I have a love-hate relationship with social media. I’m perpetually on the verge of deleting all my accounts.
But even though many people want to limit their social media usage, it’s really hard to completely leave.
Let me start by confessing that a post on social media literally changed my life. Ok that might be a bit dramatic.
My youngest daughter heard from her teacher, who saw on tick tok that if you put a wet paper towel on your chopping board before cutting an onion, you won’t cry. I don’t know the science behind this. And I’m not curious enough to find out why this might work – truthfully i don’t even know if it always works – but I’ve done it now enough times to know that I’m crying less in the kitchen – at least from chopping onions. Sometimes I still cry trying to figure out what to make for dinner, I mean honestly, how many times does one family need to eat?
The point is, I can totally see how social media has some benefits. I can also see how it can suck the time and life out of my day.
To scroll or not to scroll, that is the question.
My name is Rishma Walji, former Naturopathic Doctor and PhD turned scientific creative. I’m on a mission to live an extraordinary life, sometimes that means it’s full of adventure and excitement and sometimes it means that I’m just able to stay in the moment with my family, enjoying our time together. I spend most of my time reading, researching and writing about how to live intentionally so that we can re-shape the trajectory of our lives.
If you’re interested in living your own extraordinary life, you’ll find my research, workshops, journals and other resources around the website. A good place to start is the free quiz to find out how you approach goals and decisions in your own life.
Besides the impact of social media in my kitchen – it’s not just the onions – the recipes posts are great too.
Benefits of Social Media
There are other benefits to social media. I’ve been able to keep in touch with people in a way that I wouldn’t be able to otherwise. People who are not close on a daily basis but I have known them over the years. Sometimes it’s family. I can see pictures of my nieces and nephews growing up, especially when they live far away and I can’t see them as often as I’d like.
I’ve talked to a lot of people about social media and almost every one of them also feels conflicted. Not many are as close to making a drastic change like me, but many of them are conflicted.
This is Sarah:
So some days I love it. I love connecting. And some days I absolutely hate it.
If you’ve been using social media for a while, it becomes part of your daily routine. Part of the fabric of how you store the history of life.
S: “I have so many photos on there and memories and like bike trips I’ve taken with my dad and stuff we’ve done and I don’t want to lose that stuff. And I don’t think I have it saved anywhere, which I probably should. So if I delete it, I just I don’t know, I feel like all my memories go away. And I don’t know. That’s the one thing I love about Facebook is that you know, five years ago, memory that comes up.”
Personal Interaction IRL (in real life)
But she makes the point that our phones in general, and social media in particular, take away from the personal interaction that happens between people who are in the same room.
S: “One of the things about social media that drives me bananas is my husband will pick up his phone while we’re in the middle of a conversation. And I’ve learned now I just stopped talking I’ll be like why just stop listening.”
As difficult as real relationships are in general, the online ones can be even more fragile.
S: “I just you know you need you can’t read tone you can’t get sarcasm or concern. You can’t see facial. There’s just so much missing. That is so part of our rich communication needs and yet people are relying solely on social media to communicate and it just, I hate seeing sort of, I’ve seen you know friendships between people dissolve over comment threads. I wish we could be on social media and not bicker, because we’re not changing anyone’s mind with. You could write out the world’s greatest comment, someone will read it in a completely different frame of mind and tone. And yeah, I don’t know, it beats me down, I guess.”
Taking A Break From Social Media
I took a break from social media for over a year, maybe almost 2 years. What happened was very eye opening.
At first it was a bit scary – I had almost a compulsion, a twitch, wanting to check. Then later, when I had ‘detoxed’ a bit, what I found was that it was amazing how much time came back to my life. Even though i was using it for work, i had easily fallen into the mindless scrolling trap. You know when you start watching stories or looking at posts and go down a rabbit hole and then look up and wonder how an hour has passed?
