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  • Tracy

My 30 Day Social Media Cleanse

There is no denying that the last few months have been difficult. I think everyone, to varying degrees, has dealt with some form of Covid-related stress. Between the looming election, the dismal economic outlook and the general sense of aggression and frustration, I began to feel a great deal of sadness on more days than I care to admit. In light of this, I decided to do a 30 day “media cleanse”: no news, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok or any other related social media. I shut it all down and took a giant step back. The results were rather surprising. The very first thing I noticed (and I mean within fifteen minutes of deleting the apps from my phone) is that I now have the attention span of a flea. It seems I have completely lost my ability to wait, or at least wait well. Whether it’s standing in line at the grocery store or even putting a movie on pause so the dog can go out, I immediately reach for my phone to fill up that space with something. Somewhere along the way, I have conditioned myself to be distracted at all times. It’s ridiculous. Once that ability was taken away, I honestly found myself at a loss, wondering what to do with those few minutes of quiet. I have had to re-learn the art of simply waiting; observing the world around me, listening to my own thoughts and – gasp – even engaging with other people. It was quite the reality check. The second thing I noticed is, my reading abilities have been sorely affected by my habitual practice of skimming articles and scrolling through news feeds. I went to the bookstore and picked out a novel that piqued my interest and I swear, it took me three tries to get through the first chapter. This was alarming because I love to read and as a writer, I would like others to read my work, as well. It’s hard to do that when you can no longer process anything longer than a simple paragraph. It was disconcerting to realize that my reading comprehension has suffered and if nothing else comes from this experiment, I have reaffirmed my commitment to reading actual books. As the days went by, I found myself reaching out to people more often…as in calling them. On the phone. Friends I hadn’t talked to in months, my sisters, my Dad. Once I couldn’t keep up through social media, I actually had to call them if I wanted to know how they were doing. It was so much fun! Sadly, some of the people I talked to only thought I was calling because something was wrong. That really hurt my heart; to realize they thought they were only hearing my voice because something bad had happened. I can – and will – do better. Social media, and media in general, is a double-edged sword for me. I enjoy seeing my friends and family and get to share in their lives just a bit, even if it’s only through pictures. I also use social media as a way to promote my work, so I can hardly be hypocritical about it. And let’s face it, sometimes a bit of distraction from the craziness of the world around us is a good thing. The problem seems to lie in how often I am using it and what I am using it for. It never ceases to amaze me how much time I can lose simply be scrolling through Facebook. Hours upon hours wasted in a single week. And when media reports, political debates and traumatic stories start to keep me up at night, that’s a sure sign I need more balance in my life. I now allow myself one hour a day for any sort of electronic media. I check my local news, the weather and then call it good. I am back on Facebook and Instagram, but now closely monitor the time spent on these sites. I use technology to hold me accountable for my one hour allotment and it notifies me if I exceed my limit, which is extremely helpful. I have made a new habit of not taking my phone in with me to restaurants, choosing instead to enjoy the company of the person I’m with. I’ve dedicated myself to making memories instead of posts, which has been a breath of fresh air. Social media has its place, but it shouldn’t take the place of living the good life I’ve been blessed with. That is my takeaway from the last 30 days, for whatever its worth. Know you are loved. 

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