In defence of switching social media off
I returned to the UK a few weeks ago after ripping myself out of the comfort zone to work on a project in San Francisco for a few months. After embedding myself into life over there, coming home has been quite a shock to the system.
A big part of that has been a return to the perils of being on the same time zone as 90% of my friends and logged into Whatsapp, Facebook and Instagram.
Social media is great in so many ways.
I love that it allows me to stay aware of what's happening in the lives of people I love who live thousands of miles away when I might forget because we can't speak everyday.
I love that Instagram acts a visual diary for me so I pause, appreciate and take pictures of the little peices of beauty I spot in my daily life.
I love that it allows certain friendship groups to share hilarious stories which rapidly decend into a torrent of inappropriate humour, piss-taking and mockery to keep us all grounded.
I love that allows my ramblings here to reach a wider audience - my post on endometriosis has had over 1,000 readers!
So where's the new catch?
In the US I would wake up 8 hours behind the UK to receive almost all of my notifications for that day in one instant. Leaving me my entire working day and fun time evenings to focus on whatever task was at hand.
It was only once I got back on the same time zone that I realised just how draining and distracting social media can be. I came home jet-lagged but full of beans for the personal and professional projects that taking a step out of my normal life had given me the headspace to conceive and commit to.
Unfortunately, I found the constant buzz of messages and content being proactively pushed my way without my permission hugely distracted me from this. The endless push notifications felt like a swarm of bee's buzzing around my head that I was constantly having to aggressively swipe away. It distracted me from what I needed to be doing, it distracted me from I what I wanted to be doing and it put me in a shitty mood.
I found I had little patience for 50 notifications of random chit chat with no real purpose from people who I hadn't exchanged anything with while I was out of the country. That probably sounds a bit bitter but it's not. It's just that leaving the country or going through any hugely positive or negative life experience is an opportunity for certain people step forward and others to step back. That's just how it is and this is why friendships evolve and change - but more on that another time.
Even when I hit mute or stopped the push notifications, that little red figure counting the unread messages on the Whatsapp logo would keep begging me for attention and subconscious bother me, because as a professional communicator I've taught to respond to everything instantly. Thanks Whatsapp for not allowing us to just opt to log out!
So what did I do...
I logged out of all apps that I could - I love a bit of a Facebook stalk and Instagram scroll as much as the next person (probs I bit too much to be honest, must switch off further), but I like to engage with this content when I am ready to. Not when it determines I am ready. Sorry Mum, but I don't want an instant notification in the middle of my working day when you've shared another photo of the cat. And Facebook, please stop trying to tick me into logging in for one of your "so and so has just posted for the first time in ages" posts. I don't sodding care! Instead I now only log in when I want to engage.
I prioritised people who prioritised me - Anyone who knows me is fully aware of how goddamn excited I was to head back to San Francisco. And most of you will probably realise how daunting it is to move to a whole new city, with no real friends...alone. It was facinating to see who was happy for me, who proactively checked in to see how I was coping all alone out there or who replied to my messages checking in on how they were back in the UK. Since being home and back in the overwhelming busyness and size of London with limited time (don't we all!), I've put those people who made time for me at the top of the 'must communicate with and see' list.
Downsized my group chats - So much inane chat that goes on in whatsapp groups it's unbelievable. If it's not going to make someone wee themselves laughing, an attempt to personally check in on someone or perhaps most importantly to make plans to physically meet up in the real world...it might not be a welcome distraction. For this reason I decided to take a time out of several group chats. I just couldn't handle the endless stream of chatter anymore.
Stopped and considered the value of my own contributions - Of course, it is only fair to judge the value of other's social chatter if you pause and take the time to judge your own. So for this reason I have been endeavouring to pause and consider the value of any messages I am about to send, knowing that someone at the other end might be feeling overwhelmed too. Unfortunately for some people I still determine the opinions of the latest episode of Love Island to be crucial, urgent content. Ha!
Apologies to anyone I know who's read any of the above and been offended. Feel free to drop me a line for a meaningful conversation and meet-up if it has, so we can hash it out.
In the meantime, I am enjoying the additional headspace and energy that focusing on quality, rather than quantity, has given me. These being creative writing projects and making moves to broaden out my professional experience and further my own career. And while initially I felt guilty about deciding to switch off a bit, I now certainly don't feel guilty about that...and if you feel the need to do the same too, you shouldn't either.