It was almost a relief not to use it anymore. Partly because for work, I feel like it actually takes a lot of brain energy – for me at least. Someone who is not naturally inclined to post every day. When I didn’t have to post, and when I couldn’t scroll, or watch other people on it, all of a sudden I had so much time. Time to relax and read and spend time with my family, go to bed early. There was a quiet peace in my mind that I didn’t realize I was missing.
What to do with your time instead of social media
For a while, Sarah also took a break from it. So I asked her what she did instead. Her answer was not what I was expecting, but it was so good.
S: “I started painting cows. Oh, cool. Avoid to avoid just sitting Mindlessly scrolling. Scrolling, I found a bunch there are more tap cow painting tutorials on YouTube than you can imagine. And why cows? Turns out like painting cows isn’t that hard? I love it.
This is Milicia. She also describes her relationship with social media as complicated.
M: “Yeah, I don’t think that I was on it, like, any more than the average person. I think that there was definitely like, I felt sort of this like, unspoken pressure to create content as a as a business owner. And especially I think, as an artist, too, there’s just this need to sort of innovate a lot of the time.”
She makes a good point here. There’s probably a distinction here between a business owner using social media and someone using social media for personal reasons.
M: “How do I stand out among everybody else, and that’s really difficult to do when everyone’s kind of doing the same thing. And especially when people that aren’t trained professionals in that same field. So there was there was a lot of like, frustration around seeing what some other people were doing and like not doing well. And just I think that like the competitive nature of social media, there’s a lot of comparison that goes on. And, you know, I’m only human, it’s gonna seep into what I’m doing a lot of the time.
Ah … the comparison… She’s not alone. I end up looking at other people in my field too. Even when I know, I tell myself over and over, that they’re journey is not my journey. When I know, my goals are not their goals. Even if I don’t want some of what they have, or had to give up, to be where they are.
And when I do aspire to be exactly like them, I sometimes have to remind myself that I’m not them.
Comparison happens professionally to so many of us. But it even happens personally. When I was in clinical practice, I treated a lot of fertility patients. And so many of them found it very painful to see other people talk about their pregnancies and babies.
Social Media and Creativity
Besides the usual reasons that people dislike – time, emotions, comparison, fakeness – there’s another really big reason that drives me to want to get off social media.
I feel like it sucks my creativity. When I’m on social media, my brain gets preoccupied with bite sized information, little nuggets. And while I understand the appeal of that kind of information – it’s fast, and quick and easy to understand – there is something that bothers me about it.
You know by now if you know me or you’ve been listening to the podcast for even a little while, I like to go deep. I have deep conversations, deep thoughts about life and love.
Even as a health provider, I feel like there’s a huge red flag in my mind when it comes to advice that isn’t nuanced or properly explained. The danger of knowing something superficially. Not to mention that I feel like it’s usually (not always, but often) less effective if you don’t go deep with a topic especially in something like health care.
Some people balance this line well. But for me, when I’m not thinking about social media, I’m working much more deeply. I’m creating connections between complex ideas, coming up with my own theories.
Deep Thinking and Meaningful Living
And beyond just work, I’m not just thinking deeper, I’m also living deeper. I feel like I’m more present in my life. I’m not thinking about what to post, or someone who recently posted. Somehow I’m able to stay more present, and more peaceful, in my life. Does that make sense? I have less noise in my brain and in my thoughts.
I know this isn’t the case for others. Some people like keeping in touch, and staying updated on their family and friends, and in some cases like when you’re sick at home, or when you’re in high school, social media might be one of the main ways to stay actually social. So there is no judgment here. It’s just a topic that I’m grappling with.
Limiting Social Media
For me, having tried it and having been off it, I know it’s not good for me. So what I really want to do it delete it entirely, not just off my phone but out of my life.
Will I feel FOMO? Probably. When I’m not on social, I find things out later than others, I miss out on funny memes and entertainment news. I miss details that friends post about, vacations and moves and fun events. But in my life, where I’m really intentionally focussed on peace, and joy and deep connection, I think that’s something I’m willing to trade.
