Is switching off possible?

I won’t go in to the why’s and what’s in this post as I’m going to tackle that in a future post, but last week it was completely necessary for me to step back from my phone and social media. It was wasn’t a case of just wanting to elevate some stress, or done in an effort to implement effective time management, this was a act of saving a life, my life.

I decided I’d have a few day (or whatever was required) where I wouldn’t post on Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and I’d abandon WhatsApp, Text and Facebook messaging too. I pinned a message on Twitter saying I was peacing-out for a while, I changed my WhatsApp status to ‘Taking a break’ and informed one of my friends in my busiest WhatsApp group that I was taking a break so she could let others know if they were wondering why I was absent from the conversation.

Soon I found out that these steps weren’t enough.

While I’ve managed not to post on any social media for five days I’ve not managed to remove the the whole routine of checking that has become a staple of my and most of our days. So I realised part of the switching off process if about breaking the habit. Even though this was something I wanted to do, and fully my choice, my hand kept going to grab the phone – to check for messages or to start a scroll action of some type. I managed to stop myself, but as we know all to well it only takes a couple of seconds to see a message, comment, image or tweet that can make your mood take a download spiral. It also only take a second to see DMs, texts and email numbers increase to a stress inducing amount. It’s in those moments you start focusing on the fact that  taking time out will mean that the moment you switch back on again will inevitably be even more stressful due to the backlog.

The most disappointing realisation from allowing myself just 5 days away is that some people wouldn’t allow it, or didn’t seem to think it was acceptable that I have it. From looking over messages, there was some from strangers who watch my videos who were making me feel bad for not replying to their messages straight away suggesting I was ‘too busy for them now”. There were the work clients who felt the need to email me on the weekend instructing me to send over invoices or reply to their emails asap. Then there were friends who sent message after message badgering me for a reply for something they needed help with, despite my status of being away. And it wasn’t a case of them checking to see if I was okay, it was them merely concerned with not getting the reply they needed.

Why don’t you turn your phone off I hear you say? Well yes, I’ve let my battery drain down to nothing numerous times over the last few days, and left it in my room in times where I’d usually have it in my pocket, or lit up in my hand. This is something I find hard, but not just because of an addiction to social media or because of my workaholic tendencies. This goes a bit deeper. When I was at uni, putting my phone on silent overnight on my then boyfriends advice, I missed a call from a friend in need who had gotten herself in trouble, a call that could that could have been our final conversation. So what if you’ve put yourself in the position of expected accessibility – someone that is relied on to be there for others. Does that mean that you give away the luxury of being able to switch off when you need it?

I’ve started to think the only way I can get close to the concept of switching off is when I’m on holiday, but most importantly in a destination with no 3/4G or wifi. When it’s something taken out of my hands, I at least won’t feel the pressures/guilt of not being there for people, or not being ‘on-it’ professionally, as much I would if I had a choice in the matter. Even then I know the thoughts will go to what I might be missing out on because I haven’t checked my emails, which friend or stranger I might be letting down because I’ve missed their call or message, or what fun adventure I will inadvertently opt out of because I’ve missed the WhatsApp group hype.

So what have I learned from the last 5 days. Well, I think it’s clear that I have a lot of work to do on myself in terms of managing my thoughts which hopefully my ongoing studies in Mindfulness will help – I clearly need to stop the pattern of guilt and worry that occurs whenever I take the foot off the tech/work accelerator. Knowing how I felt about the messages I read when I finally decided to check my phone properly, I will really think about how I message, or don’t message, others when they don’t reply in their normal speedy fashion, or if it feels they’ve been a bit absent from their normal methods of communication and content.

I also need to make changes moving forward to stop these things repeating when I need to step back again. I think they key is not ever fully stepping back in, to the extent I was ‘in’ before at least. The big problem is I’m now aware what happens when I do attempt to take a break, and that will undoubtedly inform my feelings of apprehension next time I try to do it.

Anyway, I think I’m going to exit some WhatsApp groups that although might be fun at times are probably adding stress, even if I don’t realise it. I’m unfortunately going to have to have less personal connections with subscribers and readers too, because while some add some fabulous interactions to my life, others add unwarranted and needless stress and pressure. In fact I think my whole work life will have to change considerably.

This last week I felt like something inside me has been extinguished and I don’t know if I want to continue any of this anymore. The more I spend with people who aren’t on social media, or in industries related to media, the more I recognise how detrimental to your mental health they are. I know I’ve had these wobbles before but this one put me and my life at real risk, and is any kind of success or job satisfaction worth that? I don’t the answer to that yet….

So I don’t know how present I’ll be anywhere online, I have a few things unpublished, already contracted or edited that will go up, but over the next few weeks I have some important thinking to do.

I just want to reiterate…

If someone hasn’t replied straight away, give them reasonable time to reply, and if they don’t, try not to bombard them, I can’t tell you how much stress that can create.

If their online behaviour seems out of the ordinary, maybe check what their statuses are or their most recent updates have been. If something feels off, check in with them just so they know you care.

If you are an avid watcher/reader of a Blogger/YouTuber please don’t rely on them to maintain your own mental health or happiness, or put them on such a pedestal that you make them you only go-to for advice. Please be realistic and fair in terms of your expectations of that person.They have a life away from work (or at least would like one) and they don’t know everything – they’re human, flaws, life stress and all.

The internet isn’t real life. It’s a snapshot, it’s a highlights, or now with relatable content, even a low light reel. There are secret agendas and motives. Don’t seek all your value or strength from it. Spend more time nurturing yourself and your in real life relationships that you know to be true.

Ask yourself honestly whether you truly need to be ‘online’ as much as you and whether certain platform are particularly responsible for effecting your mood. Ask yourself if there is a way to make things easier – turn off notifications, only check it a certain amount of times a day, turning off your phone in the evenings etc.

If all this tech stuff that is deemed expected and normal as part of your day in 2017 just didn’t sit well, ask yourself if there is another job role that you could still enjoy that doesn’t require you to do it. I’m definitely looking into more things I can do quietly behind the scenes.

I’m going to continue to peace-out from social media, and my phone, as much as I can for the meantime. You’ll see the odd thing I have or want to post, but my focus needs to be on the not so simple task of keeping going right now. I’ve not switched off but my finger is definitely pressed agains the button.

1 Comment

  1. September 17, 2017 / 9:19 am

    Great post Soph and a lot of sense in it. A few times recently I have turned my phone off at bedtime and left it off till around lunchtime the next day and I have felt a sense of freedom! It's mad what an effect we let the social world have on us x

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