No habit was ever kicked without restraint.
Even if you feel like it’s something you can live without, it still takes a huge amount of strength and sacrifice to cut something out of your life. No matter how much you know something is hurting you, you need to restrain yourself to put an end to the damage. And trust me, restraint doesn’t come out of nowhere.
Ask anyone who’s ever quit smoking. Nobody will tell you that nicotine added all that much to their lives, but when a behavior is so deeply ingrained in your day-to-day, you stop being yourself as soon as you try to live without it. That’s why, in the early days of quitting, the smell of a burning cigarette will leave your mouth watering. Before you know it, you might find yourself heading to 7-Eleven to buy the pack you swore you’d never buy.
However, it doesn’t always need to be this drastic. Even if you’re not saying goodbye for good, taking a break can be just as hard. Of course, sometimes a “detox” is necessary for:
- Temporary escape from the adverse effects something might have on your life
- Proving to yourself that you can live without it
- Giving yourself space and time to reconsider your relationship with it
What’s my vice, you ask? Two words: social media.
My History with Social Media
Don’t get me wrong. I firmly believe that I wouldn’t be where I am today without social media. Back in the days when organic reach on Facebook was massive, social media helped me launch my first website.
Then, it helped me launch a Jiu Jitsu company. Over time, I got good at social media, and it served me well.
But there is/was a darker side of social media for me (and maybe you as well…)
How We Become Addicted to Consuming Content
A lot of people use one word when they talk about the ramifications of social media: negativity.
Interestingly enough, this was never an issue for me. Of course, social media can be toxic. Why else would I be writing this article? Yet I never found people’s negativity rubbing off on me. If someone’s vitriol started to contaminate my news feed, I would just block them. Social media gives you that freedom.
However, with that freedom comes a new type of problem. Although I never found myself distracted by negativity, I found another force putting a strain on my mental health: the never-ending pursuit of more content.
I follow some great people on social media. Scrolling through their tweets adds to my life and makes me happy. However, in chasing that happiness, I ended up craving more content than I could reasonably consume. I was never satisfied and I found too much time slipping away from me until it was time to go to bed and start the process all over again the next day.
Constantly Consuming Stopped Me From Creating
Eventually, I realized the harsh truth. Every second I spent consuming other people’s content was a second I didn’t spend creating my own.
The solution was clear. I needed to limit my social media use.
Social media lays it out for you in a way that, if you follow the right people, you have more than a day’s worth of content at your fingertips wherever you go. Even if reading those articles and watching those Snapchat stories adds something to your life, you can’t do anything with what you learn from them unless you moderate your consumption.
You might be reading the best content on the web. It might expand your horizons and enrich your life. Unfortunately, if you spend most of your free time consuming, you barely have any time for creation.
Creating is far harder than consuming and you need to put in much more time and work before it satisfies in the same way. But at the end of the day, you are what you create, not what you consume. When I realized this, it became clear that I needed a social media detox.
I Was Tired of Letting Other People Curate My Life
Unless you take the initiative to seek out the content you know you like, what you consume on your feed is the product of a self-affirming algorithm. It traps you in a bubble and you end up only seeing what it thinks you want to see. You start living in your smartphone, in a world that has nothing to do with real life.
That might sound like some paranoid mumbo-jumbo, but it’s true. Everything you see on social media is designed to keep you hooked. From targeted ads to the order of your Instagram feed, escaping the feedback loop takes a lot of concerted effort.
At the end of the day, I found myself getting caught up in the fake successes that others touted on social media platforms. In consuming their content, I found my thoughts reflecting their ideas and experiences more than my own. Once you escape into someone else’s life, you get detached from who you are. That’s some scary stuff.
I Started More Than I Could Finish
On social media, your interests become piqued so easily. It’s so easy to see a few pieces of content, open each one up and distractedly hop around between them. At the end, you never get anything done. I found that my to-do list was always half-filled with things to watch and read, things I was only mildly interested in, things that ultimately added nothing to my life.
It had to stop.
To treat your success like the obligation that it is, you need to stop screwing around. Commit yourself to consuming a few things a day, then spend the rest of your time bettering yourself through creation. Make things happen for yourself instead of half-heartedly watching them happen to other people.
Reconnecting with the “Real World”
At the end of the day, I’m a father and a husband first. However, there were times when I would come home excited to be with my two amazing sons, get caught up in a tornado of web content and by the time I hoisted myself out, my sons were asleep.