Social Media and Small Business
The main reason I have a hard time getting off social media is for business. If I’m really honest, it’s the only reason I still have my accounts. I find guests for the podcast often on social media. I promote my business on social media. People decide if I should be a guest based on how many followers I have or if my audience is engaged. I don’t love the way it is. And I’m working hard to change how I run this new version of my business and my work – because I’d much rather just read and write and think. But if I want to impact people’s lives, and share my work widely, I need to be ‘out there’ so to speak. And for now, it seems like social media is a way to do that.
Like many small businesses, social media is free marketing, and an important tool for growing the business.
So I talked to a few small business owners to get their perspective.
K: “So I would say that 80% of our business comes from social media. It’s crazy.”
This is Kristen, she runs a local business in her hometown.
“You know, we don’t have yellow pages anymore, you know, that used to be back in the day when people would find somebody. But social media is used so much now for referrals on different platforms. You really have to know how to use social media to grow your business.”
It was good to talk to Kristen because as a local business, I can see the value in her approach. I understand the need to build a name and a brand on social media so that people can find you, whether locally or globally.
The Price Of Social Media
For me, while I think social media certainly helps, I also believe (or maybe want to believe) that my work can be shared in other ways. And also, at the risk of being controversial here, is it really ‘free’? It might not cost money but it does cost something. Time, mental space, energy, emotion. When I think about the costs, or the potential downsides, it’s hard to ignore.
K: “There is a flip side, you lose yourself, and you can’t really be yourself on social media anymore. I’ve said this, you know, to my partner a few times, I can’t have an opinion anymore, you know, because my name is linked to our business. And so when there’s, you know, when a forum, there’s a interesting discussion, I can’t say how I feel, because if I’ve upset somebody, then automatically then they would never use me for my business. So I have to be always very, you know, professional, and I can’t really say anything.
For Kristen, she felt that it was hard to be free to be herself. Almost restricting her ability to express her thoughts.
For me, with my business that’s more knowledge based and very much about me as my brand, it’s not so much feeling like I can’t express my thoughts but more that it feels vulnerable sometimes to be open about things. It’s the very thing that drives me to do it by the way, so people can feel like they’re not alone, so that I can help people who might benefit from what I’m researching and what I’m working through myself too.
I have to develop a thick skin and I’ll admit, while it’s getting better, sometimes my skin feels pretty thin.
There are other problems too that small businesses go through when they’re using social media.
Like when Kristen got banned from facebook. She lost all the hard work she’d done building her brand online.
K: And it was done. I find myself last month that’s all it’s it’s all I’ve done is just back to feel like I’m back to square one trying to add friends and you know, and rebuild our Facebook page.
People often tell me, well why don’t you just hire someone to do your social media? And yes, I probably could. This is what Kristin said about hiring someone.
K: “And and as a as a as a competitive and control person. It’s hard to unleash that to let somebody else do it. Like I do know a company that turns off their messaging after a certain hour. I envy like I that. But I would never do it because I would lose a customer, you turn your messaging off, they’re gonna find someone else to message and you’ve lost that customer. So that’s another thing with social media, you got to be available 24/7.
Work-Life Balance And Social Media
To me, that’s not at all what I want. I don’t want to be available 24/7. And maybe that’s an option for me, since I have a different type of business.
There’s another reason I don’t love the idea of hiring someone. To me it feels less authentic. Everything I do is built from deep relationships, and walking the talk of living intentionally. Perhaps I’ll be able to find a balance of just sharing my work on social without the need to post every day, and to respond to every thing that’s going on in the world, because it impacts me personally too so sometimes it’s too much to post about it.
Social Media and Mental Health
Not to mention that for many mental health reasons, I’m personally against social media. I mean it’s hard to advocate for intentional living and then also encourage people to follow me on social media. I guess there’s something to be said about meeting people where they are and using what works but the thing I struggle with is how much am I willing to give up to grow my business and reach more people?
