My Week Away from Social Media: Lessons in intentional living

Photo by Aditya Saxena on Unsplash

As my last blog post suggested, I’ve been struggling a lot recently with negative vibes swirling around me like a hurricane of badness. I needed to do something. I thought it was changing up my creative projects, but I came to realize that I couldn’t focus on my new things with all the negativity I was holding onto.

Then it hit me: I should take a break from social media. Specifically Twitter and Instagram, where I spend most of my time nowadays. I also didn’t worry about publishing on Medium or here, because I wasn’t feeling good about what I was writing either.

These are places where I’m trying to grow my online presence for professional reasons. But in the process I was focusing too much on numbers; how many likes I was getting, how many comments, etc. Obviously I wasn’t getting the numbers I wanted, my engagement was minimal. It seemed no matter what I did, I couldn’t get people to notice me.

I was stuck in this spiral of suck, where I wasn’t happy and I wasn’t doing what I loved. The only way to break out of it was to take some time away from the things that were making me miserable. So that’s what I did.

The past week, from Saturday to Saturday, I didn’t check Instagram or Twitter nor did I write anything new for Medium or this blog. If I had any ideas, I’d write them down or take the picture for Instagram, but I wouldn’t post them.

This is what I learned:

I actually had ideas

Without the pressure of Social Media I had a strange newfound inspiration. There were beautiful pictures everywhere, new ideas for writing, endless possibilities.

A bowl full of blueberries, the view from my window, images of ice taken by a favourite photographer. I was noticing things that bring a little joy into my life, things that I wanted to share. The fact that I wasn’t sharing brought a sort of freedom to my ideas that I hadn’t experienced in a while or maybe ever.

This is going to sound obvious but trying to force it wasn’t working. As soon as I stopped forcing it, the ideas started flowing. I didn’t think it would be that easy, but⏤weirdly⏤it was that easy. I wasn’t even off Social Media for a full day when I started to feel this freedom, this lightness.

It wasn’t as hard as I thought

Like many people, I’m a little addicted to my favourite apps. I spent way too much time mindlessly scrolling through Instagram and Twitter like it was my job. I’m going to sound a bit like Marie Kondo here, but it wasn’t bringing me joy.

I thought it would take me a couple days to stop wanting to fall back into my scrolling habits but, while I would occasionally open the app without thinking, I didn’t really feel the urges almost right away. It was as if I was truly ready to let go of these miserable-making patterns.

Now that I’m “back,” I don’t feel the need to look at it every five minutes like I used to. So perhaps it was a turning point for my routines.

The numbers don’t matter

Numbers are just that: numbers. They seem like this all-powerful important meaningful thing, but the world didn’t end when I stopped looking at the numbers. In certain situations the numbers matter, though when it comes to passions, the numbers don’t matter.

By constantly checking how many likes I was getting, how many reads, how many views, I was giving those numbers much more weight than they actually need. But that’s not what should matter to me. What needs to matter is my feelings, my love, my passion, my enthusiasm for what I’m creating.

To a certain extent, in order to grow and potentially make more money⏤which, y’know, helps me be able to continue creating freely⏤the numbers need to matter a little bit. However, the numbers don’t deserve top priority in my life. My art is what matters and everything else is just secondary.

I needed to properly prioritize in order to set myself free. And that meant putting the numbers where they belong.

Another thing I did for myself was read a self-help book (dun dun duuuuun). But weirdly enough, it’s been helping. Who’d’ve thought?!

I purchased You Are Badass years ago but it sat on my shelf unread until this past week. It’s as if the book has been waiting until I needed it. Boy, did I need it. It was the perfect companion for my Social Media hiatus, as it showed me how I could live more intentionally and how I wanted to live.

I have this image in my head of this whimsical life where I can write and paint and bake without fear and I can support myself from it. It seemed too far out of reach until I started reading this book.

Yes, self-help books are cheesy⏤this one is especially “rah-rah”⏤but it’s my kind of cheese.

Rejoice in the cosmic ridiculousness!

Jen Sincero

This was a line that really stuck with me; a reminder not to take life so seriously.

Here’s what I’ve taken away from what I’ve read so far:

Live like you’ve already got the life you want

Do the things you envision yourself doing in your dream life, or figure out ways that you can start doing those things. Be proactive and intentional with your decisions.

For me, that means writing and painting and doing all the things that bring me joy. Yeah, I still have my day job, but if I spent less time feeling sad about the fact that I have to have a day job or wistfully longing for my dream life or on my scrolling on my phone, I’d be able to do the things that I dream of.

I’m going to have to work some internal fears, but that’s part of it. Pushing aside the feelings of suck to make room for the awesomeness that’s ready to take its place. We constantly tell ourselves excuses for why we can’t live the life we want, these are rooted in fears and negative beliefs that we carry around in our subconscious. But, if we instead tell ourselves positive stories about us, we can shift our thinking and in turn our reality.

If I can get to a place where the fears don’t keep me from living, I can do all the things!

Be wholly you with as much enthusiasm as you can

Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is you-er than you.

Dr. Seuss

I think that sums it up nicely. You need to own your special brand of weirdness because there’s no one else that’s going to do it. Embrace it. Live it. Live it loudly!

I was trying too hard to be like the people I admire. And why wouldn’t I? They’re awesome people! They’re successful and other people like them. But I’m not them, I’m me. I can’t do things like them, I can only do things like me. I can’t succeed in the way someone else has, but I can succeed in my way.

These people can inspire me, but in the end, my work needs to come from me. They need to come from my own truth. They need to come from a place of passion and love, from the place that is wholly me.

And I need to be me. In the most ME-est sort of way. I want to love what I love without fear of judgment, wear what I want to wear, create what I want to create. Someone else that’s been a “be yourself” inspiration superhero for me is Bernadette Banner, who makes and wears her own historical clothing and is a general sunshine person. She embraces her interests with a crazy amount of enthusiasm and isn’t afraid to show it.

I’ve spent too much time concerned with what other people think of me. But, the thing is, what other people think of me is actually none of my business. It’s been hard to wrap my head around, but it’s true.

The only opinion about me that matters should be me.

Live in the moment with gratitude

The moment is where it’s at! Literally. Live for the moment that you’re in and be grateful for all the amazing in the world.

Some of my happiest little daily moments are when I’m simply loving the world around me; gazing at the clouds, listening to a singing bird, feeling the fresh air in my lungs. If I could live like that all the time I’d be set.

Unfortunately, it’s not totally possible to live in a state of constant gratitude all the time, but it’s a noble goal. When we see everything through the lens of thankfulness, even the negative can have a silver lining.

All of the rejections and setbacks I’ve been having lately are all a lesson for me to learn, a way to teach me that something wasn’t working. I’m thankful things didn’t go the way I wanted or I’d be somewhere I shouldn’t be. And I’m so grateful for the time I gave myself this week and for the new inspiration and motivation I’ve gained from it.

I can’t recommend this enough: take time away if you need to. The internet will be there when you get back. The people who are important will understand that you need to take care of yourself.

The world is wide and wonderful; there’s so much more to it than what’s on Instagram or Twitter. It just took some time away from it all for me to realize it. Now I’m ready to go out there and do so much more than I was doing before.

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