A couple of years ago, for harmless reasons I wasn’t exactly the most active person on social media. When I started my blog I knew I was going to have to get serious with social media eventually if I wanted to build an organic audience for my blog. So, part of my new year’s resolution for 2022 was to create a constant engagement on my social media pages (I think I actually wrote this somewhere in my journal a year ago. I’d attach the image below provided I do find it). All things being equal I think I did a really good job of it because I tested many barriers of my anxiety and pushed myself into utmost discomfort while at it but I pulled through. I reached the brink during the final months of the year. I knew I had to take some time off social media to keep sane.
So about a month ago, I decided to quit social media. Halfway through my experience, as I performed my daily routine of journaling it dawned on me to analyse the entire process of my social media detox. I thought to document it all into a cohesive article for my readers ie if the experience was a wholesome one, if it made any difference, if it affected traffic to my blog in anyway, etc.
The primary questions I’d answer, “did I see any benefits from stepping away from social media and if I did, why were they”, “was I more productive”, “was I more focused”, “in what ways did my life change”? And although not the primary intent, as someone who owns a blog and depends on an audience for it to thrive, I wanted to know, was my disengagement on social media going to affect traffic to my blog? So I quit social media for 30 days to find out.
The first few days were fine. I had taken the bold step and just as I anticipated, it came with a gush of serenity. People complain about the compulsive tendency they have to check their phones but it wasn’t a problem I could write about. I didn’t need to take extreme measures for the fear of slipping back into an old routine of checking my phone frequently. So I didn’t delete my social media apps. I simply logged out of all accounts on my phone.
As time passed, somewhere within the end of the second week I made a realisation. It wasn’t about the content I consume on social media, it wasn’t the likes, comments or DM’s. It was the anticipation of what could be. Perhaps that potential client messaged me back, maybe one of my posts went viral or maybe Savage Fenty reached out for a collaboration. However, the truth is it’s almost always nothing.
So I knew I had to create some distance but there really wasn’t much to do to help the situation. I committed to leaving my phone at home whenever I left the house but that was just me flirting with my conscience. I realised eventually that the solution to this wasn’t going to be physical. It was all in my head as I said already; the anticipation of what could be put me in a frantic position. So I took some time out of my day to meditate and come to terms with the fact that my mental health needed this. I reoriented my thought patterns and looked at it from the point of view that it is in fact self care. To throw more light on this, I’d use a much relatable scenario that I face quite often. I prioritise my hours of workout everyday. It has become a solid part of my routine but there are days that I just don’t feel like going. It feels monotonous, it feels casual and sometimes it takes a lot for me to drag myself there despite the many reasons I have to ditch it. To combat this, I did an entire assessment through journaling to remind myself that working out is in fact a form of self care. It is a luxury that some people can’t afford due to deformities or impairments of some kind. I stopped telling myself that ‘I had to go to the gym‘ and started to tell myself that ‘I get to go to the gym‘.
There are a number of reasons why you might want to quit social media. The side effects are a little bit different for each of us. But I’ve got three main points that I think many of us fall into.
Some people find that apps like instagram, put them into a comparison mode. By constantly seeing what other people have or “what they are up to” we subconsciously measure our standards with theirs. Social media only portrays the picture perfect version of oneself. I know for a fact that I’d never post my awful pictures or moments on social media. Why would I want to do that?
So by seeing what other people have and what they are up to you instinctively want it as well. Others on the other hand are addicted to the feedback and attention. Your phone can make you feel connected, less alone, and it preoccupies your racing mind. And because of that, it’s a massive time killer that can distract you from your work and hinder productivity.
The point about social media occupying our racing minds, is much dire than we think. During the third week of my detox, there were moments where I grab my phone without even thinking, unlock it and start to swipe through screens. Looking for something to preoccupy my wandering mind. I’d realise there wasn’t much to do on my phone and I’d put it back down. Previously it’d have been easier to open instagram and just scroll through videos for minutes to hours on end.
