30 days offline
Ten takeaways from my month avoiding social media
Last month, I randomly decided to log off from all social media and delete their apps from my phone. I wasn’t sure if taking time offline would have an immediate impact (spoiler: it did), but I was desperate for some perspective.
Professionally, I was experiencing burnout and battling imposter syndrome; personally, I was resentful towards my family and distant — constantly checking my phone and ignoring my two sons (3yo and 1yo).
I’d had Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism on my Audible wishlist for a while, but this was the first time I’d considered purchasing it. I had coincidentally already committed to a 30-day period and intended on replacing my screen time with more noble pursuits — steps Newport specifically recommends in his book.
In no particular order, here are my 10 biggest takeaways from spending a month off social media:
1 I slept wayyyyy better
My 3yo has never slept very well. It’s rare that he makes it through an entire night without coming into our bedroom. He almost always requires some coaching to go back to sleep. I’m usually awake for 30+ minutes after this happens and when I get frustrated, I hop on Twitter or Instagram and scroll until eventually nodding off. It’s not social media’s fault that I do this; it’s a terrible habit that I hadn’t ever tried to break. Without the apps on my phone, it was easier to give up and just let sleep take over. Even on nights when he woke us up two or three times, I never looked for my phone. Who knew eliminating the distraction would force me to take action on my own?
2 I saved a lot of money
Instagram is a data hog. I kept it on my phone for work purposes, but didn’t check my personal account (including messages) or scroll through my feed. Since I was staying off the app so much, I didn’t even come close to our monthly data limit or had to monitor our WiFi usage (we pay by the GB). Our bill was $50 lower than it usually is and the only thing that changed was my reduced use of social media.
3 My mental health improved
I struggle with anxiety, but felt much more relaxed during my 30 days offline. I had zero anxiety attacks and had a significant reduction in stress. I didn’t have any feelings of jealousy, fomo or self-doubt. I attribute all of this to staying offline.
4 My energy levels shot up
This was unexpected. I’ve been working out 3–5 days a week. I’m also more aware of when my two small boys need to get some energy out, which leads to more games of tag or wrestling matches together. In the past, I dismissed those moments (usually opting to doomscroll), but now I welcome them.
5 I was more present with my family
It used to be so hard to put the phone down at dinner, but I rarely even had my phone out at home after “work hours.” I felt like I saw my boys more, even though we spent nearly the same amount of time together. My wife noticed a difference within days and I felt more connected to each member of my family.
6 My closest relationships thrived
Not only did my friendships remain fully in-tact, they improved. Even though I wasn’t speaking to everyone online like I usually do (Slack is one of my main methods of communication and I logged off of it for the 30 days as well), the people with whom I was afraid to lose touch texted or called on a regular basis. It revealed some of the people I’d unnecessarily been giving my attention to and I have no problem keeping them at this same distance moving forward.
7 My business thrived
I didn’t miss out on any important business opportunities during the 30 days (one of my biggest reasons for putting off this kind of hiatus for as long as I did). July turned out to be my most profitable month ever, and I landed two new clients while avoiding social media. I don’t think the new business is a result of staying offline, but it eliminated all of my fears about being less active on Twitter, Instagram or Dribbble.
8 I still got distracted
There were plenty of times my phone enabled me to do pointless stuff. I played a lot more Blockdoku and started searching for random junk on Craigslist. It’s good to know eliminating social media doesn’t guarantee perfection, and I’m working to become more aware of the vices that seem harmless in the moment. For example, I journaled a lot during my month offline, but often did that on my phone at the cost of time with my family. The goal is to remove distractions and replace them with meaningful pursuits (not more distractions).
9 I developed a plan for future social media use
I decided that, moving forward, I’m going to be more intentional with social media. My idea is to keep Instagram buried on my phone (and used primarily for sharing work). Twitter (my favorite social media) will stay off my phone altogether and I’ll try to only use it on Fridays, which are generally more relaxed than other workdays. Posting new work to Dribbble, LinkedIn or any other platforms will be done as-needed, without much attention given to times of day/week for better traffic. I’ll also keep all notifications turned off, so I’m not tempted to hop back in.
10 Social media isn’t inherently evil
Even at my most obsessive, my goal was never to hurt my family by ignoring them or harm my own mental health. That’s the thing about distractions, though; we invite distractions when we’re bored and I was used to thinking that anything other than work was boring. I believe I think the goal to be informed and connected is worth pursuing. The amount of time and the immediate interaction we sacrifice in that pursuit is worth deeper consideration, and I believe most of us — maybe all of us — could stand to put our phones down 90% more than we do.