I knew it had gotten bad when I woke up from a nightmare where life was literally scrolling before my eyes. It was official. Instagram had fully consumed my brain.
Consumed by Instagram
Let me rewind a bit. All summer, I had been seeing girls I follow talk about taking a social media break. The idea sounded delightful. But the minute I started to really think about shutting off for a few days, the entrepreneur in me had a complete freakout. What if my followers forgot about me? What if I became irrelevant? What if I didn’t get as many opportunities? Would that be because I took a break?
The questions were endless, and all too much to handle. So I never took a break. Months went by with non-stop trips (which I had to document), endless events (which I needed to document) and Jack Jack being the cutest dog ever (which I just couldn’t help but document). Don’t get me wrong. In no way am I complaining about my life. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I feel so grateful every morning that I get to have a career that brings me so much joy. And I love being able to share everything via my blog and social media. But without any breaks, it can be draining… and after months of “being on,” whether in person or online, I was felt completely and utterly depleted.
depletion, not depression
At first, I thought there was something wrong with me. My brain felt fuzzy and I was constantly sleeping, despite getting ample sleep. So I went to my doctor and had her run every test possible. When everything came back normal, she asked me the question I was dreading, “could it be emotional?”.
Even though I was exhausted, I didn’t feel sad. Having suffered from depression before, I wasn’t depressed. This feeling was completely different. So I went to see my therapist, Kathryn, to talk things through. She made me feel better by realizing it’s ok—and healthy!—to take breaks. In fact, the brain needs a recharge once in a while. She compared it to a car, requiring fuel to perform its best. The better the fuel, the better it could perform. What could I put in my body to help me recharge and perform better?
I went home and decided I need to take a break from “being on” and do something that brings me joy. I wrote a “sign-off” post on Instagram (since obviously I couldn’t do something in life without documenting it). Then I did something I had never done before. I posted and ghosted. After posting what essentially was an out-of-office Friday morning, I logged out of Instagram.
Signing off and recharging
I played with Jack Jack and read a book on the beach. It felt strange at first not documenting the gorgeous day. And I can’t begin to tell you how many times I almost opened up the app, just out of habit. Instead, I forced myself to really observe my surroundings. I listened to the waves. I felt the hot sand at my feet. And for the first time in a very long time, I took a few deep breaths, not because my meditation app was telling me to, but because I was truly content and at peace.
Later that evening while having a glass of wine with a friend I did cave and quickly check Instagram (hey, I’m only human!). I told my friend and she recommended physically deleting the app until I was ready to go back on. It was great advice and I spent the next day recharging before re-installing the app at the end of the weekend. I was even productive! I cleaned out my closet, worked out and ran some errands… I just didn’t document it.
So what did I learn from my social media break?
- I’m going to take social media breaks more often. The goal is once a month. I hope that if I just log off for a day every month or so I won’t experience the same depletion I suffered.
- Always delete the app. Why give yourself temptation? If you’re anything like me, checking Instagram has become an insanely addictive habit. Not having easy access majorly helps.
- Nothing happens when you take a break. Let’s be honest, if it hadn’t been for my Instagram post announcing I was taking a break from Instagram, most of my followers probably wouldn’t have noticed my 3-day hiatus.
Now that I’ve taken a break, I’m certain the benefits outweigh the fear. I encourage everyone to take a break now and then. And if you’re an influencer, or have a job where you need to be on social media, I recommend it even more. As I saw one of my followers comment when I logged back on, “a social media break should be mandatory.”