Recently one of my university projects focused on data visualisation. The brief was to take a set of data and create an infographic which displays that information in a way that is easy to understand. As part of this brief, I had to create an infographic based on a piece of personal data.
I had a number of ideas for my personal data infographic and one of those was how much I use my phone each day. From this, I learned that I unlock my phone around 60 times each day. Even worse I spend about an hour each day on Instagram. As a result of this, I decided to quit social media for a week to see if it made any difference to my productivity. In this blog post, I will share how I coped and how it wasn’t as easy as I expected.
MY RULES FOR QUITTING SOCIAL MEDIA
I had to set out some ground rules for quitting social media. As you may expect this whole process wasn’t as easy as it might appear. As a designer trying to get my work seen I rely on social media sites to help.
My basic rules were though I can’t go on social media. I can still post on social media. This was all done through CoSchedule. Among other things CoSchedule allows me to schedule social media posts. All of my social media posts are attached to a specific blog post. So I publish a post then have social media posts going out one, two and four weeks after that post advertising it.
These same rules applied for Instagram. Scheduling posts but never actually visiting the site. I have two Instagram accounts. My blog’s account, where I follow your typical influencers and post 2 or 3 times per week. By using CoSchedule I never actually have to check that account through Instagram. My social media ban was going to hurt my portfolio account more as I am usually quite active liking and following other artists.
What is social media?
I also had to make a few decisions on what counts as a social media site. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were obviously banned. But I had to stop using Reddit too. Though it’s not a site I comment or post on. It is a website I spend a lot of time on. This was again true for WordPress.
All of these website blocks were done through a Chrome app I’ve been using for a while. I’ve had it set to stop me from accessing certain sites during “work” time. All I needed to do was change the timing slightly so I couldn’t access at all. Now it’s very easy to just turn this app off. But it seems just being blocked from a website is enough to stop me from wanting to check Instagram/ Facebook etc.
MY REAL REASON FOR QUITTING SOCIAL MEDIA
I had two main reasons for quitting social media. The first was more lighthearted. The final episode of Game of Thrones was due to air and I didn’t want to come across any spoilers. I’ve seen people talk about trolls online who love to spoil television shows. Fortunately, I’ve never come across these trolls. But I was still having problems avoiding spoilers.
Blocking and muting keywords didn’t seem to help. No matter what news or social media site I went on it was almost impossible to avoid Game of Thrones. The most annoying is how it wasn’t the fault of my followers. On Tumblr, I was being shown posts about Game of Thrones from people I don’t follow. On Twitter, it was constantly being shown as a trending topic.
The internet makes me sad.
My second reason for leaving wasn’t so lighthearted. Some of the topics being talked about online make me sad. And it’s a problem where I know a news article is going to annoy me but I read it anyway. Reddit is the worst for this, especially when it comes to stories about climate change.
It seemed every day I was coming across a new article about some other way climate change was going to affect us as a population. There seemed to be far more articles about the negative effects of climate change than positive. Even if you do come across a positive story the comments will still be negative. Talking about how one good thing won’t help when some other bad thing is still happening.
It got to the point on Reddit where it felt like the posts which became popular were trying to get across a particular narrative. Bots trying to control our feeds is nothing new. Destin from Smarter Every Day recently did a full video series on how websites like Twitter and Facebook are trying to combat this.
But the fact was on Reddit I was constantly being shown posts that got me down. Changing what subreddits I subscribe to didn’t seem to help. So the next step was to change how much time I spent on the site.
FIRST THOUGHTS AFTER DAY ONE
I admit I was quite apprehensive going into this social media ban. Just from that, I knew I was more attached to social media than I maybe should be. Mentally I was going to be fine. But I didn’t realise just how necessary social media is to the work I do.
The same day I quit social media I started a workshop about passion projects. This workshop was run on an educational platform but was also reliant on Facebook. Within an hour of me quitting social media, I had to turn off my blocker just so I could join a private Facebook group. This was where the community for the workshop was based and where the teacher would be doing live videos each week.
This was the theme I kept being reminded of all day. I was able to live without constantly seeing my Facebook feed and checking out Reddit. But because I was in the middle of working on a personal project I was very reliant on social media to do research.
I’m too reliant on social media?
When trying to research artists I kept being blocked because most links I found pointed to Instagram. In some cases, I was able to find an artist’s portfolio but others only had an Instagram account.
I wanted to find a tutorial on a printing process but all the tutorials I could find were on YouTube. At one point I had a question about paper. Something I could easily send out a tweet asking for help. But because I couldn’t access Twitter I spent even more time doing research on Google.
It wasn’t just my creative practice that was affected by my social media ban. I like having noise in the background when I work. Usually, I play music or watch Twitch streams. However the streamers I follow announce when they are live on Twitter. Because I couldn’t get on Twitter I didn’t know when they were live.