While I’m on this digital detox, I will be 100% engaged with my wife, my sons and the rest of my family. It’s important to not only stay in touch with yourself but the people who love you and need your love in return.
In the age of FOMO, it can be hard to commit to the fact that progress only comes when you set your mind to a few things at once. For me, that will be interviewing my potential clients and audience, writing content for my new project and being there for the people I love. Think about what’s important in your life before you decide if social media should stay.
My Social Media Detox Plan
After some serious reflection, I realized I needed a social media detox. I’ll tell you why in a second but first, here’s my plan.
I will be cutting myself off from all social media apps for 30 days.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn – gone. Cold turkey.
It took me a lot of thinking to commit to this challenge. If it seems extreme, consider these five reasons why I felt it was time for a detox. Then, ask yourself if you need to do the same.
You can call this a 30 day social media “challenge.”
You can call this a social media “break.”
You can call it a social media “detox.” In fact, that’s what I’m calling it.
During these 30 days, I WILL be doing a few things (instead of using social media):
- Kicking off a massive content project at Clique Studios
- Doubling down on content for this blog
- Being 100% engaged with my wife, three amazing sons, and my family
- Pursuing fitness in earnest
- Writing in my MindJournal
I’m tired of getting caught up in the fake success of others that they try to promote over social. I’m tired of letting other people curate my life.
Like I said, I’m building something important and I feel like my to-do list is always half filled with things to watch and read.
Start treating your success like an obligation and stop screwing around.
Actions reflect priorities.
My results from taking 30 days off social media
I pick up my phone 59 times per day on average (settings > screen time on your iphone). It isn’t just the time loss that’s staggering for me, it’s the productivity. Starting today, I’ll be taking a break from social media for 30 days. Here’s why, and what I’ll be working on instead.
The context switching of constantly picking up my phone that much is absolutely holding me back.
So I want to try something. I’ve done it a few times in the past, but I want to see what happens when I don’t check social media for 30 days.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ll really miss social media, not for the consumption aspect, but for the conversations. My favorite conversations right now are on Instagram DM, Twitter, and I’ve been enjoying posted more on LinkedIn.
The goal of this isn’t just to consume less and mentally reset, but instead to make more and focus on what matters. For me this is three big buckets:
First, a new class of SEO for the Rest of Us kicked off today and I want to serve them with focus.
Second, I have some pretty insane traffic goals for Clique Studios and this website in the next six months. The next week or two will be planning how to achieve those goals.
Third, I still have 50 videos/podcasts/blogs to create for 100 Days of SEO. That’ll take some intense focus to finish.
I’ve moved Gmail and Slack to my last screen, deleted all social apps, and logged out of all social platforms on my laptop and iPhone.
Wow, the pull of social is strong. Whenever I have a down moment, I almost instinctively open 3 tabs (FB, Twitter, and LinkedIn). I’ve caught myself doing it twice today and even checked my email on my phone while out with my family and immediately looked to open Twitter as well (which wasn’t there because I deleted it.
One great thing that I noticed was that I was far more present in moments of pause than I would be otherwise. With nothing to fill that time, I felt the sun on my back, smelled Lake Michigan in the air and mentally/emotionally took in the start of fall. It was actually a bit surreal to not be able to fill the gap.
I’m still noticing the habit of wanting to open Twitter. I’ve even opened up a new tab a few times today and then realized what I was about to do. It’s just a pattern at this point, more on my laptop than my phone, but still, my productivity is definitely higher without a potential social distraction.
I went on a long bike ride (for me) this morning and journaled. It felt great to not have the pressure of social media hanging over that. I did, however, accidentally click over to Instagram from a website, without thinking, because of a thumbnail that looked hilarious.
Week 1 Recap
Not being on social media was fantastic for the first few days. However, around Day 4, I discovered some docu-series on YouTube that not only really crushed my productivity (I watched over 15 hours of YouTube in 4 days), but overall shows that the problem with consumption is deeper than social media.
Don’t get me wrong, watching it led to a pretty big breakthrough that really inspired me and resulted in some big plans for 2020 and beyond, but it still showed that I have a long way to go in the next three weeks.
My friend Jason Zook has done his own social media detox and his recap and thoughts are extremely valuable. Read them here.