Are you in need of a break from your mind-zapping, confidence-diminishing Instagram feed? What my week-long social media hiatus taught me.
words by Sadie Reid

I wouldn’t say that I am in the slightest bit addicted to social media (more specifically Instagram). Yet – in recent months… who am I kidding… in recent years I often found myself opening up that little app more than any others. And at points of the day when it was totally unnecessary. Times like when both of the kids would be occupied for a rare moment; at work; whilst walking home from the tube; on the loo; I’ve even caught myself looking at it when I’ve been talking to people (most notably my husband).

I’ve always told myself that I need to be on it for work. As though checking Instagram is vital to the success of both my companies. Well, I’m calling BULLSHIT on the whole thing! Whatever the little lie is that you tell yourself as to why you just ‘have’ to check in is utter rubbish – we are addicted to it.

So, here are 5 things I learned when I had a week-long social media hiatus:

1. I had more time. More time to chat with my kids. More time to think my own thoughts (rather than endlessly scroll through everyone else’s). I had more time to read – YES I FUCKING READ – it was amazing. I had more time to cook. More time to clean. It was insane how much more time I found myself having. It came in pockets but it was still such an eye-opener. i.e I would go to the loo – this would be a normal time for me to swipe open Instagram – but instead, I just sat there and thought about a few things. Once I read an article from a magazine that was bloody interesting and helped form an idea I had been mulling over for a while. Ah-mazing.

2. I was more focused. It doesn’t take much to distract me from working. And because most people’s contact details are on their social media profiles – I often find myself logging in to try and get in touch with someone only to find myself still on the app 6 minutes later. When I gave myself this break from it all – I often had to ask people to look up certain things for me but I found that I was so much more focused on work and finishing tasks I set out to do.

3. I felt better about myself. Social media can be a wonderfully positive thing but I know I am not alone in feeling like it is a hot-bed for comparison as well. And we all know that comparison is the thief of joy.

4. I watched a film – without distraction. This was pure joy and felt like the good old days. I really got into it and just felt truly transported for a couple of hours. HEAVEN. You may think I am crazy to list this as a benefit but I ask you – when was the last time you watched a film all the way through without checking your phone? My point exactly… If you only do one thing this weekend – do this!

5. I had kinder thoughts. I think this is looped in with feeling better about myself but it was amazing to notice the difference in the narrative inside my head. I wasn’t thinking negatively about my life – and I had no feelings of lacking (which is one of the first things to come up when I scroll the gram). I felt more present than ever and what could be better than that.

My little experiment prompted me to do some research as I wanted to see how personal these particular observations were to myself. Was this just me? Or did others feel this way too? There are 44 million social media users in the UK – that is 66% of our population! Surely there must be some others that feel as if I do. A study conducted by the University of Copenhagen found that many social media users suffer from “life-envy” and that those who chose not to use the social media apps for a period of time felt much more satisfied with their lives. PHEW – not just me then! It has also been proven that we are in fact addicted to using social media. Social media affects human psychology in unprecedented ways. They activate rewarding centres in the brain, by directly involving the concentration of dopamine in the process. For those who don’t know, Dopamine is a chemical, which regulates feelings of pleasure and desire in a person. So you literally find yourself scrolling to give yourself another “pleasure” hit.

With all this in mind – I am not saying social media is the devil but I do feel there are certain ways in which we can still use it (as although it certainly isn’t the be-all and end-all to my working life – it is still important) but also safeguard our mental health. Such as; not using it after 6pm – so as not to go into an evening feeling unnecessarily anxious and unhappy. This is the point of the day we should be letting our brains relax. I also think that it should only be used in a positive way – I LOVE content – but positive content – I have literally no time for negative bullshit in my life and have since un-followed anyone I feel doesn’t have love at the heart of their feed. And finally, I am so much more mindful as to when I switch on. I tend not to use it at home, unless I have something I want to share, and give myself time limits and curfews as to when I can use the app. And so far, so good.

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