I realise I probably sound very reliant on social media. In my defence, I spend far less time now than I did when I was a teenager and Tumblr was still all the rage. But I have a very strange relationship with social media and I feel part of that has been caused by my Chronic Fatigue.
CHRONIC ILLNESS AND SOCIAL MEDIA
I’ve had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for 5 years. I’m pretty much at the point where you really only know about it because I talk about it. The amount I’m able to do has vastly increased compared to when I was first diagnosed. This means I can do more stuff. But back when I first got diagnosed I could do very little. I almost never left the house and spent a lot of time on the internet.
I would love to say spent far too much time on the internet during those days. But honestly, I think the whole experience would have been a hundred times worse if I didn’t have social media. Through Twitter, I was able to talk to people and find others who also have CFS. Talking to my GP was good but actually being able to find people who had the same illness helped me so much. Through my blog, I could talk to people and it gave me something to do with my time.
Like I said my CFS isn’t anywhere near as bad as this now. But I still have bad days and in a way, they feel worse because I’m not used to having bad days now. There are occasions where I don’t have enough energy to work or be productive so I end up scrolling through Instagram or spend an hour on Reddit.
The problem with having these bad days is that it leaks over into my good days. I’ve found it really hard to get out of that aimlessly scrolling Reddit mindset because I’ve been used to it for so long. I think that if anything good comes out of this week it will be the mental kick I need to not spend hours on social media.
USING SOCIAL MEDIA AS A CREATIVE
I think cutting back on social media would be much easier if I wasn’t so reliant on it as a creative. I have a portfolio and could use that but it’s almost impossible to get people looking at it. Okay, that’s a lie. I don’t have the energy to put the time and effort needed into getting people looking at my portfolio. Especially when I have Instagram which is much easier to post on and is frequented by other artists.
Instagram is a bit of a nightmare when it comes to the algorithm. It seems posting every day helps get your posts seen. However, posting every day means coming up with a new piece of art or something to share every day. Sometimes I worry that I post work that isn’t quite so good just because I need something to post.
Social media is necessary?
I have Facebook pages for my blog and portfolio. I hardly ever post anything on them but they do exist. Facebook seems to be doing a new thing now where you have to visit your Facebook page every so often. Otherwise, it gets un-published and people can’t see the page.
That’s probably the thing that bugs me most about social media. Its something I rely on to make stuff. But for your work to be seen social media sites make you spend more time on their site. Pinterest is the worst for this. I actually didn’t include Pinterest in my ban because I use it so much.
Pinterest actively encourages people to use their site. They do this by showing pins from more active users. I’ve seen my monthly views on Pinterest increase by a huge amount just because I’ve used it a little more. I’m talking 2000 views per month increasing to 50,000. This all happened in a very short space of time because I used Pinterest more frequently than normal.
WILL I CONTINUE USING SOCIAL MEDIA?
Like I said, I was really apprehensive going into this week. But the surprising thing I learned is that I’m not as reliant on social media as I thought. Yes, it was slightly annoying not being able to get on Instagram or Twitter when I needed. But apart from that, it was fine. There were a few occasions during the week when I automatically tried to access a banned site. But I was only doing it because I was bored.
Not wasting my time on social media really has helped. I’ve been far more productive than I would normally be. I was able to spend more time working on a personal project. I was also able to finish a few Skillshare classes. At night instead of watching YouTube, I write blog posts. This doesn’t mean I’ve managed to write more blog posts. But the amount I’ve written has greatly increased.
I don’t actually need social media?
The most surprising thing was having social media on my phone. I didn’t delete any apps. Just turned off notifications and removed the icons from the homepage. The apps all still worked. I hadn’t blocked them as I did on my computer.
But not seeing the notifications every time I checked my phone was enough to stop me constantly checking Instagram. In fact, I’ve read more this week than what I have in a while just because I haven’t spent so much time on social media.
So no I don’t think I will continue my social media ban. I enjoy being inspired by the artists I follow on Instagram. I like having conversations on Twitter. But this week has shown I need to change how much time I spend on these websites.
Do you know what the strangest moment of this whole week has been? When I finally got back on Twitter after being away for so long. I didn’t feel relief or anything. It was the exact same as it had been a week ago.
I think my social media ban has been massively helpful. I’ve realised maybe I have an unhealthy relationship with social media. But to an extent its something I need. Both for promoting my blog and for promoting myself. But just because I want to post on social media doesn’t mean I have to spend all my time on it.
I was going to end this post by telling you I’ve unlocked my phone less this week compared to normal. But it appears at some point I decided to uninstall the app which was tracking the data for me.