Like most things in life, social media has pros and cons. When it comes to living with chronic illness and searching for wellness, social media can provide an incredible support system, as well as daily inspiration and tips to stay motivated in the quest for wellness. On the other hand, if not kept in check, social media has the potential to be a distraction. It can take up a great deal of time that can be spent instead on wellness practices or other endeavors. With this in mind, I am excited to open up and share how a social media fast helped me find wellness.
It’s Not You, It’s Me
“But Shanna, I see you on Instagram everyday sharing your wellness story and tips!” Yes, you are right! I am on social media most days sharing my story, and connecting with others in the autoimmune wellness community. I love it! However, it was not always so.
Over a year ago, when my health was approaching its worst before my diagnosis, I decided to go on a social media fast. Why? I had no answers for my health struggles. At that point, I felt unwilling to be authentic on social media. Finding myself in a dark place, I could no longer handle seeing pictures of others’ highlight reels. I struggled to see loved ones doing things I could no longer do. Even simple pictures of friends smiling and looking happy seemed more than I could bear.
I simply needed time and space. How much time and space? I was unsure. Innately I knew I needed to carve out time and space in my life to try to get my life back, and find wellness.
Determined, I felt ready to figure out what was wrong with my body. For the first time in my life, I decided to focus on my health, my little family, and rebuilding my life. I chose to put all of my efforts into healing – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Needing time and space to heal, I took a break from social media. Subsequently, I deleted all of the social media icons off of my phone, and logged out of all of my social media accounts on my laptop.
Beginning my social media fast was incredibly hard. I had to break bad habits like checking Facebook or Instagram throughout the day. While difficult at first, my plan worked like a charm. My social media fast helped me find wellness. After a couple of months, I was able to find answers, a diagnosis, and begin regaining my health and rebuilding my life.
Filled with comfort, and a determination to find wellness, I focused on overhauling my nutrition, lifestyle choices, and developing a growth mindset. More months passed, and I started to find wellness a little at a time.
At the beginning of my social media fast, I had no set timeline in mind for staying off of social media. I trusted I would know when to return to social media. My social media fast ended up being almost 9 months! It ended up being one of the best choices I’ve made for my wellness journey.
Stopping the Comparison Game
One of the benefits of my social media fast was learning to love and accept myself instead of constantly comparing myself to others on social media. Prior to taking a break from social media, I consistently found myself unintentionally comparing myself to others on social media. I compared myself to others on social media in the following areas:
The conclusion I came to daily? I was lacking in all categories. Weighed down and consumed with my physical symptoms, I did not have the strength emotionally to celebrate others’ victories. Further, I did not have the self-confidence and self-love to identify and celebrate my own unique gifts. The truth is we are all beautifully unique. I am. You are. But I could not see it then. I needed time away from social media to find that piece of my wellness. To learn to love, accept, and honor myself exactly the way I am.
Quieting the Noise
Being on social media too often led to feelings of overwhelm. I felt overwhelmed by the noise in my head that seem triggered by social media. My head felt so filled with distractions and what was going on in others’ lives, that I felt unable to think clearly. Moreover, I felt like I lacked personal intention and creativity in my life.
My social media fast freed up time for personal reflection, meditation, goal setting, and creativity. Spending time away from knowing what everyone else was doing and when allowed me space to get to know myself. Further, I found time to cultivate wellness practices. It took time, but I found me again. Meditation, coupled with being intentional with my time and energy, was instrumental to me finding wellness.
In his book, Atomic Habits, habits expert James Clear explains the distraction of social media. He stated, “If I feel bored for just a fraction of a second, I reach for my phone. It’s easy to write off these minor distractions as ‘just taking a break,’ but over time they can accumulate into a serious issue. The constant tug of ‘just one more minute’ can prevent me from doing anything of consequence” (Clear, James, Atomic Habits, page 175).
“The average person spends over two hours per day on social media. What could you do with an extra six hundred hours per year?”James Clear, Atomic Habits, page 175
One of the most surprising benefits of my social fast was the real connection I felt with strangers. I no longer checked my phone while waiting for doctor appointments, blood draws, or a green juice from my favorite organic juice bar. With nothing to do, I made it my mission to connect with others.
