When I took a social media vacation a few weeks ago, I learned several important lessons. I’d recently written about the practice of taking a social media sabbath, but it had been a while since I’d disconnected for longer than a weekend. My family was going on a vacation, and I wanted to be fully present on our trip. Plus, I could feel that I needed a break from work. And that couldn’t fully happen without a break from social media.
Below, I’m sharing six lessons I learned during my social media vacation.
#1 It Takes Planning
I decided at least a month prior to our family vacation to make it a social media vacation as well. That was wise. Since social media is a part of my work, it takes planning to step away for a time.
I chose to work ahead so that I could schedule posts to promote my blog while I was away. My blog and business are young, so that felt like a good solution to me. In the future, I might just let everything go silent for a week or so. (The world won’t end!)
#2 It Took Me Two Days to Stop Feeling Antsy
I’m embarrassed to admit that it took two solid days away from social media for the impulse to check my phone to abate. I experienced a restless energy, and I kept reaching for my phone before remembering that I had locked myself out of my social apps. (More on how I did that below.) After those two days, the habit of reaching for my phone began to fade more and more.
#3 I Have to Fill That Time with Something (Better)
Noticing my impulse to reach for my phone really bothered me, and I wanted to fill the time created by my social media vacation with something betterthan mindless scrolling. However, since we were away from home, I couldn’t do chores or tackle projects around the house.
Instead, I downloaded a book to my Kindle app. During our five days of travel, I read one and a half books! It was delightful.
Even if I have a hard copy book on my bedside table, I still want to keep a book on Kindle so that I can read – instead of scroll – when I’m waiting somewhere or find myself with a few minutes of downtime. And that Kindle book needs to be something really engaging – for me, that’s easy-to-read, light fiction.
In addition to reading more than usual, I also spent time engaging with my family. My husband and I spent the longest leg of our road trip dreaming about what the future holds for our family. We bought card games and played with the kids in the hotel.
#4 I Really Enjoyed It
I thought I’d be more than ready to return to social media and catch up after ten days away. Instead, I found that I enjoyed my social media vacation so much that I didn’t want to return. On day 11, I logged into Instagram and scrolled through a few photos, responded to a couple of comments…and logged out again.
Since returning to social media, I’ve noticed that impulse to pick up my phone and scroll. Most of the time, instead of giving in to that impulse, I’ve just logged out and set my phone down.
#5 Social Media Vacations Need to Be a Regular Part of My Life
Sometimes I forget what will actually make me happier. It’s not scrolling social media. Real happiness comes when I put down my phone, connect with my people, engage in meaningful work, and enjoy the world around me. It’s long conversations and laughter and inside jokes after hours on the road. It’s teaching my kids a new game (and learning alongside them). Happiness comes from dreaming about my future, instead of looking at someone else’s polished present.
I felt happy on vacation. Granted, it was vacation, and I was released from my normal household responsibilities. But also? I intentionally set aside work and allowed it to be a truly restful week by making it a social media vacation.
That true sense of rest is something I want to experience again – sooner rather than later. I want the benefits of a break from social media, as well as the new perspective afforded by stepping away for a while. I need this extended time away at least twice a year, so I’m already planning another social media vacation around Christmas.
#6 I Need a Plan for My Return
After experiencing the benefits of a social media vacation, I don’t want to rush back to my old ways. I want to continue to reap the benefits of my break, and return to social media with great intentionality.
I have been using an app called AppDetox, which allows me to set times of day when my apps are disabled, as well as time limits for use. Unfortunately, I’m a classic Obliger and it’s easy – too easy – to override the “rules” I’ve set for myself. To be honest, most days I break the time limit I’ve set for myself on Instagram. In fact, within a couple of days of returning to social media, I did just that. But I felt “on edge” after spending too much time scrolling Instagram right before bed.
I’m still working out how to use social media more mindfully, but I know I want to do a better job of building – and adhering to – boundaries that will benefit my health and happiness.
A Challenge for You
A social media vacation doesn’t have to be long for you to reap the benefits – and gain some important perspective. Even a week away could help your body and mind to unwind. If a week away feels like too much, check out this post I wrote about three different types of social media breaks to find one that fits your current needs.
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