This was especially during the period school was getting overwhelming. I sought various avenues to while away time when I was exhausted and social media always seemed like an easy pick. In such moments all I wanted to do was to open instagram and bombard my brain with dog videos till my eyes hurt so bad and I had to retire to bed. Frantically speaking that would’ve been an easy way out of this situation. Here’s why. I would’ve put off hours of study only to be unproductive in a way that enhances my conundrum and troubles my conscience. Also, my dopamine levels would’ve spiked only slightly and temporarily. The caveat here however is I would’ve created a vicious cycle for myself because I’d have woken up tired, groggy and feeling guilty about the mess I tried to avoid.
I distinctively remember playing the entire scenario in my head and with a heavy heart, I turned in the responsibility card. This was difficult because I felt like I owed myself at least one bad decision because customarily I’m always well-behaved.
Well, here’s what I did. I wasn’t tired, just overwhelmed and I knew I needed a goodnight’s rest that evening so the plan was to go to bed extremely tired. I needed to be knocked out once my head hit the pillow. I put myself together and headed for the gym, spent approximately an hour and a half there. Got back home, did my night grooming, journaled, wrote my to-do list for the next day and by 10:30pm I was tucked in bed. Early 5:30am the next day, I was up and began my agenda for the day.
Now I know what you might be thinking and the answer is yes, I didn’t study and that was never a part of the plan either way. Assessing the situation I knew I was in no condition to study. My brain was in low power mode so what I needed to do was to win the next day by ending the day on a good note. It wasn’t ideal, but my productivity the next day was compensatory.
For me, the negative side effects of social media seem to only be boiled down to the constant need to create an engagement; giving people a reason to want to keep coming back. It made me eager to find out if my engagement on social media apps had created a lingering effect by constantly driving an audience to my blog without me having to post consistently. I was worried instagram had banned me to the land of bad algorithms. But here’s what I found out. During the 30 day period, although there was a 706% decline in my instagram audience I still reached an adequate number of audience. My engagement level stood at 8.1 K accounts reached .
Some might argue that I was just rationalising my conscience to give myself a reason to have to remain logged in. Well, clearly I wasn’t.
I started to spend much less time on my phone, and my screen time which usually stands at an unhealthy 4 hours declined drastically to 2 hours. And I owe the two hours to YouTube. During the detox period YouTube became a huge solace for me and I spent an ample amount of time there.
What I’m driving at is, at a point in time we have all played the “I don’t have enough time” card to get out of doing something. I know that I’ve definitely done it in the past and there are certainly more moments ahead that I’d trade that card anytime. Whether you want to start reading more, start a side hustle or volunteer at an agency, majority of the time we think we simply don’t have enough time to do it. When in fact maybe it’s our priorities that aren’t really in check. Maybe we need to think about where we’re spending our time to begin with, like social media. Once you start to identify the things that you value in your life, the things you really want to bring into your life, you have to get rid of those distractions.
And as for my blog, did things slow down? Halfway through my 30 day detox I saw the largest spike in traffic that I’ve ever seen. I had never even come close to seeing this kind of engagement from my articles. I gained over 21,000 page views during the 30 day detox. The source of the traffic; two of my most recent articles; “20 things I learnt by 20” and “7 habits that changed my life”. I’d link them below. They quickly worked their way to the top of the Google’s algorithm.
So in the same month that I quit social media, I saw exponential growth in my pageviews. It’s most likely a coincidence as I would have released those articles anyway.
I should also mention that 37% of the traffic was from instagram, 16% from LinkedIn and the 47% was just my blog’s SEO doing its job.
With the additional time I had every day from quitting social media, I was able to be a little bit more productive and by this I mean I was able to get more sleep (yes, sleep is productive). School work as I’ve already mentioned was a baggage on it’s own so with every extra hour I got, I rested and when my eyes weren’t heavy enough I’d read a book. Currently I’m reading “In the Middle of Nowhere” by Ruby Yayra Goka, a Ghanaian author. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read this book and with each read, the excitement is anew. I highly recommend it to whoever is searching for new reads.
The lesson: Productivity isn’t always about increased output.