In one particular instance, I found myself in a stuffy, crowded waiting room filled with people waiting for lab work. As I looked at the people around me, I quickly concluded everyone looked miserable. Including me. As a result, I made it my mission to try to brighten someone’s day. Looking around me, I noticed a couple in their 70s sitting to my left. Making eye contact with the wife, I smiled, and said hello. An uplifting conversation, and real connection ensued. I will never know if I accomplished my mission of brightening someone else’s day, but I sure ended up brightening my own!
Shaking It Off
Toward the end of my social media fast, I heard from a friend that others were saying things about me, and my retreat from social media. She did not offer specifics, and I did not ask. I still felt a bit fragile, but I innately knew that I did not owe anyone an explanation. After all, people will talk about any given situation. Why should I be immune? Not quite ready to share my story yet, I let them talk. Instead of worrying about the approval of others, I kept focused on what I knew I needed to do. I knew I would open up about my experience when ready, and forgive what was said behind my back.
“What someone else thinks about you is none of your business.”My Grandma
After my nine-month social media fast, I returned to social media to share my story, and connect with others. Not only has sharing my story been incredibly therapeutic (I highly recommend it!), I also meet wonderful and inspiriting friends online who support me and cheer me on. I love supporting and cheering others on as well! In a healthier place, I now enjoy social media!
Social Media Tips
Every day, I try to keep myself in check as far as my social media habits. Bad habits surrounding social media can creep up on me if I am not careful. Here are some tips that help me:
Taking Breaks as Needed
I give myself permission to take a break from social media, as needed. I recognize that I am allowed to unplug and create time and space for myself. Whatever that time and space is; one hour, one day, one month, or one year.
In their book, The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook, Mickey Trescott and Angie Alt offer tips for maintaining a healthy relationship with technology. One of the tips is to “take a ‘technology detox’ or a ‘social media vacation’ periodically” (Trescott, Mickey, NTP and Alt, Angie, NTC, CHC, The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook, p.126).
Setting a time limit
I try to limit myself to no longer than one hour a day on social media, broken up throughout the day. While it may sound like a lot, it really adds up quick! I set up Instagram so it alerts me when I hit my one hour.
Turning off notifications.
After returning to social media after my social media fast, I turned off all Instagram and Facebook notifications. This cut down on distractions and interruptions. Moreover, I try to check social media only when I am intentionally checking it, rather than being available at all times to respond to updates, comments, and DMs.
Are there drawbacks to this? Yes, it takes me longer to respond to people and sometimes I miss updates or announcements. However, my health is a priority, and I need space to continue finding wellness.
Being mindful of who I follow.
The content I see on social media takes up time and space. I try to be sure to only follow accounts that are uplifting, inspiring, encouraging, and supportive. My rule of thumb is: does the content I am consuming make me want to be a better version of myself? Does it lift me? Or do I feel worse after looking at this person’s posts?
Remembering most people share only the best pictures of themselves.
Myself included. Why? Because I want to share my story with you, but I am pretty sure you do not want to see me with bed head in my old sweats and no make-up on. In fact, out of multiple pictures of me at one time, I usually only identify one or two I feel comfortable posting. Keeping in mind that most of social media is a highlight reel inspires me to celebrate day to day imperfections.
Recognizing the incredible side of social media.
There really is an incredible side of social media! Connection, support, wellness tips, inspiration, positivity, and encouragement! I try to focus on the good, and weed out the bad.
Sending You Love and Support
Wherever you are on your wellness journey, and whether or not you decide to do a social media fast, I want you to know you are not alone. I am here for you. There are many of us living with chronic illness, and searching for wellness. I love sharing my story, and I hope it helps you in some way.
You are in control of your own life, the choices you make every day, and your wellness journey. I encourage you to be intentional with your time, and create space to determine what you personally need to find wellness.
A social media fast helped me find wellness. It may or may not be part of your story. Regardless, I am sending you so much love and support! I love to connect, and would love to hear your experience with social media! Please leave a comment, send me an email, or connect with me on social media.
“The modern technology that we have access to is nothing short of revolutionary, and can be both an incredible tool as well as a chronic stressor for our bodies. It isn’t the particular technology itself that is ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ but the habits that we develop around how we use it.”Mickey Trescott, NTP and Angie Alt, NCT, CHC, The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook, p. 126