Social separation- what taking a break can do for you

Pause. Take a long, deep, slow breath in. Let the air slowly slide back out, and feel your lungs empty. Pause. Repeat. And again.

It does something, doesn’t it? Taking that moment, taking that breath, connecting to nothing other than the breath entering and leaving your body. Does your head feel clearer? Does your body feel more solid, more connected? Imagine if something as simple as putting your phone down could do that too.

For the second time this year, I took an extended break from social media, and I discovered within the first day, that so much of the noise, the strain, and the anxiety that was coursing through me, began to melt away. Not having to maintain a ‘front’, or a particular standard or schedule, began to release a lot of tension, and I found myself seeing clearer and breathing a little easier.

People joke about it, but the truth is- we really can’t ever switch off, or escape the world these days. We are so connected to everything, everywhere, that we never truly power down and reset our own engines. And it can cause some crazy physical and mental health troubles.

I know for myself, being on social media too much causes me a lot of self-doubt. I begin to hate myself, and my life, my body, and I question who I am and what I’m doing. I never feel like I am ‘enough’. Because as much as I can tell myself that people only share what they want the world to see on social media, and that there’s a lot behind the scenes that never gets talked about, the fact is, some people look better, have better jobs, better homes, better opportunities, and my own journey in life can seem like it pales in comparison.

But it’s addictive. We want to see the next post, the next video, snoop on what our favourite ‘love to hate’ accounts are up to. How often a day do you check your social media accounts? Do you do it first thing in the morning, or last thing at night? I was doing that. Plus every moment in between. It gives us something to do, but like any addiction, it’s the desire for it to make us feel different that brings us back. Maybe this time I’ll see a post that changes my life, maybe this time I’ll see that that person has shown something that connects to me more, maybe this time I’ll have more likes or someone important will have commented.

I was drowning in these thoughts and feelings. And I was forgetting the most crucial thing- to LIVE my life.

So I took a break. I shut down all accounts, and deleted all apps. The first one was just after Christmas, leading into the new year. In fact, I stopped everything- even blogging (hence the gap between this and the last one!). It was a radical change in my day-to-day life. I focused on the experiences around me, instead of the aesthetic of them (eg. is this insta-worthy?). I put my phone down more, for longer periods- in fact, it went back to being just a phone!. I saw myself in the mirror as I am, not as I thought other people might want me to be.

And most importantly, I discovered that the ‘power’ of social media only exists as long as social media exists. When you take it away, values and morals and priorities return to their core, and reality kicks in. Which, surprisingly, is not a bad thing. Our lives continue on every day, whether we are focused on the perfect angle for a photo, or the beauty of the ocean behind us. I also realised that this meant I didn’t want to raise my daughter thinking that the only way to find purpose in life is through a perfect filter on social media.

When I returned after the first break, I knew I was going to approach social media differently, more deliberately- and I knew if I found myself going down the rabbit hole again, I could pull the plug again.

It was the second break (which I’ve just returned from) where I realised on an even deeper level, just why social media causes me such anxiety and grief. And there’s one word for it- impact.

While I was taking a break, my phone was pretty much radio silent. It took me a little while to work it out, but then, it all clicked. I wasn’t missed. And I don’t mean this in a ‘poor me, pity me’ sort of way. I mean, I was not making an impact on the world through my accounts. And so, my absence from it didn’t mean anything. Nobody really noticed when I was gone, and therein lay the reason I struggled so much with it.

For me, I want to make a difference in this world. I’ve searched and struggled and searched some more over the years, looking for that soul connection that not only fulfils my heart, but makes an impact in the lives of other people, creatures, and nature. Worrying about whether the angle of a selfie or the clutter in my living room is going to get attention from strangers across the world is not making a difference to the future of our society.

And through all of this, it helped to bring me to a new crossroads in my life. A crossroads that is seeing me begin research on a new path, a new way to impact, a new way to bring change. And it’s very scary and exciting.

SO ANYWAY. My point is, taking a break from social media can be a very powerful exercise in reconnecting with yourself, and your purpose in life. It doesn’t mean get rid of it forever- in fact, I’m back on it now myself. And even while I’ve been typing this, I’ve checked Instagram. But I keep it at arm’s length. I don’t take it all to heart. I keep my heart connected to me, and to my family. And I’m actively conscious of keeping it ONLY while it serves me. The moment I begin dragging down again, it goes away.

How does social media make you feel? If you connected to anything I’ve said about how it affects me, I’d love to know. Taking some time to look up from your screens- but properly, deleting apps, suspending accounts, even just for a week- might reset you and get you back on track. Perhaps give it a try, see if it makes your world a little more vibrant.

xx

ALL, LifeFelicity Cook