I recently took a mini-break from social media. Actually, I am pretty good about keeping my professional presence on social media in balance, but I noticed my personal presence had gotten way out of whack. It all started with a Facebook post I read on July 21st by Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery (check her out here, if you haven’t already).
In her post she was talking about texting (or checking) and driving. I read the post and it struck a nerve. Although I’m pretty good about not texting and driving (though I could be better – which translates to “putting my phone away completely”) what stood out to me is that she commented on the checking. That, I’m afraid, is another story.
I check. I check often. It doesn’t matter where I am, or whether I hear the phone vibrate, I was always glancing down or opening up apps to see what was going on. I slowly conditioned myself into a Pavlovian response when it comes to my cell phone. And I don’t like it. That post was a wake-up call. Perhaps it wasn’t exactly the one Glennon intended, but it was the one I needed.
So, I made a decision: get social media off my phone and log off completely for a few days just to see what sort of autonomic response I would have. As it turns out, I was right. My Pavlovian response was strong, and now that my phone was no longer vibrating with messages and notifications every 5-10 minutes, I found myself feeling lost and somewhat directionless. It was weird.
Even though I didn’t spend endless hours online, I had conditioned myself to look at my phone during every stop light, in every waiting room, before bed and upon rising, among many other times during the day. Grabbing my phone to “check-in” had become reflexive, not responsive, and it didn’t feel good.
That lost feeling lasted for about a day, until I turned it around after realizing how much more free time I had. Suddenly, my mornings were more relaxed, and my bedtime routine was calmer. Yes, I missed my interactions with friends and friendly banter, but I enjoyed listening to music and reading again. I spent more time with my dog – actually with him, not just in the same space as him.
When I decided to go back online after a few days, it was deliberate. I no longer found myself drawn to see what I missed by endlessly scrolling. Instead, I allowed whatever was present to show up, and I responded accordingly. Perhaps some friends will feel I’m no longer interested in their stories – which couldn’t be further from the truth – but I don’t have any control over how they think.
What I do know is that I feel more in control than before, and I seem to be enjoying my time offline a little bit more as well. I’m writing more, which is awesome, and I’m connecting with friends via the phone or in person, which is also awesome. I feel calmer, too. As if my nervous system is getting a much-needed mini-break. One that will turn into a long-term respite from the frenetic pace of online life.
As of writing this piece, I still haven’t put the app back on my phone. I still have a residual reflexive response in glancing down at it every so often, and I still open it up expecting to see the app. When it’s not there, I take a breath and remember that life is being lived all around me. And then I go look for flowers, birds, or music, and it feels good. I can say hello later, when I’m at my computer writing, or taking care of something business-related.
Finally, this exercise has reminded me that mini-breaks, in all aspects of our lives, are important, because they’re the reset button we often need to realign with our Self again. Whether it’s a break from electronics, caffeine, work – whatever the case may be, a mini-break is often just what is needed to come into greater alignment with life.