Well, I made it. For the first time since I started blogging 8 years ago, I spent 21 days off of Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Before I end the 21 day fast completely, I wanted to capture my impressions lest they get swept away in a tsunami of hashtags and share the lessons learned from my social media break.

The initial detox…

There is plenty of information available now on the addictive nature of social media. The algorithms are intentionally designed to elicit a dopamine hit like you get with gambling or other addictive activities. It amazes me that we all buy into this like it’s no big deal. I am waiting for the day when social media addiction is seen in the same light as other addictions. The problem, like other addictions, is that there is lucrative business behind social media use. It will take years before the detrimental effects are recognized as worse than the benefits. Meanwhile, it will be up to individual users to establish healthy boundaries. Like other addictions, the activity itself isn’t necessarily addictive but some will be more prone than others and will have to work harder to abstain or keep it safe. If this sounds extreme, check back in 20 years; I betcha a million Instagram followers I’m right.

I definitely noticed the initial effects of “detox.” I reached for my phone constantly in the first few days, especially while doing other activities during which I typically multitask –  watching TV, riding in the car, watching my kids’ games… er, using the bathroom (I know I am not the only one!!). I had to face the fact that it has become a habit for me to start and end each day scrolling social media in bed. Fine and dandy if you are okay with that, but I’m not. I want to read before bed and connect with my husband. I want to start each day with a prayer, not the sad news on Twitter. I want to be fully present and engaged in activities, not divided and distracted. It was a wake-up call.

What I did instead of social media…

I wish I could report that my housekeeping skills improved during the 21 day fast or that I became uber-productive in other creative pursuits. Nope. My laundry awaits as usual and productivity did not define my days, like at all.  BUT I did read 5 books in 21 days! I started a YouVersion plan to read the Bible in one year – something I’ve never done before. I walked my dog and spent time with my kids and binged some shows. I considered taking up a new hobby then my sister arrived for her biannual visit so we have been busy thrifting, decluttering, organizing, changing around furniture, and sipping cocktails in the hot tub. Being a goal-oriented person, I clarified my intentions for 2020 and can’t wait to share those. Ultimately I learned, unsurprisingly, that less social media means more time for other things that are fulfilling.

Photo of a thrifted lamp and green lampshade, bowl and vase with thrifted artwork on a thrifted entryway table.
Just one of the pleasing outcomes of my sister’s visit: a newly styled entryway featuring thrifted and gifted pieces.

Big epiphanies following my social media break…

I learned a few big lessons from my social media break. First, no more phone in bed for this girl. I’m a little embarrassed that I even got to a place where it was regularly in my bed but I’m guessing (again) that I’m not the only one who developed this habit and if my replacement rule helps me, maybe it will also encourage others.

During my 21-day social media fast, I noticed a HUGE decrease in the temptation to use my phone while driving – again, not something I’m proud to admit but, again, I know I’m not alone. All I have to do is look around at a red light; almost everyone is on their phones and it is so incredibly dangerous. Controlling my social media use has a direct positive effect on my safe driving.

I learned that I can easily do without most of the news. I missed the bombing in Iran, I missed much of the political discourse in the US, I missed the “defection” of Harry and Meghan. I didn’t follow my neighbourhood Facebook news or the Nextdoor app. I don’t have cable and I didn’t scroll Google news and guess what? My life carried on just fine. It made me ask myself, what do I really need to know? I’m not sure of the answer to that question but I do know now that social media news is not edifying to me. As I said when I started the fast, I do appreciate much of the humour and perspectives offered on social media but to get that content, my sensitive soul has to wade through miles of muck. It just isn’t worth it.

T-shirt found in the thrift store that says "Breaking News: I don't care." on Lessons learned from a social media break by The Spirited Thrifter
Should’ve thrifted this tee!

I don’t begrudge the many talented content developers their business but this break made it explicitly clear to me that I do not belong in that category. The social media landscape is not a just environment. People lie and misrepresent and manipulate. Followers don’t often follow merit. I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck so of course I know that many environments are filled with injustice. I just don’t want my job to be about buying into all that. Since leaving my recent toxic work environment, I have been on the hunt for a new job and regularly scanning the marketing/social media postings. After these 21 days, however, I crossed that category off my job search list. Letting it go led me to an important decision about my future work. I can’t announce it just yet but every day I grow more at peace with the direction I’m heading. This is major. I have not felt peace about work since leaving my Occupational Therapy career behind in Canada.

These 21 days were the first time in 8 years that I have gotten dressed just for me. No sharing my latest thrifted piece in action, no external affirmation for style choices or anything else for that matter. It was weird at first and not just a little humbling. I hadn’t realized how externally focused I was. I thought I was above that. HA. I know now that I’m just as susceptible as the next amateur fashionista to relying on the opinion and feedback of others instead of my own. Thankfully, the realization was enough for me to give my head a shake and focus on what Nicole wants for Nicole. To that end, I did a major closet clean out with my sister’s help. I’ll share about that in another post soon. The plus side of not taking OOTD photos is that I was out the door and on my way faster!

Photo of me and my sister after an excellent Goodwill thrift haul!
We were able to starting our thrifting days quicker without having to stop for outfit photos!

Now what?

Don’t panic. I am not quitting social media altogether. During my break, I really missed my Instagram community. I missed connecting with friends and family online. I learned there IS value in social media, enough to continue using it. The main change for me will be in my use as a consumer. No more mindless timeless scrolling. No more indiscriminate reading. During a limited time each day, I will dole out the likes and comments! And I will continue posting BUT I’m divorcing my posts from the response they get. I’m not going to stick to a posting schedule, I’m not going to track metrics. I’m not going to try to grow my following or influence. I’m going to post what I like when I like so you can be reassured that it’s a hundred percent authentic. Of course, I value every interaction  – truly –  but what I’m trying to say is that I’m not doing this to get something from y’all. I’m doing it because I love it. That’s why I started blogging, and 8 years of posting + 21 days of fasting later, that’s why I will keep it up.

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    • I’m reading Digital Minimalism too!

      Really happy to read this. I took a month off social media, news and blogs so this was my first visit here in a while. I was so glad to read about your break, I share many of the same feelings.
      “My sensitive soul has to wade through miles of muck. It’s not worth it”, yes!

      I might not have done anything more valuable with my time but definitely enjoyed myself more!

      • nicole

        AGREED! The quality of my time was so much better! I try to remember that every time Twitter threatens to lure me!