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6 Lessons From A Year Without Facebook

6 Lessons From A Year Without Facebook

I check my social media feeds often and compulsively. When I wake up, before I got to bed, whenever I sit on a bus, wait in a line, or eat alone. Sometimes, I notice I am scrolling through a feed with no memory of opening the app, or I log out, only to log in again 5 minutes later. Any small moment of boredom is diverted to checking on the lives of my friends.

That is, I did do those things until January 1st 2015, when I quit. For a year. I had read about the increasing number of studies linking social media to stress and depression, and numerous articles about the benefits of quitting. So my New Year’s resolution for 2015 was to give up social media for a year and see the difference for myself.

It didn’t always go smoothly, and sometimes I would find myself idly flicking through updates. I posted on Facebook once to thank people for leaving birthday messages (it seemed very rude not to), and another time to announce that I was eating a quiche during the Super Bowl, which seemed so important at the time, but in retrospect was a moment of defeat.

However, I cut down my use of social media by roughly 98% compared to the year before, and that was good enough to be able to feel the effects. Here’s what I discovered.

1. I had much more free time

As I spent less time on social media, I found myself spending less idle, unconscious time on other websites as well. Without scrolling through all the links to pictures of funny signs, angry articles about politics, and videos of cats falling off things, I didn’t visit other addictive websites and end up in long chains of clicks.

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I read 40 more books in my year off than I had the previous year, all using time I would otherwise have spent clicking through social media and the links I found there. You don’t have to spend it on reading, but most people would benefit from exchanging at least some of their social media time for something they find more productive or more relaxing. Your fourth visit of the day to Facebook is neither of those things.

2. I was less distracted, and spent much more time taking in my surroundings

There were plenty of instances at bars or coffee shops where a friend would leave the table and I would be briefly alone, suddenly craving my phone. That urge to check in during those moments eventually disappeared and I could absorb the atmosphere of a place or watch the people around me instead, which I found more rewarding.

3. I enjoyed moments more, but missed sharing them later

As I gradually lost the urge to share everything I was doing at the time it was happening, I could better appreciate things for myself. I wasn’t suddenly living perfectly in the moment just because I was absent from social media, but it was a barrier removed. It’s not wrong to want to share the things that have happened in your life, even the small things, but rarely does it have to be right at the time they are going on.

However, because of the rules of my decision, I also lost the opportunity to share with my family and friends the things I was doing after they happened. This year I camped surrounded by wild elephants in Botswana, went sandboarding for the first time, and ate a lot of good sushi. But I didn’t share any of that stuff, just one thing about a quiche.

4. I felt more disconnected, but that made me socialize more

Like many people, I have friends and family spread all over the world, but I don’t know as much about what they have done in the last year. Life without social media was, in some ways, more lonely.

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On the other hand, I was much more likely to email or call them, and more motivated to go out and do something with my friends who are nearby. Social media is similar enough to genuine social interaction that sometimes it feels like too much effort to make real life arrangements as well, but only connecting through a screen is just not as fulfilling.

It’s like filling up on snacks and then not wanting your dinner.

5. Seeing friends in person was more interesting

My friends were often surprised that I didn’t already know their recent news, and I noticed for the first time how often people’s stories about themselves start with “you probably saw that…”

For the first time in years, people had the opportunity to tell me about their lives and see my reaction in person, instead of rehashing old events I already knew from the internet.

6. I missed small connections

Not using social media took away the opportunities for small interactions, such as likes and comments, and I missed these small connections which aren’t present elsewhere. If someone I knew from college had completed a marathon, or a distant relation passed their driving test, I couldn’t comment to congratulate them, and I wouldn’t have known about it anyway.

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That’s a whole range of positive social connections which I lost without social media.

How to use social media in a better way

The dangers of social media I had read about were very clear to me because of their absence in my year off, but I also learned to appreciate having platforms which allow us to be more connected to the people we know, wherever they are, and to connect with them in more ways than we had before.

The articles about the downsides often ignore all the good aspects of social media and recommend quitting altogether, but that isn’t what I concluded. They are good tools, we just have to learn how to use them properly.

I never want to go back to checking my Facebook newsfeed 7 times in a day, and I never want to again miss the atmosphere in a restaurant because they have wifi and I can post about it online instead. But after a year without social media, I am ready to return in a more cautious way.

From my battles in quitting for a year, here is my top advice.

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1. Quit altogether for 30 days

Just one month is enough to see it for yourself — the people in this Danish study noticed a difference in a week — and monitor the changes with a one-line summary each day.

2. Turn off notifications

No one posts on your wall in an emergency, and you don’t need more reminders to log in.

3. Delete the mobile apps

It puts a small barrier in your way, and is the easiest way to cut down. You can still use the web browser on your mobile devices with bit more effort.

4. Limit yourself to one session a day

When you only have one session on social media each day, it is more of a conscious decision. If you feel the compulsion to check again, remember you can tomorrow.