There’s a sense of clarity that you get when you take a step away from the compulsive checking. It’s really hard to explain and it’s really impossible to quantify, but I can tell you that I simply felt better by being away from it. And it became much harder for me to see the benefits of social media to begin with when the detox was over. The urge to get back on Instagram and apps like it seemed abstract and was mostly encouraged by the fear of missing out. But once I got connected again I realised one simple truth. I didn’t miss a thing.
We live in a busy world and it is important to remember that everything and everyone out there on social media is competing for your attention because that’s how much of an asset you are to them. You get to choose who or what you’re paying attention to. Paying attention is exchanging value; your content for my time and time is luxury. Your pick is one in a million. If indeed you believe what you’d give attention to is worthwhile, so be it but if you want a run for your time and perhaps money, every single pick should add to your knowledge shelf and make you a better person. Remember, your greatest threat is ignorance.
Put yourself at the top of your to-do list every single day and the rest will fall into place. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. It is easy to lose the time we need for ourselves and that’s why I’ve created a list of daily non-negotiables. Do I follow it all the time?…no I do not. But it is a framework that guides me most days.
Having a list of daily non-negotiables means I get to control at least a portion of my day. I can ensure some of what is important to me keeps its space when everything else is at risk of being crowded out. So what are my big three non-negotibales?
- Movement: This can vary a lot. Sometimes it means going to the gym, taking a walk or just doing something to elevate my heart rate. These activities help ground me and I just feel better overall after breaking a sweat so aside the health benefits it’s pretty much a no brainer for me.
- Stillness: I’d be lying if I said I’m a master at meditation but one thing I’ve started doing pretty often is breath work. I close my eyes and take anywhere from 30-100 deep breaths. Focusing on your breath is a great way to drown out the outside world and center myself. (I often do this in the shower because I like it, if you do try it be careful not to sniff in any water. It’s painful.)
- Insight: If you’re an old time viewer of my blog then you know this list wouldn’t have been complete without journaling. Recently, I haven’t been using my journals as often as I’d like to, but one way or another I try to do my best to evaluate how my day went and how I can improve the next day. Sometimes I look at my to-do list on Notion and other times I use my journal. Either way I make sure I have a bird’s eye view of how things are going throughout the days/weeks.
We are all a work in progress but in order to live a life by design instead of default it’s important to consciously put things in your life to take care of yourself. It won’t always be fun, sometimes it takes being disciplined to get things done the right way. Nobody tells you why discipline is so important. Discipline is the strongest form of self love there is. It is ignoring current pleasures for bigger rewards to come. It is loving yourself enough to give yourself everything you’ve ever wanted.
Now looking ahead to my next 30 days as a student, blogger, and someone with ample number of hours in the day, I’m not so sure I want to spend my time the way I used to. There’s a lot I would like to exert my effort in in the new year ahead. I’m aware I’d have to make many structural reforms and I’m excited for them too. The top of my new year’s resolution next year features me replying messages faster and checking up on friends more often. It’s not in itself a huge task but it is a shortcoming which has cost me this year.
The past year has seen me make long strides at my goals and as I flip through the pages of my journal a year ago, looking at the problems I was writing about a year ago, I couldn’t be more grateful. It’s been an amazing year writing articles and producing content for my blog. The unyielding support I’ve received from you guys leaves me dumbfounded. Majority of you, I haven’t even met before. You’re an awesome lot. Thank you!
My final words as I draw the curtains on my final article of the year.
“You are in control of your own progress, the only person who can decide how much or how little you tread. No one else gets to decide for you, no one else gets to tell you what defines your “getting better.” All the things you struggle with are yours, your battles are yours and your victories are yours. You are unique in every sense of the word albeit sometimes we fail to see it based off others’ impression of us. The truth is we can show others how we expect to be treated and how we want to be treated but in the end their actions would always resonate with the value they have placed on us. And majority of the time we have no part to play in that. It is a tough pill to swallow but the sooner we come to terms with it, the less likely we are to get hurt.“
Thank you so much if you made it to the end of this blog post. I really appreciate you making it all the way here. You really have made my year. I’m not sure when this blog post is going up but all things being equal I guess it’s safe to wish you a happy new year 🎇.
Please feel free return to this blog post as many times as you need to. See you in 2023!❤️