Put the phone down & step away from social media

You could say I’m a little high-strung. (When I’m asked how I relax,  my answer is simple: “This is a trick question, right?”) I describe myself as thoughtful—others might say neurotic. I claim to be a planner who likes to think ahead and process all possible scenarios (you know, to be prepared, just in case). Others would say I’m a worrywart who could stand to ease up a bit.

But I decided to dip a toe into this phenomenon called “relaxing” and made a bold move several weeks ago: I took 48 hours away from all social media.

For the record, I’ve always loved social media—Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. It’s so easy to keep up with friends and stay apprised of the latest news and trends, and I love the community it creates with people near and far. But I found myself craving to check in more and more. And I started using social media as a crutch. Something stressful? Go on Facebook and see what’s new. Putting off chores? Log onto Instagram and contemplate which photo and filter would perfectly capture the essence of #ThrowbackThursday. Minutes or hours later, I still would feel stressed and anxious and would mumble about the wasted time I’d never get back.

When I decided to take a weekend away from social media, I wanted to give myself a real challenge: I signed off the weekend of my 32nd birthday. There’s this trend on social media when it comes to birthdays (perhaps you’ve noticed, too). Instead of sending cards and celebrating a friend’s birthday in person, people post to Facebook. (Happy birthday! HBD! [insert cake and wine emoticons here]). And the birthday gal or guy spends the entire day obsessively checking to see who wished them well and how many people bothered to acknowledge their special day online.

So I opted to go out and celebrate my birthday without obsessively checking Facebook and without trying to document and share every moment of the day.

When birthday morning rolled around and I relaxed in bed, it took all my might to not touch my phone. It’s like a muscle memory or a default for me; my body just moves without thinking and clicks on social apps as I greet the day. But I resisted. Instead, for the rest of the day, I celebrated. I focused on my friends who joined me to celebrate. I lived in the present. And I did a bunch of cool things (at least, I thought they were cool) that I didn’t immediately photograph and share with the world. And I survived just fine.

When my 48-hour social media drought was over, I logged back into Facebook, but it was without much enthusiasm. Being away from those platforms, even for just a weekend, made me realize how indulgent it felt to share a picture or something I thought was funny. And as I flipped through everyone’s updates and contemplated posting my own, I thought to myself, “Who cares about this?” (Actually, “Who gives a crap?” were the exact words I uttered out loud.)

I’m still not fluent in relaxation, but I sure as heck know that getting away from social media brought me a step closer.

Katie Bell is a Portland-based freelance writer who has contributed to publications throughout Maine, New England and London.

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