What I learned from #ScrollFreeSeptember

But first here are some stats:

8 books read

3 blogs written

2 online courses started

2 zine meet ups facilitated

2 TV series completed

1 concert attended

1 poetry reading attended

Basically I did a lot of shit when I wasn’t scrolling through social media.

A week before I started #ScrollFreeSeptember I had a revelation. I had just gotten back from a holiday in Spain where the villa I was staying in had terrible WiFi that didn’t work. I couldn’t get a signal to use my mobile data either. So I spent two weeks without being on my phone. Then I came home. I was so excited to be online again. I remember sitting on my couch and having some creative ideas. I then started aimlessly scrolling through Instagram and I completely forgot my ideas. It was in that moment that I realized our brains aren’t supposed to be processing so much information, constantly and at once. No wonder people report feeling more anxious after being on social media. In the span of 30 seconds you might see a new recipe you want to try, a motivational quote that reminds you of your grandmother, a funny meme about vegans, someone sharing their experience with anxiety, and so on and so forth. It never stops. And we’re doing this to ourselves for hours on end to avoid FOMO (fear of missing out).

I can come across some really interesting ideas on Instagram or Twitter but then my attention is immediately diverted to the next thing without having had any space to process the idea properly. Then I only remember the feeling of finding something interesting, not what the thing actually was.

During September I dedicated more time to monotasking (the opposite of multi tasking). I would sit with my book and just read for an hour or two. I didn’t have my phone by me or if I did I knew I couldn’t go on social media so there wasn’t much to do on it besides that. I could sit down and write a blog or even journal and have my attention focused 100% on it. It felt amazing.

I felt like I had somehow gained my time back. I was starting and finishing tasks. I felt a lot calmer. I was able to write to do lists and go through them at my own pace without feeling like time was running out. I think maybe because social media moves so quickly we are starting to feel like we need to move at the same pace in our lives? I don’t know. That’s how I felt.

I definitely missed Instagram and Twitter. But I didn’t miss the negativity or the humble bragging that comes along with both. I was no longer seeing people posting about their new book deal or their latest holiday and I felt better for it. On the flip side I couldn’t share things with my networks either. It was my birthday in September and I didn’t get to post about it. I wanted to post about it so that people could wish me a happy birthday and make me feel special (might as well be 100% honest!). I wanted to post about Danez Smith’s poetry performance and meeting them and them signing my book. To signal how cool I am. I wanted to post about the incredible Olafur Arnalds concert I went to with my friend Donna. But these were all ways to get external validation that the things I was doing were cool and worthwhile. That they made me likeable. That they made me good enough.

One week into October and I’m already missing September. I miss the excuse of #ScrollFreeSeptember for not being on social media. I miss not knowing every single horrible thing that is happening in the world. And right now, there’s a helluva lot. And of course I have no one to blame except for myself. I’m back on social media because I want to be and to some extent because I feel like I have to be.

My Etsy sales have been non existent the last few months and I’m worried if I’m not on social media promoting myself no one will buy my stuff. I’m worried I’ll miss opportunities for zine fairs or submission deadlines. And I miss interacting with people. There are some people I only know or talk to through social media. It’s nice to be able to see what they’re up to and feel like I’m a part of that in a small way.

#ScrollFreeSeptember made me reevaluate my relationship with social media. I realized I was using it for the wrongs reasons most of the time: validation, boredom, to cheer myself up, etc. And I was doing it way too often. I still love it for the inspiration, creativity and hearing other people’s stories. I just need to go back to finding those things.

Here are some guidelines I came up with for myself to use social media responsibly:

  • don’t go on just to check for likes, views or comments

  • if you find something interesting stop and do something with that information

  • don’t scroll when you’re on the bus, in line, or waiting for someone; be present

  • figure out why you want to go on (to post something, find a recipe, read the news, etc.) and do that only

  • set a time limit per day and stick to it

  • recognize when it’s no longer making you feel good and leave (whether for the day, week, month or long term)

What has your experience been? Would you ever take a break from social media or leave all together? Do you need or have your own guidelines for social media usage?

If you like this blog or any of my other work please:

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