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Every Friday at 5 p.m. I get off social media. I delete my apps from my phone and try my hardest to resist logging in on my laptop for the rest of the night and all day Saturday and Sunday. Then on Monday morning, around 8, I get back on. I reload the apps on my phone and scroll and stalk at will.
I am not perfect at it and there are definitely weekends—especially when the book was coming out—that I remain online, but for the most part, I am social media free on the weekends and have been for about a year now.
I can’t remember the exact catalyst for deciding to do this, but I think it started with an interview I read with The Lumineers. In it, front man Wesley Schultz said the band has started to ask its audiences to put their phones away during shows.
“I’m tired of all the Facebook and now Instagram posts,” Shultz said, “these dopamine hits of how great our lives are. It’s like you start running a PR campaign for your life, you start having a distance from it…We’ve been making a deal with the audience, saying, ‘We’re all here now, and this is getting in the way. It’s distracting me – and probably a lot of you. So let’s take a few moments and really be together and really enjoy this.’”
That fact that social media is a false, curated, happy-memories-only collection of your life is not news to any of us. We’ve been sending up the warning flare about this for years. But I gave this quote a double take because I used to work in PR. I ran PR campaigns for authors’ books. So his comparison highlighted this dark side of social media for me in a new way.
I do not want my life to become a PR campaign. I know how much work that takes, but social media is indeed the place where I can control my image. It’s impossible to be on social media and not curate your life through it.
Even the “real” or “vulnerable” posts are curated. I still think about what I will say and how. How others will receive it. What it will look like to those who follow me.
Posting about your experience on social media is not, and never will be, the same as simply having an experience.
As Shultz said, this all creates a distance between us and our lives. This isn’t good for anybody, especially a writer.
A writer’s job is to observe the world around her and communicate the truth that she sees. How can I do this when my face is more often than not in my phone, and I’m spending more time curating an experience than having one? What experience can I write about? And if social media puts my career at risk, is it really worth it?
All of this got me wondering about the time I spend on social media and what it’s really doing to me. What is it adding? What is it taking away? If social media is creating a barrier between me and my real life, how can I justify its presence?
These are all questions I’m still wrestling with. The end of the road could be a social media fast for an extended period of time or getting off altogether one day. I don’t know, but for now, being social media free on the weekends is a good baby step.
Other than not wanting to be the publicist for my own life, here are three reasons why I keep signing off on Fridays:
My FOMO (fear of missing out) is at its worst on the weekends. If I don’t have anything fun to do on a Friday night and I see on Instagram that seemingly everyone else has something fun to do, I immediately feel less than. I feel ashamed that I’m binging Friday Night Lights and drinking red wine by myself.
However, if I am on my couch on a Friday night binging Friday Night Lights and drinking red wine by myself and I can’t see what everybody else is doing because I’m not on social media…boom, no FOMO.
Ignorance is not only bliss but also the solution to FOMO.
Sometimes during the week I take a “break” from work by scrolling through my social media feeds for a while. However, when I turn back to my work I never feel rested or refreshed. That’s because, I have learned, scrolling social media is not restful.
I’m sure there are studies to prove this but I don’t even need them because I’ve experienced it myself. Social media makes me feel more anxious than rested. I think this is because it so consistently makes feel like I’m not enough:
I’m not doing enough work.
I’m not posting enough styled images of my book on Instagram.
I’m not doing enough exercise.
I’m not making enough paleo recipes.
I’m not taking enough trips.
Being off of this hamster wheel of “not enough” for 48 hours makes me forget about everything I am not doing and every way that I am not enough of a woman, worker, writer, Christian—and it allows me to just be. And that, my friends, is true rest.
Sitting still, reading, journaling, walking outside. These activities never make me feel more anxious, and they never make me feel like I’m falling short.
I’ve realized that I cannot truly rest in front of a screen observing others’ lives. I must look away and experience the five senses in my real physical world.
See: read a book, watch a bird hop around on a branch
Touch: make a craft, fold laundry, bake cookies
Taste: eat a meal without checking my phone, eat one of those cookies I baked
Hear: listen to music while staring out the window or at the ceiling (not at my phone)
Smell: hang out by the oven where my cookies are baking, light a candle
These are the things that put me back in touch with reality and, therefore, bring true rest to my life.
I mentioned how social media can affect the writer because we can’t observe life if we’re not actually living it, but there’s another reason social media has been detrimental to my career: It is messing with my attention span on a dire level. It’s probably messing with yours too.
Next time you’re reading a book, do a little test. How many pages do you read before you reach for your phone? The results will probably alarm you. I sometimes don’t make it a full page before feeling the urge to pick up my phone and see how many likes I’ve gotten on a photo I posted 45 seconds ago.
I noticed this with my writing, too. I would write two sentences and then before I knew it I was opening an app on my phone to do who knows what. It’s like my brain can’t do sustained work anymore, and this is not good for my writing. Not good at all.
I’ve done my best work when I’ve let myself get lost in a deep hole of words, returning to the surface for air unsure of how long I’ve been under. My best work is certainly not done when I’m typing two words here, checking Insta, one paragraph there, checking Facebook.
Ernest Hemingway didn’t write like this. We shouldn’t either.
So, how many times did you check your phone while reading this post? I won’t be offended. I’d rather not tell you how many times I checked mine while writing it.
I’ve gotten to the point where I actually look forward to Fridays at 5 p.m. It’s like I’m giving myself a little vacation from the hustle and scramble and the comparison. I feel like I’m doing something good for my brain and something good for my soul. I feel like I actually have a weekend of rest. And yes, it feels a little odd when everyone else in the room is checking their phones and laughing at things and I’m just standing there, but I think there was a time when groups of people in rooms all functioned perfectly well, phoneless and looking at each other.
Maybe we’ll get there again one day.