Let me ask you a question. When was the last time you’ve checked Instagram? Or Twitter? Or any type of social media? Possibly every waking hour of every single day. As much as I would hate to admit it, social media has dominated my life for the past eight years and continues to do so. Most people struggle to recognise how much social media means to them or has meant to them.
Social media can be a place where we feel insecure and inadequate because we tend to compare our lives to what other people put out there. The things we see on social media are the “best” or “better” side of the people we follow, excluding their struggles and the things they go through every single day. The more we compare ourselves to people on social media, the more we are letting our actions be driven by envy.
Reducing the amount of attention and unnecessary energy I put into social media is one of the most significant ways that I could improve my mental health and wellbeing. My anxiety feeds off of social media. So one day, I came to the conclusion that it was time to implement a self-imposed social media cleanse.
Unlike other social media cleanses, my cleanse didn’t have an ‘end’ date or strict rules that I had to follow. It was purely reliant on how I felt that day and how I could improve that feeling. Identifying the cause and finding a solution was the basis of my cleanse. I came to a realisation that I don’t have to put a limitation as to how long I have to do a social media cleanse. If I have a limited time frame, I’m more likely to fail beyond the time frame rather than succeed. I truly believe that little changes are better than none which definitely roots from our own actions.
I started off with placing my phone in ‘do not disturb’ mode. All notifications were turned off, and I felt an immediate feeling of freedom. I dedicated my day to podcasts and journaling, things that I struggled to do in the past few months as I would get distracted from a youtube video of some sort or shackles of notifications and rabbit holes of links, photos and feeds. However, I did check Instagram once. Scrolling through my feed, I was bombarded with selfies of models and photos purely based on advertisements and sponsorships. Instead of inheriting jealousy from what I was seeing, I diverted that emotion into admiration. I no longer felt the need to feel insecure about myself in comparison to them. At the end of the day, it is their job to be somewhat ‘perfect’ or to portray a perfect-like image for the public.
From the first day, I already had a sense of accomplishment and relief. I focused my attention on things that improved my mental health and skills that I most likely have forgotten about, like journaling and creating art. Another thing that I recognised was that my phone battery was at 54% at the end of the day. Prior to that day, I had to charge my phone at least once.
Days went by, and I had adopted a habit of waking up, listening to podcasts and journaling. I felt an entirely new perspective on my digital life. I even added exercise and yoga/meditation to help improve not only my mental health but as well as my physical health. Our brains love routines, as I discipline myself into following this routine I was more likely to succeed. I checked my phone less, I would only go on Instagram twice a day and no longer than an hour.
Another thing that helped take a portion of my time during the day was reading. I am obsessed with reading self-improvement books (I will list some of my favourites below!). As I stumble upon this book called “Why Social Media is Ruining Your Life” by Katherine Ormerod, a big part of the book teaches you to be a mindful consumer and to use social media for good. I dedicated an Instagram account for ethical fashion.
During this cleanse, Instagram was definitely the hardest platform to avoid for me, it was a huge part of my daily routine. Some of you might be wondering, what about Youtube? For me, that was the easiest to avoid as there are other ‘alternatives’ to youtube videos which are TV shows and movies. But I did miss Youtube during the first week of my cleanse. Youtube is definitely a platform where you can find positivity through the variety of motivational and inspirational videos. I definitely recommend Jay Shetty, his videos are super inspiring, and it never fails to bring up my mood.
Final thoughts on my social media cleanse
I’m not going to completely quit social media, but I will improve how much I use it, which in return will undoubtedly help my mental health. Each day I reduced the time and energy I put into my social media accounts, allowing myself to discover positivity and motivations on my own. My productivity and attention span increased significantly as I broke the habit of refreshing and checking notifications in a short period of time.
What my big takeaway from this cleanse was that it freed up time and mental space that I honestly did not know existed. I improved my habits as a digital consumer into a more mindful one, making sure to avoid the unnecessary stimuli from my feeds. As a result, my anxiety towards social media platforms gradually reduced every day. I won’t be quitting social media entirely, but I genuinely recommend trying a social media cleanse to see how you feel.
I came up with a collective list to briefly summarise the activities that I did during my cleanse;
- Listen to a podcast.
Podcasts are great for learning new things and diverting attention into something more productive. My current podcasts include ‘The Science of Happiness’, ‘Teenager Therapy’ and ‘ABG - Asian Boss Girl.’
The practice of journaling will allow you to clarify your thoughts and emotions at a particular time. Personally, I used my journal as a self-exploration tool - I focused on daily gratitude. Journaling daily allowed me to understand my thoughts, emotions, and the things I value most in life. If you prefer something more creative, I definitely recommend bullet journaling! Bullet journaling is fun as you can decorate monthly pages and explore different themes and art styles.
Grab a book and read! Steer away from social media feeds and start reading things that actually allows you to learn. My top favourite self-improvement books include The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson, Life On Purpose by Victor J. Strecher and L'art de la Simplicite (The English Edition) by Dominique Loreau. Don’t forget to check out this article for more book recommendations:
- Give your body the exercise it needs.
It’s time for you to get up and sweat it out. Exercise is the best way to improve your mental and physical health altogether. There are so many ways of exercising - from cardio to strength training as well as pilates and kickboxing.
If you need to clear your head and free your mind of clustered thoughts and emotions, try meditating! The app I like to use for meditation is Headspace! Headspace helps me improve my habit of meditation as it includes various types of meditation such as “Managing Anxiety” or “Dealing with Distractions”. The app also includes a short 3 minute meditation when you’re in need of an emergency meditation. During my cleanse, I tried to meditate every morning to ensure that I start my day on a positive note.