mental health, phone use, self esteem, self identity, social media, tech

A New Relationship with Social Media

I have deleted all of my personal social media. That may be a weird sentence coming from someone who aspires to have blogging as a means of income. I mean, you use social media to interact with your audience, connect with a larger community, and spread the word about the content you make. But I was challenged through a meditation app to rethink how I use my phone.

A few weeks ago, I watched one of The Wake Up videos that the app Headspace has. In the video, an expert talked about creating a new relationship with your phone. They suggested tips such as turning your phone to gray scale so the apps on your phone don’t look as enticing or going through and putting only the apps you need on your home screen. What really hit home for me was when she asked this: which notifications do you need in real time? One thing my anxiety feeds off of is fear of missing out on anything. My anxiety tries to convince me that if I’m not constantly up to date on everything, I will miss out on something important. I’m not being a good enough friend/family member if I’m not constantly up to date on what’s happening with those I love. My first solution was to just have all of those social media notifications come after noon every day. But I quickly realized that the inundation of notifications caused me even more anxiety. “Look at all I missed out on”. “Look at all the things I have to catch up on”. “Look at all the things you failed to respond to”. This method didn’t get rid of the anxiety but rather postponed it, maybe even intensified it.

Which notifications do you need in real time?

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So I decided for about two weeks I would turn off all notifications for social media. I kept the timer I put on my iPhone where I limited certain apps until noon. I realized that the only apps I needed notifications for were the app I use as an early childhood caregiver to communicate with parents, iMessage, Google Hangouts which I use to communicate with other staff members in the school, and Gmail for in case I get an email from a parent or faculty member. All of these notifications were synced up with my Apple Watch as well so if I had to set my phone down on the counter to play with the kids or do other tasks in the classroom, I could see whether it was something I needed to answer immediately or if it could wait. After noon, I would allow notifications for only other messaging apps such as Discord and WhatsApp so I can talk to friends I met through gaming and such.

Even before my social media break, I tried to establish a better nightly routine with my phone. I set that after 8:30pm, I would no longer get any notifications and that beginning at 8:45pm until I fell asleep around 10pm, I would not look at any screens. Instead, I would listen to a podcast or listen to Lo-Fi beats while reading a book. When I would wake up, I used my phone to do a meditation with the Headspace App. After that 10 minute meditation, I would either not use my phone at all as I got ready for the day or I would use it just to listen to a podcast. I challenged myself not to use my phone to answer any notifications unless it was about work or an important message from a loved one. I even had my phone set so that I would not get notifications until 6:45am which is about the time I would be at school to get the classroom ready for the day.

After these now three weeks of a social media break, I realized just how much I used my phone to compare myself to other people. I would look at how my friends interacted with other friends and how it was different with me. I would look at all these people with seemingly perfect lives and how my life looked nothing like that. Ultimately, every day I would look at social media and say “what am I doing wrong?”. It was warping my sense of self which is something I was already working on repairing. So what’s the point of keeping social media if it was aiding in distorting my sense of self and deterioating my self confidence? I used to keep telling myself that I need social media to keep up with loved ones. But I have texting for that. I can use Google Duo or FaceTime to video call them. I can send them pictures of my life and they can send me pictures of their lives. If there’s an important announcement made on social media, they can just tell me about it.

As of writing this post it has been almost a full week since I either completely deactivated my personal social media accounts or deleted the apps from my phone. The only social media I have is now my @drew.goesvegan Instagram; I didn’t use the Twitter account much so that is gone now too. I’ll be semi-active on the Instagram but still keeping notifications off for the app so that I can choose when to look at the app instead of the app giving me notifications that “demand” to be looked at right away. With customizing the iPhone home screen with shortcuts rather than the app icons, I don’t see the number of notifications that I need to check which also helps me not feel like I have to check the notifications right away. I think with this change, I’ll be able to focus on nurturing my relationship with myself which in turn will nurture my relationships with my loved ones.

Until next time. Drew.

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