What I learned from deleting Instagram and Facebook for one month.
My hiatus from social media was completely unplanned. As a person whose business is entirely dependent on the engagement of an online community, it never occurred to me that I should or even could take a break from Instagram and Facebook. In addition to Raise, I manage multiple accounts for the PTA of my son’s school, an Insta feed for Levon, and personal accounts across all platforms. Levon’s winter vacation offered an automatic break from the school accounts, and we scheduled posts for Raise in advance of the holidays, but as I waited in line to pick up Levon on his last day of school for the semester, I made a split second decision to do a social media detox for the remainder of the year. Here are seven things I learned from the experience:
I immediately felt less stressed.
Merely hours after deleting the apps, I felt less stressed than I had in years.
Between politics and the pandemic, my feeds had become constant onslaughts of chatter that affected my mood far more than I realized. Imagine waking up every day and entering a room full of hundreds of people who, one by one, stand up to make statements that fill you with rage or at the very least sadness, and then choosing to stay in that room all day. For me, that is what my feeds had become. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that our timelines should become echo chambers of our own opinions. But I do believe that even for the most staunch advocates, it’s important to remove ourselves from the chatter for a period of time in order to reconnect with our passions, priorities, and real-life relationships.
I missed some apps more than others.
I’ve had Facebook since it was just for college kids and while I’ve never been particularly addicted to it, I’ve also never considered deleting it because it’s been a part of my entire adult life. So I was shocked to find that after removing it from my phone, I didn’t miss it even a teeny, tiny bit.
I will always have a Facebook account out of necessity for both my professional and volunteer work, but I can create posts for those feeds through FB’s Business Suite and third party apps, allowing me to log in from my laptop when needed and keep the app off of my phone indefinitely.
I found myself reaching for Insta much more often, which showed me just how much time I wasted scrolling my feed before my social media detox. I have yet to decide when or if I’ll reactivate my personal account.
Viewing social media on my laptop is key.
As I said above, my work requires me to keep my accounts active, but I’ve come to realize that I have a much healthier relationship with social media when I view it on my laptop. I log in when needed, post, do a quick scroll of my work feeds, and log off . No scrolling in bed or going down the rabbit hole of feeds that only leave me distracted and drained.
I get out of bed much faster.
Of course I still pick up my phone first thing in the morning, first to turn off my alarm, and second to make sure I don’t have any urgent texts or emails, but all of that lasts less than a minute. No more lying in bed and wasting the first 30 minutes of my day on Instagram.
Not all screen time is the same.
I still love to lay in bed and read the news on my phone, but that doesn’t leave me feeling anxious the way mindless scrolling does. I’ve realized it’s not screen time in general that’s the issue – it’s what I’m looking at or watching on my screen, and this insight has changed my attitude toward screen time in regards to Levon. I really don’t mind if he wants to veg out and watch a TV show or movie, but I do take issue with him watching an hour of YouTube videos.
Not all feeds are the same.
Levon’s Instagram serves as a digital photo album and connection to his birth family, and I continued to update it throughout the holidays, but since I don’t follow anyone through his account, I wasn’t tempted to scroll. I’ve realized it’s my personal accounts that serve as a distraction, and they’re the ones I need to avoid to stay present in real life.
Now I understand what it’s like to be a kid in this day and age.
Once I was off social media, I became extremely aware of how often other people sit and scroll on their phones. I suddenly understood what kids must feel like in a room full of adults, including their parents, who are completely distracted by screens. I obviously still do an enormous amount of reading and working on my phone, but I’ve started to share what I’m doing with Levon. “I need to do some work on my phone, but I’m here if you need something.” It’s become important to me that he realize I’m not simply ignoring him, because that’s absolutely how I felt in a room full of adults on their phones.
My social media detox didn’t turn me into a Super Mom who suddenly loved playing mind-numbing games with my seven-year-old, but it did make me a more present mom who was conscious of my surroundings, my moods, and my priorities.
Jessica Butler is the co-founder of Raise, stepmother of two, and adoptive mother of one. Prior to Raise, she was a writer on USA’s "In Plain Sight" and TNT’s "The Last Ship." She and her husband, writer/producer Warren Bell, co-created the Nick at Nite series "Instant Mom," based on her life as a stepmother. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and six-year-old son, Levon.