A few weeks ago, I posted some stuff on social media which received an instant negative reaction. I’m no stranger to being trolled, but this was different. Simply clashes of opinions, which I did not have the energy to continue the conversation on. I’m not the kind of blogger who sits back and thinks “oh yay, that will be great for my engagement!” My instincts told me to step away from the screen, and regroup. Rather than point me in the direction of more inflammatory posts to fuel more inflammatory comments, they led me to an online break. Now, this is not my first rodeo, my friends, so I thought I’d share some insights with you.
What is an online break and do you need one?
For me, it’s a no-brainer. If I’m feeling burnt out by online life, I know emphatically that I’ll benefit from some time offline. This doesn’t mean not writing or taking photos, quite the opposite (more on that later). What it means is cutting the apron strings to social media. I don’t know about you, but it’s my biggest nemesis when the chips are down.
Ironically, the easiest way to communicate what I was doing to my friends was by posting on social media. Being forty, most of my mates hang out on Facebook, so I wrote that I’d be taking some time out and could be contacted by good old text message. What surprised me was the amount of people who commented on the post, then continued tagging me in their posts on Facebook.
It would have been all too easy to just “quickly” check this or that when I saw the email notifications, but it’s so important not to in those early days when you’re breaking free from the habit. Once comfortably out of the loop, staying out of it becomes easier and easier.
Some tips to help you have a successful online break
Log out. Once you’ve made your decision, log out of all your accounts on the laptop and delete the apps from phones and tablets. Right now you’re probably thinking that would be bonkers, but trust me, it feels surprisingly liberating. You might even want to go one step further and deactivate your accounts. They are very easy to resurrect if you change your mind later on down the line.
Don’t worry, be happy. Don’t get disheartened if your loved ones aren’t taking you seriously. We live in the era of #uokhon and I think most people say they’re having an online break, only to be back on Instagram the next day. Real friends will text you or give you a call to see how you’re doing. Remember, you have nothing to prove, and are doing this for yourself.
Beware FOMO. Try not to let FOMO take you over. If comparison is the thief of joy, then FOMO is the thief of enjoying the moment. When social media starts damaging your mental health, what anyone else is doing really doesn’t matter. Chances are you aren’t missing out on much anyway. Speaking of mental health, if you need some help getting your happiness on track, you should check out my book Become the Best You.
Whether you are offline for a week or six months, your stress levels will thank you for you it.
3 surprising side effects of an online break
Obviously I can’t guarantee these things will happen for you, I can only share my experiences. Here are my favourite fallouts from being offline.
Creativity sky rockets. I’ve long suspected that social media, especially Instagram, is one of the biggest thieves of true creativity. It reduces us down to bite sized, perfectly curated chunks, palatable for all. Strong opinions are not welcome, and don’t bother writing more than a few hundred words because no one will bother to read them. If this were a text message, I’d be inserting the anguished face throwing his head back in pain right about now. When I’m on a break, I always end up writing loads. My brain starts buzzing with ideas, and rather than forget them because I’m so distracted, I’m able to actually do something with them.
More productive. I have crossed an insane amount of tasks off my to-do list this past fortnight. Not only have I been beavering away on my book projects and submissions, I’ve been doing SEO blog work behind the scenes. I’d love for this little corner of the web to start bringing in a decent passive income, but it’ll only happen with top notch SEO. Which takes so much time. Time I now have available because I’m not getting caught up in the scroll of doom.
Better mum. There’s absolutely no denying the constant intrusion of social media takes our attention away from our children. As I wrote about in this piece, admitting we’re not as present as we should be while we’re with our kids can be tough. But owning it and changing it went down so well with my three. We’re having a lovely summer break – I’m more patient with them, and they’re not getting annoyed at me for being on my phone too much.