5. Allow yourself to share anything you like, but you have to wait at least 1 hour

You won’t be distracted from the things you are doing when they are going on, but also won’t miss out on sharing them later.

6. Seriously, quit for 30 days

There’s no end of reasons and research to tell you it’s a good idea, and there’s no better way than to find out the difference for yourself.

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Last Updated on July 3, 2020

30 Small Habits To Lead A More Peaceful Life

30 Small Habits To Lead A More Peaceful Life

In today’s world, true peace must come from within us and our own actions. Here are 30 small things you can do on a regular basis to increase your overall sense of harmony, peace, and well-being:

1. Don’t go to every fight you’re invited to

Particularly when you’re around those who thrive on chaos, be willing to decline the invitation to join in on the drama.

2. Focus on your breath

Throughout the day, stop to take a few deep breaths. Keep stress at bay with techniques such as “square breathing.” Breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, then out for four counts, and hold again for four counts. Repeat this cycle four times.

3. Get organized and purge old items

A cluttered space often creates a cluttered spirit. Take the time to get rid of anything you haven’t used in a year and invest in organizational systems that help you sustain a level of neatness.

4. Stop yourself from being judgmental

Whenever you are tempted to have an opinion about someone else’s life, check your intentions. Judging others creates and promotes negative energy.

5. Say ‘thank you’ early and often

Start and end each day with an attitude of gratitude. Look for opportunities in your daily routine and interactions to express appreciation.

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6. Smile more

Even if you have to “fake it until you make it,” there are many scientific benefits of smiling and laughing. Also, pay attention to your facial expression when you are doing neutral activities such as driving and walking. Turn that frown upside down!

7. Don’t worry about the future

As difficult as this sounds, there is a direct connection between staying in the present and living a more peaceful life. You cannot control the future. As the old proverb goes, “Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.” Practice gently bringing your thoughts back to the present.

8. Eat real food

The closer the food is to the state from which it came from the earth, the better you will feel in eating it. Choose foods that grew from a plant over food that was made in a plant.

9. Choose being happy over being right

Too often, we sacrifice inner peace in order to make a point. It’s rarely worth it.

10. Keep technology out of the bedroom

Many studies, such as one conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital, have connected blue light of electronic devices before bed to adverse sleep and overall health. To make matters worse, many people report that they cannot resist checking email and social media when their cell phone is in reach of their bed, regardless of the time.

11. Make use of filtering features on social media

You may not want to “unfriend” someone completely, however you can choose whether you want to follow their posts and/or the sources of information that they share.

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12. Get comfortable with silence

When you picture someone who is the ultimate state of peace, typically they aren’t talking.

13. Listen to understand, not to respond

So often in conversations, we use our ears to give us cues about when it is our turn to say what we want to say. Practice active listening, ask questions, process, then speak.

14. Put your troubles in a bubble

Whenever you start to feel anxious, visualize the situation being wrapped in a bubble and then picture that sphere floating away.

15. Speak more slowly

Often a lack of peace manifests itself in fast or clipped speech. Take a breath, slow down, and let your thoughtful consideration drive your words.

16. Don’t procrastinate

Nothing adds stress to our lives like waiting until the last minute.

17. Buy a coloring book

Mandala coloring books for adults are becoming more popular because of their connection to creating inner peace.

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18. Prioritize yourself

You are the only person who you are guaranteed to live with 24 hours a day for the rest of your life.

19. Forgive others

Holding a grudge is hurting you exponentially more than anyone else. Let it go.

20. Check your expectations

Presumption often leads to drama. Remember the old saying, “Expectations are premeditated resentments.”

21. Engage in active play

Let your inner child come out and have some fun. Jump, dance, play, and pretend!

22. Stop criticizing yourself

The world is a hard enough place with more than enough critics. Your life is not served well by being one of them.

23. Focus your energy and attention on what you want

Thoughts, words, and actions all create energy. Energy attracts like energy. Put out what you want to get back.

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24. Assign yourself “complaint free” days.

Make a conscious decision not to complain about anything for a whole day. It might be harder than you think and the awareness will stick with you.

25. Surround yourself with people you truly enjoy being in the company of

Personalities tend to be contagious, and not everyone’s is worth catching. Be judicious in your choices.

26. Manage your money

Financial concerns rank top on the list of what causes people stress. Take the time each month to do a budget, calculate what you actually spend and sanity check that against the money you have coming in.

27. Stop trying to control everything

Not only is your inner control freak sabotaging your sense of peace, it is also likely getting in the way of external relationships as well.

28. Practice affirmations

Repeat positive phrases that depict the life and qualities you want to attract. It may not come naturally to you, but it works.

29. Get up before sunrise

Personally witnessing the dawn brings a unique sense of awe and appreciation for life.

30. Be yourself

Nothing creates more inner discord than trying to be something other than who we really are. Authenticity breeds happiness.

Featured photo credit: man watching sunrise via stokpic.com

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