Why I Take A Social Media Hiatus Each Year (And Why You Might Want To, Too)

It’s the creep that really gets to me. The way it becomes something to do in the moments between doing other things, and it even becomes something to do instead of doing other things.

Sure, the constant outrage porn, comparison traps, and vanity metrics are pernicious. But it’s the slow, subtle, creep of social media into every spare moment of the day that bugs me the most.

Social media – the checking of it, the responding to it, the thinking of what to post on it, the actual posting, the checking to see who liked what you posted, it creeps into every part of your day if you don’t put hard boundaries in place.

It even creeps into your posture while you do said social media things, from how you sit to how you stand, from your eyes are focusing to how your face muscles are holding themselves.

All you need to do is accidentally open the front facing camera and catch a glimpse of the intently focused crinkling of your face (that you didn’t even know you were doing!)

If you’re nodding your head to all of this, keep reading…

Is Social Media Bad For You?

That’s not the right question to ask, but I do understand it. Asking if social media is bad for you is like asking if doing Crossfit is good for you.

It might be, it definitely is if executed incorrectly or if you’re not at a state of readiness to tolerate it. But you can’t deny that there are potential good things to gain from it.

With Crossfit and social media, connection is one of the biggest “why I like it” reasons folks tend to mention.

Photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash

And it’s true, social media has allowed for human connections that stretch far beyond geographical closeness or shared interests such as place of employment or religious affiliation.

But there is ample data out there now, and social media certainly seems to be contributing to effects you’d probably prefer not to have. Increased anxiety, decreased mood, increased stress, and eye strain are just a few of the well-being changes that have been correlated.

So is social media bad for you? Yes, probably, except when used mindfully and carefully. And in order to use it mindfully and carefully, you’ve got to be – well – mindful.

Social Media Is A Trade-Off

It can even be a valuable trade-off at certain points and for certain things. But that creep of social media into every nook and cranny of time means that something got subbed out so that scrolling/posting/engaging on social media could be subbed in.

“Oh, but I just like to wind down with some mindless scrolling.” Totally get it. Only you can decide which trade-offs are worth it.

Photo by Alexandru Acea on Unsplash

But when you don’t give yourself that option, it’s wild how many other things you find to do. Including just sitting there, being bored, like it’s 1989 and you’re sitting in the back of your parents’ station wagon with nothing to do.

Think about your own habits. What are you trading off? I’ll tell you what I’m trading off every time I allow social media time into my day:

  • The ability to focus for extended periods of time. The app checking drives my dopamine center and that means I’m bored once I’ve been doing something for awhile that doesn’t give me a hit of dopamine
  • Books I’d really like to read. If you’ve been reading short, pithy, captions for some time, chances are high you have forgotten how good it is to be led through a long and in-depth story (fiction or non)
  • Hobbies I’d like to do. It apparently takes 23 minutes to re-focus after a distraction. That means every objective I’m working on takes that much longer when I allow for “breaks” that include social media use (or any other digital distractions, for that matter), which means less time for non-work activities.

I feel I’m making these trade-offs even with the social media boundaries I’ve already got in place for myself. So I find a full hiatus once a year is a good way to cleanse myself of the desire, habit, and interest, in using social media.

Removing One Thing And Getting Many Things

Like many habit changes in life, it’s not so much the removal aspect that makes it worth doing as it is the “what you get” part of the equation.

For instance, you’re not likely to say “yay, I didn’t eat dessert today” purely because you were looking forward to not eating it. But rather, it’s what you get from not eating it that is the motivation.

The best part of a social media hiatus, for me, is definitely not the removal as much as it is all that comes into my life during the hiatus.

All the stuff that got pushed out by the creep of social media can now fill back in (or fill in for the first time, in the case of taking up a new hobby or activity). My brain can find new ways to think, to problem solve, to experience the world, and to go about my day.

And of course, I get back a nice chunk of time which I’ll use, in part, to go outside more. And despite having more time to do more things, but I feel calmer and like life is simpler with less things to do.

Photo by Neal E. Johnson on Unsplash

How To Take A Social Media Hiatus

I’ve done a social media hiatus each of the last two years, and it’s been amazing. This year I will be doing a four week hiatus starting not too far off from now!

That’s the first thing you need to decide if you’re going to do a hiatus. How long will it be? Four weeks is a great because it’s just enough time to get a reset from your old habits, and isn’t so long that it feels too monumental to take on.

Then, you have to decide your rule set. Seems like the obvious rule set would be “no social media”, done, end of story. But, especially if you have a business that’s on social, there are some considerations you’ll want to make, namely:

Do you go full radio silence on both work and personal platforms? Or do you switch to broadcast-only on your work platform for the hiatus?

I know it seems scary to shut off your work social media for any length of time, especially if that is literally your only avenue for bringing in revenue. I definitely am not encouraging you to shut that off if that’s how your business operates.

But may I remind you that businesses made money long before social media was a thing. And you still have modes of finding and connecting with customers/potential customers that aren’t social media related. Email marketing, blogging on your own website, guest blogging on someone else’s website, and connecting with your local area the old fashioned way, ie, face-to-face, are all valuable channels for doing business.

If you aren’t working any of these channels as a business owner, maybe now is a good time to start. And whatever you decide, just let your followers know and turn it into a content piece in and of itself for before or after you take the hiatus.

Another rule that you’ll want to at least consider is where will you get your news. The sad reality is that most of us get news from social media. On top of being incredibly biased and censored, social media is built for outrage. You’ll get your news alright – and a side of frenzy.

Photo by Callum Shaw on Unsplash

And finally, you need to do something that most people overlook. Before starting your hiatus, you need to decide on at least one thing you’re going to bring into your life now that you’re freeing up some time, and commit to doing it.

It’s that age-old question, ‘what would you do if you had the time?’ Read a book, start journaling, work on your side hustle, take your family out for evening walking adventures a few nights a week, re-focus on your fitness goals, learn a language, I could go on but you get the point. Whether it’s a few minutes here and there, or an extra hour in the evenings, you’re about to have some time.

My Invitation To You

All of this sounds interesting, right? Or horrible. Either way, I’m inviting you to take this next hiatus with me.

I was stunned when so many people reached out the last two years to share the were inspired to take a hiatus, or would like to take one in the future, just from seeing me do it. So this year I figured, let’s make it a thing.

Here’s what I’ve come up with: Join me for four weeks of social media hiatus starting on May 15th. That gives you two weeks to get your house in order to participate. Your last day of hiatus will be June 13th.

If you’re down to do this with me, leave a comment below with two things, 1 – your commitment that you’re in and 2 – one thing you’re going to bring into your life during the hiatus. Then at the end, I’m going to do a new blog where you can come tell me what you did during your hiatus.

I’m going to give away an Unbreakable Body Program to one random person who comments that they’re doing the challenge with me and who comments at the end as well. Not that you need a prize as motivation to do this, but why not, it makes it even more fun.

And, social media hiatuses don’t mean you have to be sequestered away from everything. Get my weekly Fit For Real Life Digest (it’s free) and guarantee that you get a dose of connection, education, and encouragement each week.

Looking forward to hiatus-ing with you!

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