What My Social Media Hiatus Taught Me
We’ve become used to making sure our out-of-office message is carefully crafted so that we can take time away from work when we’re away from our desks. This automatic reply creates a helpful boundary by informing anyone looking to connect that non-emergency communications will be responded to when we’re back in the office.
But what can we do to create the same discipline around other forms of digital communication, like social media? As a social impact digital marketing consultant, I am fully aware that sometimes it’s hard to “unplug”, but that can be exactly what is needed to recharge, whether that’s during the workweek or as part of an extended vacation.
Last summer, I decided that a digital hiatus provided a unique opportunity to disconnect in a new way. Here are seven things I learned from my social media hiatus that could inspire you to take a step back and reprioritize how you spend your time in the digital world.
I reached out to friends and family in a different way.
Instead of commenting on a friend’s recent post, I set up virtual and in-person coffees and even sent a few postcards via snail mail. These personal touchpoints gave more space for us to connect and catch up, versus just staying in the loop through social media updates.
I savored the photos that I took with my phone.
I’ve been an amateur photographer since I was in college and used to develop film prints in the lab, so it’s safe to say that my eye is often scanning my surroundings for the perfect camera shot. But taking photos for myself versus planning them for social media publishing helped me take my time without thinking about where the photo would eventually be published.
I was able to stay present more often.
Without immediately responding to my various social media notifications or scrolling through trending Twitter conversations, I kept my phone tucked away more regularly. That allowed me to take walks around the block and enjoy my surroundings instead of paying attention to what is capturing online audiences.
My screen time went way down.
That usage report Apple sends on a weekly basis showed me that I was making progress in limiting the time I spent with my phone in front of my face. By breaking away from the habit of constantly needing to “check something”, I felt much less pressure to scroll aimlessly through social media or news feeds or read online articles.
I read more books.
If you’re like me, you have a stack of books next to your bed that is in various states of progress. I started plugging in my phone to charge in another room at a specific time in the evening, which helped me use the extra time to get back to the stories I had paused. This change in routine also helped me wind down better after a long day.
I released the worry that I was missing out (FOMO).
We all want to find out about the next cool restaurant in the neighborhood on Instagram and scroll through Facebook after our best friend posts their vacation photos from Hawaii, but I often felt that I had to be “tuned into” otherwise I was out of the loop. After a while, the pressure to stay up to date on everything faded and was replaced with gratitude that I was spending my time just for me instead of being concerned about what others were doing.
I reassessed my intention for using social media in the future.
Taking a step back from something that’s habitual allows us to take stock of the way it’s being managed in our lives. For me, I started to log out of specific apps completely when I’m not using them so that I’m not getting push notifications constantly. I also decided to be more intentional about what I share and why so that I feel positive that the ways I’m interacting with my audience have value.
I will likely take another hiatus if I find myself spending more time and energy than I’d like in digital spaces. With that, I’m sending a friendly reminder that you should give yourself the freedom to take a break away from screens whenever you need to. You may be surprised at what you discover.
WordSpark Digital Consulting is a social impact digital marketing consultancy based on the East Coast. Ready to learn more about how you can use effective strategy to deepen your connection with relevant audiences? Let’s connect.