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October: A Month Without Scrolling

(The Bowl Pond in Acadia National Park)

I love social media, don’t get me wrong. It serves a lot of purposes for me. It brings me to other people with similar interests. It’s there when I have a question and want to crowdsource a solution. It connects me to people from my hometown in Michigan. I love all the specialized groups that give me community and thoughtful conversation. The local groups help me keep a pulse on what’s going on around town. Social Media can be a great tool AND it can also be a great distraction. With only so much mental energy to give away each day, I decided I would cut out social media to see how it affected the rest of my life for a month.

That's how October because a month without scrolling. I didn’t disable my accounts because I knew I might need to access them for various things for work and I use private IG accounts with zero followers for personal memory keeping so I wanted to keep the access to those on my phone. My focus was not to completely stay away from social media but to only spend time using it in a productive way. I accessed it a few times over the month for messages, work issues and other such things. I went away for a weekend and I wanted to see a specific picture I knew my daughter had I looked. I went right to her post and looked. But that’s it. No scrolling. No reading other people’s posts. No getting sucked into the comments. I didn’t even read the comments people left of my “peace out” post at the beginning of the month. I have to tell you… was great. AND it was hard. It’s amazing how my brain was trained to crave that scrolling sensation. I reached for my phone many times and opened the Instagram App only to shut it right back down. It was so automatic to scroll mindlessly. I removed the Facebook app from my phone so I had to actually sit at my computer to access it if needed. That was fine. I left the Instagram account on my phone and after a while I realized what a bad habit I had developed when I kept opening it just out of habit. It's scary how that goes but being aware of the bad habit just the first step of fixing the issue.

So what did I do this month if I couldn’t scroll the “book” every time I was bored? Well, turns out I had plenty to do. I logged a lot of work hours. I made a lot of dinners for my family. I spent a weekend in Acadia National Park in Maine with a childhood friend. I listened to a bunch of podcasts and Ted Talks. We watched some more episodes of our favorite travel you-tubers, Kara & Nate. I didn’t miss scrolling FB one bit, in fact, I really enjoyed having a break from it all. I had started to feel so upset watching people argue on social media and I was having trouble sleeping. No matter how much I disagreed with people, not getting enough sleep was not the answer to me feeling better. The mental energy I reclaimed by taking a month off of social media really did me some good. I am now sleeping better. I am less frustrated with others. I feel happier overall right now.

Sure, I did miss out on all of the uplifting things I see on Instagram, but truthfully, I don’t know that I’ll go back to the same stuff. I know I’m planning to tip toe back into Facebook and there will be a LOT of muting people who post things only to cause disagreements. I will probably edit what I follow even further to eliminate things that don’t bring me a lot of happiness. It’s not that I don’t want to hear about other people’s opinions, it's just that it’s affecting me at a very deep level right now. With the election so close, I’m feeling very edgy and upset at a lot of things going on in the US and the world . And that’s ok. I can’t control what other people post or share or think, but I can control what I let into my life, into my head, into my home. And so can you.

If you think taking a break from social media would do you some good, try it. After 2 weeks, I was still getting the itch to scroll. After a month, I feel a lot better about my social media consumption and don't feel the itch. I don't feel FOMO. I feel just fine about missing out. I think a second month would do me even more good. They say it takes 66 days for a new behavior to become a habit so two months would be better than one if I’m looking to make some lasting change. And November of 2020 just might be another solid month to choose to stay quiet. I have a feeling it’s going to be a doozie of a month. Just a hunch.

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