Social media is no doubt one of the greatest advancements for our society in bridging communication and sharing information. How do you know though, when it is trespassing into your quality of life or your creativity or creative prowess? Personally, I think there should be a 12 step program for social media addicts because often we remain “asleep at the wheel”, not knowing our full potential. And that’s a shame.
For those of you old enough, remember when we used to take the phone off the hook when we didn’t want to be disturbed? Several weeks ago, I made a decision to do the same with social media and I’ve been raving about the results. There are numerous improvements that have come about in my life because of this decision but I’ll keep it to three.
Here are the three main benefits I am experiencing from reducing my time to a one hour maximum a week on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like:
1) More mental room
When you log onto any social media outlet, it’s not unusual to start with one post, read, respond and then before you know it, you get sucked into a multitude of stories, rants, YouTube videos or raging political commentaries. All this mental activity/energy often left me too depleted at the end of the day to create my own stories (with photographs), cull my previous stories or even listen attentively to others’ stories.
Since my social media diet, in the past month, it feels like my brain has had a vacation with more room to breathe, reflect and create new possibilities. For most, this may not seem like a high-ranking benefit, but for those who are anxiety-prone or “type-A”, I promise that there is a reason I ranked this as the number one benefit. Once you “cross over the fence”, it’s an experience that lends itself to a calmer, more relaxed you.
2) I have more time in general, more quality time and more quality choices
Given all of what I mention above, one obvious benefit of less social media is more time in general. I’ve read several books, started a stricter exercise program, on week two of a cleansing diet, and spent more time with people I love. I’ve also gained more time in my mornings to read and journal more. Cutting out social media in the morning has given me back a full half an hour during that time period alone!
I’ve also gained more quality time and from that time, made more quality choices. I have begun two photography projects that I otherwise wouldn’t have started — not just because I have the time but because I have the time to choose quality over quantity. For example, prior to December when I started this social media diet, I would have never slowed down enough to decide what kinds of projects I’m interested in pursuing. I had “street photography” just fixated in my mind so tersely on producing something with it – and because I didn’t have the mental room (reason #1 above), I couldn’t see exactly what I wanted to produce.
Currently, I’m going through all of my best photographs and slowly, I’m able to choose the best of the best and deciding what format they will take. I’m also expanding outside of street photography and exploring new types of photographic pursuits, such as landscapes and personal portraits, which will only help me as a street photographer in the long run. And of course, I’m shooting MORE FILM because doing so slows you down and truly is a tighter connection to your inner muse.
3) I am gentler with myself
In my circles, I’ve seen a lot of people get super hard on themselves and push, push, push (“I suck and want to get better”) their way into competitions alternating with isolation and identity crises. There’s nothing wrong with getting feedback and improving, but when you’re surrounded with that intensity from every direction and then ADD on top of it, seeing others propel ahead, it can be a huge damper on your efforts.
And since there’s nothing quite like seeing what “other people are doing” that can stir up feelings of envy or like you’re not “enough”, turning away from the long feed of “accomplishments” that was in front of my face on a daily basis was something I did in part because I desperately wanted to disconnect from the pressure of performance. Yet in looking back, I see now that the payoff wasn’t assuaging my competitive side. The payoff lies in seeing how this “feed” was not feeding my soul but feeding the angst of “hurry and produce”, which was never a good seedling for authentic creative expression.
I’m seeing sides of myself that I wouldn’t have seen and I’m honing in on other talents that weren’t getting my ear. I’m sharing less online and instead, offline I’m choosing which creative projects I connect to take them in more calmly and letting them inspire me from a cleaner place. And I’m doing this without the previously much sought after feedback from social media.
So how do I manage the one hour window I’ve limited myself to for social media? First of all, I turned off all notifications. Next, I decide which outlets pertain to photography the most and stick to those (Instagram is currently getting most of my time). Then I RESIST the urge to share every little thing. I give it one hour and ask myself, “how important is this share?” After an hour, the urge passes and instead I call a friend!
Secondly, I created lists of my “favorites” and hit those first. I set alarms and I am clear on what topics I focus on (e.g. arts, photography, self-improvement, etc.). Everything else is “off the hook”. Everything else gets a “busy signal”!
If you decide to try a social media diet, let me know how it works for you and your creative space. I’d be especially interested to know if any artistic business owners are successful at making a social media diet work.