I quit social media. As a Psychologist, an Author and a Mum, Here’s What I learned

May 13, 2021

So I’m done with social media. Whether it’s for now or forever, I don’t know, but here’s what I’ve learned:

A quick recap – I decided to ‘detox’ from social media for 8 weeks. Starting on International Women’s Day, through to Mother’s Day. My aim was to test the statement that I ‘need’ social media for my business, to track my mood and see what I would do with my time instead.

My mood changed dramatically.

I actually made more money in my business.

Instead of scrolling, I finished 8 books.

Instead of writing posts for someone else’s platform, I wrote over 50 thousand words of my second book.

Here’s what else I’ve reflected on:

Social media impacted my mood a lot more than I wanted to acknowledge

Of course self-assessment is fraught with bias. Of course I was hoping my mood would improve. In all honesty though, I really didn’t think my baseline scores for depression and stress would be as bad as they were at the beginning.

I also doubted whether detoxing from social media would change things all that much. I’m honestly startled by how much things improved.

Here’s an overview of the results:

Depression: moderate
Anxiety: normal
Stress: extremely severe

Depression: mild (upper limit)
Anxiety: normal
Stress: moderate

Final check in
Depression: normal
Anxiety: normal
Stress: mild (upper limit)

It’s not as simple as saying social media was the ‘cause’. However, it feels like it took me away from things that amplify my values.

When you start with your values, and work backwards, clarity emerges

Don’t know what to do with your business?
Don’t know what to do with your day and what to prioritise?

Write your values on a page before your to-do list. Ask yourself – “what amplifies my values?”

During this 8 week detox I came to realise how much I value genuine fun, autonomy and stillness.

Does saying ‘yes’ to this choice in my business give me more or less autonomy?

In this choice right now, can I choose the more genuinely joyful option? If I can’t (boo, paying bills and cleaning!) then when can I cultivate true joy?

Always be asking “is this necessary?” and “where’s the evidence?” (aka remember Marcus Arueulis and Pareto)

I’m not anti social media, but I’m pissed that a chunk of what I was paying attention to in my life was carefully orchestrated by a bunch of white dudes in hoodies in Silicon Valley.

Instead of casually letting things into your life that ask for your attention and time – ask yourself (1) do I actually need this? (2) where is the evidence that this amplifies my values? and (3) Can I apply Pareto’s principle (that 80% of your effort will result in 20% of results).

I work 10 hours a week. Sometimes a lot less, sometimes a little more. Even with scheduling software and content planners, it just takes up way too much time and energy.

Keeping boundaries on the multiple messages I was getting a day about people’s trauma stories was getting difficult to manage.

There are many other ways to help people and provide value for free that don’t take up quite so much of my time and energy.

Stillness is where we find the insights and language to express what’s happening to us

In her book, The Creative Habit, choreographer Twyla Tharp suggests a practise of stillness, allowing thoughts where they want to go will lead to a word or a goal emerging. You simply keep working the practise of stillness in one minute intervals until something interesting comes to mind.

Stillness allowed me space to find the language for what I was experiencing – not just ‘stress’ or ‘depression’ but more specifically, postpartum depletion and parental burnout. Another useful phrase is ‘shadow numbing’ – settling for ‘good enough’ fake fun, instead of genuine joy.

Mothers, don’t give up your hobbies

I cannot imagine myself as an Oct
ogenarian on my deathbed saying “I’m so glad I spent all that time on Instagram”.

There is no ‘one day’ to return to a mastery practise that gives you true meaning and joy (e.g., painting, music, writing etc). That day, ‘one day’ when the kids are grown and your website is perfect and your email box is empty…. Then you’ll write a book, pick up a paintbrush, learn the drums or whatever.

When I first said I was quitting social media, SO many mothers I know said “yeah, I spend too much time on it too”.

Quitting social media was the activation response I needed to revisit my values around fun. Sticking to a routine of low leisure numbing activities (that I never really took the time to ask myself if I even enjoyed) kept me in a loop of ‘CBF’ energy.

If you know you’d like to read a book for example, then start with reading one page before you pick up your phone, then one chapter. Tiny little changes leads to huge changes in energy, identity and mood.

We distract people with “self-care” instead of addressing community care

I’m really conscious of not wanting to be another white privileged woman who thinks that self-care is a swim at Bondi and $30 for avo toast.

OF COURSE mothers want to numb out with social media. Who the fuck has time/space/energy to self-actualise when they are in active crisis? When a black mother in the Bronx is STILL 12 times more likely to die in childbirth than a white woman. Self-care is not a replacement for being genuinely cared for by community.

There is a great YouTube video from 2019 where California Democratic congresswoman Katie Porter schools JP Morgan’s CEO on the real-world. She runs him through the numbers indicating that a single mother on the bank’s starting salary for a teller would be $567USD in the red at the end of each month. Porter asks the CEO how a woman in that situation could get by.

After stating that the woman in question may have his job one day, Porter posits the question of how she would ever get to spend his 31 million dollars when she’s constantly $567 short. He doesn’t have an answer.

No one should be yelling “self-care” and “get some hobbies!” at mothers who aren’t even in a position to get their basic needs met.

The willpower argument about social media is rubbing salt in the wound of parental burnout

Blaming individuals for not being able to find more ‘balance’ in their social media or phone use is just bullshit. Brain hacking is worth billions, and exhausted mums looking for a hit of dopamine are bound to get hooked. Keeping people hooked on products is how investors get paid. We’ve seen it before with tobacco, alcohol, crap food, and arguably drugs like methadone and benzodiazepines.

When confronted, these companies introduce doubt – are you sure behavioural addiction is a ‘real’ addiction? Are you sure that veggie chips are healthier than potato chips?
If you’ve never read the famous ‘doubt is our product’ memo from the tobacco industry over 40 years ago, give it a read

Doubt sometimes then induces separation (“well, not everyone is addicted, so it must be you that has the problem”), and then shame. When people feel shame, they look to numb, and so back we go to our low-effort numbing activities.

Where to now?

For now, I have no intention resume social media. I feel way happier with my blog/email format. It’s made life simpler. Yes, it’s slower and flies in the face of the current narrative about how you ‘should’ grow your business. I’m happy for other people to do what suits them best.

My role, as I see it is to simply do what I’ve always tried to do in my business – not judge or shame others for their choices, not tell them what to do but simply inspire people to start with “I wonder”

I wonder if this statement is true for me?

I wonder have you tested that theory?

I wonder life could be easier and more joyful if you were open to the idea of trying something different?

I’ll leave you with my one golden observation that has made quitting social media “worth it” for me:

Now, when I sit down on the couch with my kids, they no longer hand me my phone. Instead, they hand me a book

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