Social media is a huge part of our daily lives. It has become just as essential as having electricity or running water. But over the last year- between the pandemic, political controversy, and social unrest, apps like Facebook, Instagram, and others have become sources of stress and anxiety for many people.
For my February Challenge, I decided to swear off social media for the month. I gave myself two exceptions- I could still post on my business pages; and I could also still engage with a family page we have on Facebook.
Other than that, all social media was off-limits!
Within a few days, I noticed that I had almost immediately replaced the continuous scrolling of social media with scrolling on other sites- such as Pinterest or Google News. It made me wonder- what is it that makes scrolling so addictive? Is it just because it passes time? Are we intrigued by the constant bombardment of new content and ads? I think it is a little of both, but mostly I believe it is due to having simply become a bad habit. Much like biting your nails or cracking your knuckles, we don't do it because we enjoy it. The repetitiveness becomes habitual. Similar to a bad habit, after about two weeks of restriction, I noticed the habit seemed to break and no longer was I endlessly scrolling.
As the month went on I realized that I get most of my news from Facebook and without it, I was very out of the loop. I follow the local news and major news outlets, the White House, our governor, our senators, and local representatives. Without their content being presented to me, I noticed that I did not actively seek it out, or even realize that I wasn't seeing it. I have not seen the state Covid numbers in a month. This is not because I don't care, it's because I am so accustomed to everything being automatically delivered to me that I usually don't even have to think about finding it.
Despite not being glued to the news over the last month, I have not missed anything important enough to affect my life. This makes me wonder- how much time have I spent stressing over things that are completely out of my control? How much of what goes on in the world actually affects us on a daily basis? We are made to feel like we must pay attention to ALL news ALL the time, as if being a spectator will somehow change the outcome of a story. The truth is, we need to remain informed but not at the expense of our mental health.
I made one final observation in my time away from social media. Occasionally when I'd visit my family page, old habits would take over and I'd start scrolling down the regular FB news feed. I would quickly realize what I was doing, because it wouldn't take long for me to come to a friend's extreme and radical post. This was the most profound lesson I learned over the last month- that we are such a culture of extremists!
Extremism is something I have always tried to stay away from. In my opinion it is one of the most toxic habits of our society. Even the best idea, belief, or movement turns negative if taken to the extreme. When a protest for a righteous cause dissolves into looting and burning; when love for a political candidate turns into a violent and deadly riot; when dislike for a celebrity leads to an accusation of devil worship; when fandom turns into blindly following someone's every word. None of this is healthy, or good, or justified. Obsession, radicalism, extremism turns us blind. And social media LOVES extremism. It caters to it, promotes it, and profits from it.
With social media being a platform where we can all "loudly" share our opinions, regardless of our education or knowledge of a subject, it is our responsibility to make sure we protect ourselves from misinformation, extreme reaction, and from getting sucked into that abyss of negativity.
Though I have missed aspects of social media I am glad to be rid of some of it. Going forward, I have decided to not only limit my social media time to less than 30 mintu4es per day. but I am going to unfollow many people and pages than thrive on extreme reaction and radical responses. I am certain my mental and emotional health will thank me!
For March, I have decided on a fresh, spring-inspired wellness challenge- to eat vegetables every day. To most of you, this may seem like a very simple challenge (and not much of a challenge at all!). But I am a notorious veggie-hater, and often go several days without consuming anything green!
If you have a favorite veggie recipe, please fell free to share it with me!