For me, unless I can find a way to do it largely hands-off, so that I’m not always thinking about it but it’s still working for my business, it goes against my personal values. And I don’t want to give up my personal values for my business goals. And that’s not to say this is true for everyone, but for me, at this stage of my life, I don’t want to hustle in the grind. I did that, and I know that there are times in life where you might need to do that. But while I really want to impact the world in a meaningful way, it feels like a steep price to pay. I want to find a way to do it and also have fulfilling personal balance.
I did a lot of research on social media, most of which scared me, but I talked to someone who made me think about it a little differently. Be sure to listen to the next episode with Dr. Don Grant who is an expert in digital media and healthy device management. It was a really insightful conversation. If you’re trying to use it in a healthier way, and not necessarily delete it (like me), or if you want to teach your kids to be healthy and responsible about their social media, it’s definitely a conversation you don’t want to miss.
In the meantime, while I don’t have the answers that will work for everyone when it comes to social media. I thought it might be helpful if I tell you what I’m doing in my own life to help me manage it better. Based on my own experience, and the research that I’ve read.
Even if you are tied to your phone and you scroll automatically without thinking, just hear me out.
Limit Your Social Media Use (it’s more important that you want to admit)
- I time my usage. In a few ways, for a few reasons.
I mentioned earlier that when I took a few years off of social media, I found that my brain was more calm and peaceful and creative. So I’ve been trying not to check my social media in the morning or at night.
In fact, I try not to check my phone at all in the morning and before bed. This has more to do with wanting to center myself and my thoughts while I’m still waking up and winding down, and this seems like a small thing but it’s actually really important.
Maybe I’ll do another episode about that in the future related to priming your thoughts – which essentially is about how your subconscious mind and subsequent decisions are impacted by things that you’re exposed to – and this happens at any time of day but particularly I’m conscious of it at the beginning and end of the day.
So essentially I’m trying to get away from this reflexive action of checking my phone when I wake up and when I go to bed. Now I know it’s not possible for everyone to do that. Sometimes we need to check urgent messages or if there’s a school closure or snow day or something like that. But I’m being more intentional about not only when I check my phone (what time of day) but also what I’m doing while I’m checking it. Because once I start looking at the time and the weather then I’m automatically checking messages and emails and social media is likely to follow so that’s something that I’m making a really deliberate effort to avoid.
Something that really helped was that I used to only check my social media from my computer. But there are some things that you can’t do on a computer and you need your phone. The apps really want you to be on your phone – which in and of itself I find disturbing.
So I also recently found a function on my phone where I can put a timer on my social media apps so that I’m not able to click on it after a certain number of minutes. It’s super cool. This helps me just get on, post, respond to messages and not scroll mindlessly. Now obviously you have to do what it says and not change the timer setting 🙂
It’s pretty cool and the first few days, if you try it, you might find that you really notice how many times you feel a compulsion to check.
Not to mention that research shows that people who limit their social media use to under 30 minutes a day, for at least 3 weeks or more, feel significantly better mentally. We’re talking reduced depression, reduced loneliness, less FOMO and less anxiety. Which I think we intuitively can guess but it’s hard to actually stick with it.
I’ll say for me, it helps me feel like I’m living my own life rather than the alternative which might be just watching others or escaping from things or even spiraling into negative emotions.
I end up reading more, spending time just enjoying the moment, I feel less rushed, I even started learning a language with an online app so whenever I want to do something for a few minutes while I’m waiting, instead of scrolling I’m doing practice exercises – which is fun for me.
So all of that to explain why and how I’m timing my usage of social media – not just when but also how and how long.
Schedule My Time On Social Media
- The second thing I do is schedule my posts.
