Several years ago, I quit Facebook and I have not one time looked back. I quit my personal Instagram account about two years ago (though I have not quite figured out how to actually DELETE it…), and have logged in maybe three times over those two years to scroll some personal accounts. The only social media access I really have now is through our shared work IG—we post here, and mostly follow accounts who are in our same vein of work, belief, and offer some encouragement. But that darn browse feature on IG gets me, and I find myself reaching for my phone to see what Russel and Ciara are up to or to watch a bit of Seth Meyer’s biting commentary on the news. Neither of which really matter, but both of which I find entertaining.

The point is this: I was convicted that I needed some space to reset my brain, and to train myself to reach for something besides the IG scroll when I had some personal down time. What follows are my week by week notes. I’ve left them mostly un-edited so that the feelings of the week remain true to what was going on in my head. At the end, I’ll jump in with how I felt once I logged back in, and what my plan is going forward.

Week one (November 5, 2020):

We started the challenge on Monday this week (November 2), right before the election. Today is Thursday. I’m glad for the break in social media on this week.

I’m an enneagram 1. Having hard and fast rules works for me. I generally do better when there isn’t room for me to negotiate wiggle room, so when I tell everyone I’m not going to be on social media for 30 days, it’s easier than if I privately commit to it—or if I tell myself “I’ll only check at naps or bedtime.”

That’s what I’ve been dong—the nap or bedtime check. But what I’d found myself doing instead was looking forward to those times of days so that I could check IG. And instead of resting, reading, sitting, or joining in on stories on the kids’ bed, I’d cozy up with my phone for 20 minutes deep-diving on absolutely nothing.

There’s a tiny part of me that’s curious to see what “people” are saying about the election buzz. But a bigger part of me is glad to not be seeing it. I’m checking news websites occasionally, and figure, really, someone will let me know word of mouth when there’s a winner. I don’t actually have to watch it live.

Week two (November 12, 2020): 

There have been a few times this week where I’ve forgotten about the 30 day challenge. I haven’t scrolled IG, but when I grabbed my phone, check the usual messaging apps (texts, emails, Voxer, Marco Polo), I found myself going to the IG app but then remembering the fast.

Old habits die hard, I guess? I also found myself reaching for my phone a lot this week in general. All of my notifications are turned off—as research and experts suggest, but I’m wondering if that’s really helpful, or if having the small red number indicator back in place might help me not wonder if someone messaged (I currently have to open texts, email etc. to see if anything is new. While this has been helpful, this week, I find myself repeatedly checking to see if friends have message back—and if they haven’t, it’s such a bummer.)

I don’t miss the random scrolling of IG, but there are some fun personalities I miss, simply for entertainment purposes.

My new goal I think will be to leave my phone off the couch at night and be better about grabbing my book or the paper. My good intentions of reading more are often lost to minutes doing absolutely nothing on my phone—even with social media gone. This is the behavior I’m looking to re-train. I want to be okay just being, and not having to fill in every gap.

Week three (November 19, 2020):

We went out of town for the first half of this week and I was glad I didn’t have social media as an option. Our trip was built around intentionally doing nothing—so we did. We read, napped, watched a movie, went for a walk. I was glad to not have social media as an out to fill the quiet. I know from previous holidays and vacations, that when I check IG specifically, I tend to feel like whatever we are doing on that holiday/vacation isn’t measuring up to someone else’s IG square. So pressure was off—just relax.

I did feel the need to have my phone accessible so Grandma could to check in a few times and I had to contact one child’s school twice. Once I grabbed it for a noble purpose, it was hard to not check texts, emails, Voxer, etc. So while I didn’t scroll for the 10-20 minutes I might on IG, I still found myself checking my phone for something new. 

It was still tempting at night to grab my phone and check out. Nathan was working on the computer last night, we’d already watched a show, I finished my book, and the itch was there to see what was going on in that tiny screen. A few text messages just don’t hit that same spot. I need to move the paper into the cozy couch room for those times when I just want to browse. 

One more week to go (about). As much as I’d like to check in on a few favorite accounts, I know I do better with hard and fast rules. Going another 30 days might be best. Perhaps even get through 2020, and then re-evaluate. 

Week four (November 25, 2020):

I had a few days this week when I was down for the count (with headaches, etc.) Typically these days mean scrolling on IG…and blurred vision meant I just couldn’t, so I napped instead.

There are definitely a few accounts I’m missing—I appreciate @dudeperfect’s updates on new videos and scrolling a few favorite home accounts. Nothing that’s urgent or time sensitive; more along the lines of flipping through a magazine or blog. I’m trying to creatively come up with a way to still peruse these accounts that are sometimes beneficial creatively and to keep a pulse on what’s happening in the world without succumbing to the endless scroll. 

Before I head back in, I do think I need a gradual reintroduction game plan. Like when you come off of Whole 30 for a month, it’s best not to head straight to the Dirty Bird, right?

I need IG on my phone for work purposes (I only know how to create slides on my phone) but maybe I can first curate better who I’m following and second, set aside specific time in the week to  scroll these accounts. And do so on the laptop.

I think this last parameter will eliminate the much needed barrier to avoid IG as a dopamine hit. It is not nearly as satisfying (short term) to grab the paper, a book, or sit with my own thoughts. But I think necessary. I don’t want to go back to just scrolling because there’s nothing else to do. There is often (always) something better for my brain to be consuming. 

30 day social media fast wrap up (November 30)

This round of taking a break from Instagram felt simultaneously needed and difficult. I’m not sure if it’s the nature of the world right now—so much seems to happen online. Even if I’m not getting “news”, I do feel like I get a pulse on what’s going on. The accounts I follow are ones that I enjoy, speak life, or spark my creativity as a mom. I do miss checking in on some of these accounts, even if I’m “lurking”. But while I do enjoy the fun of a new idea, I’m also very aware that some of these same accounts cause me to covet (not because of their content—because of my own insecurity), spark anger or frustration in my own heart and abilities (or lack thereof), and can leave me feeling unsatisfied with my own situation.

I was surprised that felt harder each week to not check in. I found myself opening IG in the name of work just to see which little slide would be the first one, and I’d let myself read that one little caption.

After completing my 30 days, I did allow myself to scroll for 30 minutes. I looked through accounts I like, caught up on some stories, searched for celebs I like but don’t follow. And you know what? For the most part, it fell flat. 

As each week went on, I found myself believing that I was missing something. But as soon as those 30 minutes were up, I didn’t feel like I’d caught up on anything; I felt instead, like “What am I doing here?” My time (everyone’s time) is so limited. Social media, while it has it’s place, just isn’t where I want to be spending precious minutes of my afternoons. 

My goal going forward is to fast through the week leading up to and after Christmas (as suggested by @johnmarkcomer) so I can help myself fully be present in the moments. And to go through our feed and really curate who we’re following. There are a lot of great accounts that share great content—I love reading @ruthchousimons, @maandpamodern and @jennieallen. I love seeing my IRL friend @selenafred’s posts. And for the enjoyment of my family, it’s helpful to know when @dudeperfect has a a new video coming out. Maybe a few more. But I’m committing to scaling way back, both in content and time spent consuming. 

The hours and days might be long raising kids, especially in 2020, but the years really do fly. And I want to be here for them.