Way of the Cactus has closed. But you can purchase Sways and sensory resources here at The Indie Shop, part of Indie Disability Support

Way of the Cactus has closed. But you can purchase Sways and sensory resources here at The Indie Shop, part of Indie Disability Support

Wondered about deleting social media? We report from the other side...

May 03, 2018

Wondered about deleting social media? We report from the other side...

At Way of the Cactus, we like to share our personal experiments and ‘life hacks’ living as neurodiverent folk in an intense world. Over the past year, two of our Cactus family closed their personal social media accounts. Because so many of us flirt with the idea of doing this, often wondering what life would truly be like when you ‘delete account’, we’ve invited them to to share their experiences.

Leia: Probably the biggest change I’ve noticed is that I feel a lot calmer. I’m not sure whether this is because I’m not taking in so much information from social media, not taking on other people’s dramas or because my focus isn’t being ripped from one thing to another (which seems to happen when you ‘just check FB’ or do a quick Insta scroll). It’s possibly all of these elements together. The end result is that my days feel quieter and smoother, with the only ‘notifications’ coming from my family. So I think maybe I’m also feeling more present with my family during the day.

Bri: I closed down my accounts when I started to understand and then notice the way my brain was interacting with social media (and my mobile phone). As an adult with adhd, a person who loves information, and a mum isolated at home with three children, I realised that the ‘infinite scroll’ of social media feeds was pulling my attention and drawing me in, and that I was irresistible to the pull of reading more posts, more news, and more blogs. I spent a long time trying to find ways to cut back the time I felt I was spending on social media, but I kept finding myself coming back and getting ‘stuck’ on my phone, so I decided to try total abstinence.

Leia: Saying goodbye to social media took me a fairly long time and I went back and forward a bit, mostly because I felt like I was missing out on something. I don’t think I was able to finally let it go until I had some other avenues of connection set up with those few people I really do want to keep in touch with. I now message my closest friends outside of social media instead, so I get just pure connection without any of the distractions that come from a social media site.

Bri: I’ve found that I am connected with less people since leaving social media, but I stay more in touch with family and friends. When I have a lonely moment, I reach out and text them, rather than looking for companionship on social media and ending up reading things or looking at pictures of others ‘happy’ lives that made me feel worse. What’s been most important since I closed my social media accounts has been finding other ways to keep my brain and hands engaged and busy at home with small children. I’ve started crocheting which is a lovely alternative to having a phone in my hand. I read the news a lot more or seek out information I am after, rather than having it constantly pushed at me. Overall, I feel more in control of the way I am spending my time and attention and who I am connecting with.

Leia: I’m also feeling glad that I’m not personally supporting Facebook and Instagram anymore, given all the recent news coming out about the serious privacy breaches associated with the company. Of course Way of the Cactus still uses these sites for business and I’m hungry to see an alternative come along to replace them but until that happens, the reality is they are needed for business I think.

Bri: I also use social media for Way of the Cactus and after a long period away (6 months +) I created a friend-less account for finding and organising local homeschool activities for my kids. I’d also love an alternative.

Leia: Sometimes I reminisce about the old Message Board days, pre-social media. There were no ads, nothing to click on to drag your attention elsewhere – just conversations with people around specific issues. I stayed connected during my days at home with my daughter in the late 90s and early 2000s with these old school Message Boards and they were great. Maybe we need to bring those back!

Bri: I’d also like to acknowledge that I was only able to close my personal social media accounts because I had made healthy connections with people through social media which I was able to take offline. Being a parent and leaving the workforce to care for children was very isolating for me. I have some social anxiety and find it hard to meet people. I want to acknowledge that for many disabled people and/or parents, social media might be our only source of connection. So I would never criticise people who rely on social media for friendship, community, organising or other purposes. It was just that, for me, the benefits had fallen away and I was feeling more yucky than good using them.

Are you curious? If you are, here’s a few steps to get you started.

  1. Be curious about yourself, treat this like a personal experiment.
  2. Spend some time noticing why you are using social media - connection with friends or community, accessing information, something to do when you are bored anxious or lonely, keeping on top of the news? Start thinking through alternative ways to stay connected, keep your hands or mind busy, keep on top of the news, and fill in time.
  3. Notice how social media makes you feel when you use it - there’s research that shows that social media can make us feel anxious, envious, overstimulated, agitated and unhappy. If you do leave social media, it might be good to compare with how you feel later to see if it’s making a difference in your life.
  4. Work out who you really, really want to stay connected with and set up an alternative way of communicating with them. You might like to explore messaging apps like Signal (encrypted messages!) or good old fashioned texting.
  5. Consider not ‘taking a break’ as this rarely seems to work long term. If you’d like to really quit for a time – pick a good chunk of time and go for it. Try 6 months as this will get you well and truly over the initial need to keep checking.
  6. Remove all your passwords, bookmarks and apps from all devices. Consider asking a trusted friend or family member to change your password to something you don’t know. Better yet, delete the whole account and then you’ll be less tempted to go back.
  7. Plan a new hobby, read books, watch TV series or start a new project to get through the first few months.

Check out these resources if you’d like to explore this more:

Folkrebellion.com

Digitalnutrition.com.au

Commonsense.org

Itstimetologoff.com

How to Break Up with your Phone by Caroline Price