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What I learned by taking a three-month break from social media

I open up my Twitter app, take a look through my timeline for the last time, and click ‘Deactivate Twitter’.

My relationship with the social media app had long been an issue. I’d been using it every day for the past five years, and had found myself feeling overwhelmed and nervous every time I clicked on the little white bird on the square blue background.

I’d been thinking about deactivating for a long time. Loading the app, I always felt this deep feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach; like something bad was about to happen. My newsfeed would often show awful stories, and no matter how many keywords I tried to hide, I always managed to find something to read that would make me feel anxious.

Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

It might sound sad to some — not all people become so ingrained in a social media app — but I was at a point where just loading it activated a ‘worry button’ in my stomach.

I decided to come off Twitter thinking that my career would plummet. As a writer, what if editors had only been commissioning me because of my large-ish following? What if I wasn’t actually a good enough writer? But that didn’t happen. I still got commissioned to write the things I was passionate about, work didn’t plummet, and instead, I set up my own PR agency.

I found myself becoming decreasingly nervous around my phone. When a notification popped up, there was a sigh of relief that it wasn’t Twitter. That it would just be my mum texting me or an old friend popping up on Facebook. I no longer jumped up to see what was going on in the world, checking the news, refreshing a newsfeed knowing that there would be something that could trigger my anxiety. In fact, my anxiety lessened.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Over time I started using my phone less and less; it was as if I’d parted with a self that I didn’t know was detrimental to my own wellbeing. It was refreshing to see things for what they were — this was a phone that was there to communicate with the people in my life, for when I needed to talk or for when I was in an emergency. It wasn’t something I should be using to become almost addicted to tweeting 140 characters.

I became less and less interested in my phone and more focused on other things. I was more present, I was more interested in life, I felt more importance over other things that actually were important — and that wasn’t a newsfeed full of bad news or triggering tweets.

I was using my phone in a healthy way and focusing on my little family and my new work. I wasn’t spending hours on my phone scrolling up and down. It was like a negative part of my life had been removed and I was re-learning how to manage a little device I was paying a contract for.

Photo by Ben Kolde on Unsplash

I came back to Twitter three months later because there were parts of it that I’d missed — catching up with friends I’d met over the app, for instance. But this time was different. I didn’t feel the need to tweet every day nor did I feel compelled to repeatedly refresh my feed. Instead, I’d taught myself to use it like any other app — as and when I pleased.

Since being back online, I’ve tweeted only a handful of times, because to be honest, I have lost a lot of interest in the app. Don’t get me wrong, it was nice to reconnect with people I’d met over the years, but now, when I get a Twitter notification, I leave it until I have time to check it out. I don’t stop what I’m doing to focus on it, nor do I get that overwhelming feeling come over me.

I’ve learned to use my phone in a way where it isn’t a big part of my life. I’ve learned to use it in a way that works for me and my family — for work calls, for catch-ups, for emergencies.

No longer do I stare at a scrolling news feed, almost looking out for something that’s going to make me feel on edge or panicked.

I’m glad I took that three-month break. I’m glad that I’ve now got a healthy relationship with my phone and that it doesn’t take as much time out of my life as it did. My screen time has certainly decreased drastically.

Most of all, I’m glad that I noticed something was up and I took control of the situation, rather than sinking deeper into it. It might just be an app, but that to me shows determination to do something about a situation that was making me miserable.

And now, I use that determination in other ways — and it’s got me to where I am now: calmer, less absorbed by social media, and more focused on the things that really matter.


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