What happened when I cut my social media from my life

My habit was ingrained.
My habit was ingrained.  Photo: Shutterstock

Much like the next person I've been known to spend an unhealthy amount of time looking at social media. The draw (and addiction) of Facebook and Instagram is real, even if most of its content is not.

Social media is the equivalent of a movie's highlights reel. None of the behind the scenes crap makes it through the editing process.

No one admits that their children were fighting seconds before that perfectly posed shot.  And no one confesses being on the verge of divorce in their carefully scripted #loveofmylife post.

Staring at the phone getting sucked into the social media vortex it's hard to remember this. These portrayed pictures of perfection make us question our own lives.

We worry we're missing out. Our bodies will never match up, we will never be as in love and our children won't ever be so groomed.

Yet, the only reality of social media is that it makes us feel mentally crap, something that numerous studies have shown.

As someone who has always struggled with both anxiety and depression, social media to me is like a fan to a flame. Recognising this, I recently committed to cutting down on social media time.

It wasn't easy at first. Scrolling through my newsfeed was about as habitual for me as making a cup of tea – and I drink A LOT of tea. Most of the time I wouldn't even realise I was doing it, so forcing myself not to, had to be a very conscious thing.

I removed the app from my phone and left it out of the bedroom at night. I put it in my bag during the day, only checking my texts, and it perched on a shelf out of sight when my sons were around.

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After just over a week, the habit was broken. I wasn't reaching for my phone and mindlessly scrolling online. I realised social media added nothing to my life because, most notably, I felt mentally great!

For the first time in a long time I was present in the moment. I felt like I could enjoy things for what they were, not for how good they may look online. Spending time playing with my sons in the pool was much more pleasurable than looking at pictures of other kids doing the same in my feed - #holidayfun #blessed #livingthedream.

I also read seven books in just over two weeks – a significant representation of the time I had gained.

But, it's not just me that's benefited from this change. My family has too and, in particular, my sons.

I was guilty of not listening to them when I was on my phone. Being submersed in my feed meant it often, sadly, became a priority. If they interrupted me, I'd feel frustrated and inconvenienced. I've no doubt they felt the same.

My boys will only be little once. In a few years, they won't want me to play – they'll most likely be online themselves and the roles of frustration reversed. Taking photos of them on their phones on social media will hardly make me feel #blessed.

In an ideal world, I'd remove myself from social media altogether. But no world is ideal and the reality is I can't.

My gym page, my work, a private friendship group and school mean that I need to maintain my presence online. In fact, without these I'd be completely in the dark – in more ways than one. Ironically, my friends and gym group help to keep me sane!

As the old saying goes 'never say never', but for now I feel no desire to scroll. I never believed that refraining from doing so would make such a difference to my life. The habit was so ingrained, the fomo felt so real.

The reality is now that I can focus on feeling truly #blessed, but in the #realworld with its #wartsandall.