I do some things in real time but if I have podcast episodes coming out for example, I try to pre-plan them so that I’m not rushing to post something at the last minute. This is not only helpful for my own sanity but also for my followers because I’m adding more thoughtful content that will be more beneficial. It does mean I don’t end up adding as much behind the scenes and personal reflection stuff like many other people do on social media, but I’m much more likely to share that sort of stuff on my email list anyway, in my podcast and for sure during my events so I’m OK that it’s not on as much social media.
By the way, if that’s something that interests you, and if you want to be part of a community of like minded people, you can register for my email s at livingxo.com/subscribe. That’s where I share most of my events, many of them are free, and I really try to be thoughtful with everything I do so I think you’ll enjoy it.
Ok so scheduling posts is only a good tip if you’re also posting for work or something, maybe not so much if you’re on there on a personal level.
But if you are wanting to schedule your posts, I have been using a specific platform that is really working for me, I’ll link to it in the show notes and on the blog. I don’t want to plug it outright because I’ve just started trying it out but I’m happy to share my process if you want to know more and if you want to try something that for me, has saved not only time but also stress.
So scheduling if you’re posting for work, and managing your time (for both work and personal) and the last tip I’ll share here about what I’m doing to limit my own social media usage.
Curate Your Feed (it’s harder than you think)
3. Carefully curating my feed.
Now a lot of people say to do this but in practice, it’s not always easy. For me, I only want to post uplifting, helpful, thoughtful and inspiring things and those are the only types of posts I want to see. So I suppose it might be easy to unfollow accounts that overtly cause you stress.
Sometimes I follow other people or accounts out of curiosity or because I know them, but honestly there are times when I don’t feel good looking at those accounts. Even if there’s nothing wrong with them.
So for example, if I follow a celebrity and it’s just pure entertainment news but let’s say I start feeling like, oh she looks amazing and I wish I looked like that, or whatever – then I stop watching or I unfollow. This could happen even with friends or family. If you’re noticing that you’re feeling bad after scrolling, check in with yourself – who are you following, how long have you been on there, how is your mood? Ask yourself what you want to spend your time on, what you want to let into your brain and your life.
I’m just being really careful about my own emotions as they relate to social media especially and if I feel worse after scrolling, it’s a flag for me to reassess my own self-talk and get grounded again.
I think `It’s a good idea to be aware and intentional about what information and media gets into my mind and when.
The tip here is to be really aware of who you’re following and that you’re spending time on things that make you feel good.
These are the things that are currently working for me. But I always still have in the back of my mind that one day, I’d like to delete my accounts 🙂
Remember Sarah from the beginning? The one who paints cows? I asked her if she’d ever get off social media.
S: “Oh, no, I didn’t delete it. I don’t have the guts to do that. Because then I would miss it. I have FOMO all the time, the fear of missing out.”
I also asked Milicia if she tried to get off social media.
M: “Oh, my gosh, like, every couple months, I actually think is like, just before the holidays, that I was Googling all these things of like, other people’s experiences on quitting social media and YouTubing people’s videos. So and I don’t know, it’s just it has such a like, hold on me that I can’t. I wish I knew how to quit social media. But I don’t know how and you know, I think my way of doing it is just creating better boundaries around it. But I still somehow get sucked back into it every once in a while.
I’m still thinking about deleting my accounts, and I wonder when I’ll pull the plug. For now, professionally I’m trying to only post what I’m proud of, I’m hoping to inspire others and be worthy of their scroll to my page. Personally, I’m trying to also make sure the the content that I consume is worthy of mine.
I’d love to hear what you think about social media. What helps you, what struggles you have. You can email me at email@example.com (yes it’s my email address because hello is easier to remember and to spell than my name).
And be sure to listen to the next episode, we have an interview with Dr Don Grant on healthy device management – he was really informative and also a hoot to interview with lots of funny examples and even some controversial opinions.
We also have another episode coming up about friendships which I think ties nicely into this theme of connection.
As always, you can find all my resources, journals, workshops on the website, livingxo.com
And if you’re interested in my events and behind the scenes information – those only go out in the newsletter so sign up for that livingxo.com/subscribe
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