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What I Learned From Detoxing Digitally

by Emma Szczepanek

Last month after watching a very convincing Ted Talk I decided that I needed a break from social media. I’d thought about the idea many times before, but watching that video was the catalyst that made me decide it was time. I’ve always had a mostly hate relationship with social media (90% hate 10% love). It seemed like a chore, something I had to do to stay present in a social circle, the make or break of my career. Facebook always seemed like a constant stream of negativity, and Instagram, the ultimate highlight reel felt inauthentic. I never truly felt connected to anyone when I posted on Facebook or Instagram, but the idea of leaving these platforms made me nervous that my career would fail and my life would fall apart (I’m generally a worst case scenario thinker).

Once I made the decision to leave my social media platforms, and step away from the constant connectedness of the world, I actually learned a lot, and thrived without constant Instagram scrolling and Facebook nonsense. I benefited mentally. It felt like my brain changed. Here are a few things that happened:

I became more focused

Recent studies have shown that regular multitasking can reduce our ability to effectively complete tasks. Our brains can only handle so much information at one time and when we consistently bombard our minds with endless streams, it’s forced to switch between everything we’ve given it, putting less focus on individualized tasks.* I can’t even begin to tell you the number of times I found myself trying to read an article while watching a YouTube video, or the number of hours I spent scrolling through Instagram while Netflix played in the background. These seemingly small bouts of multitasking have a huge effect on our ability to focus when we really need to. Once I eliminated the temptation of mindless scrolling I was able to sit down and truly dedicate time to one specific task. Over the course of 30 days, I noticed that the amount of time I was able to really focus became longer and longer. I went from only being able to work for 30 minutes without a break, to sitting down and focusing on something for an hour or longer. I felt motivated by the amount of work I was able to get done.

I actually LIVED the life I wanted

This was something that only the 30-day detox could help me realize. I spent so much time on social media following influencers and other people that were living the life I wanted. Waking up early every morning, working for themselves, traveling, committing themselves to a regular yoga and meditation practice. These were all things that I wanted to do, this was the life I wanted to live, but I wasn’t doing it. I was getting an odd complacency about the life I wanted because I was almost able to live it through other people. Living that life in my imagination through their feed. I got satisfaction from seeing them do all of these things and didn’t actually try to do them myself. Once I gave up social media, I was able to sit down and take a true audit of my life. I was able to tune into the things I truly wanted, and I started to do them. I woke up early, did my meditation, did yoga, spent time on my business, all of the things that I had for some reason been avoiding but coveting in others. During these thirty days, I felt more like myself than I had in a while. I didn’t have other influencers, bloggers, trainers or coaches to compare myself to. I was doing my work the way that I wanted to do it, not being influenced by the things that were popular on social media at the moment. I was able to live my life in that same way. Without stepping away from the people that I envied so much, I think it would have taken me much longer to realize that I was letting them live my life for me.

I was able to create

When I was really able to be with myself and spend time figuring out what I wanted out of life and my career, without the influence of what the “successful” social media influencers were doing. I felt like my creativity was at an all-time high. I came up with new concepts to write about when I had been stuck for months, I came up with an entirely new project that I would have never thought to create before. For a long time, I thought that social media was inspiring to try new things and do something different, but it turned out that it was really holding me back, and instead of standing out, I ended up blending in.

Overall, the past thirty days has truly changed not only my relationship with technology but also my relationship with myself. It’s so easy to get caught up in the digital world because we’re constantly told that we can’t do things without it, but that’s not true at all. Technology and social media have made many things a lot easier, but it’s also taken a lot away. Our ability to connect to our authentic selves, to take chances and do things that may not get likes or follows. Being able to see the world on our phone or computer screen is a wonderful advancement, but being able to see the world with our own eyes is still possible, we just have to lift up our heads.

*[The Essential Digital Detox Plan – Orianna Fielding]