This year started with many moments reading books, building LEGO and practicing yoga at home, without a single Instagram photo to prove it happened.
We made a mindful decision to change the way we want to live in 2021. In the sacred space of our cozy home during the pandemic, my husband and I decided to cut off social media cold turkey: disabling our Facebook accounts, removing Instagram from our phones and logging off Twitter.
Inspired after watching the Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma, we realized spending months at home with our phones to entertain us developed some pretty bad habits. Instead of being present with the person we’re sitting next to, we both retreated to our hand-held screens. Desperate to see what’s going on in the outside world, these marketing-driven apps made us feel like we were connecting to other people. While it is great to see what friends from elementary school are doing these days, it wasn’t great to find out what racist and politically-motivated memes close family members shared at the click of a button.
Digital detox is nothing new. I admire users who recognize they have an addiction to social media and take a break. After reading all the family-focused benefits from signing off, I was eager to try it out. I’m not going to lie. At first, it was hard. We both kept absentmindedly picking up our phones to open the apps. After finding nothing to do, we’d laugh about how strangely freeing it was to have nothing to look at. By the end of the month, our habit is nearly broken.
In moments of desperation for a social media scroll, I find myself looking back through years of photos on my phone. Reliving happy and mundane moments of my life, I realize how happy I am to have all these images captured in such a portable device. I take photos of everything: mornings I wake up next to a snoring son, afternoons spent working across the table from my husband and evenings playing on the living room floor. While I didn’t have a social network to share any of these images with, my four-year-old enjoyed looking back at them with me – and that’s more than enough.
One side effect I didn’t anticipate: I’m better connected with genuine friends than I was a month ago. I am still curious which of my friends and followers noticed my absence. But I appreciate each and every person who sent me a text message or phone call to check-in. As I return to social, I don’t plan to go back full force. Every post will be a mindful outreach to share an authentic moment of our life.
At the same time, we also pledged to reduce our spending to minimal purchases. Our mindful motto: do more with less. Everyone can use a month of cost-cutting after the holidays, but we also found ourselves faced with a freezer full of food we never seem to eat. Instead of ordering take out whenever we felt like it (all our local restaurants are closed for in-door dining due to pandemic mitigation), we limited ourselves to picking up to-go food only once a week. Our usual breakfast from The Vegas Cafe never disappointed.
Long story short: in addition to removing the distraction of social media, we also managed to save a good chunk of change and cycle through our stockpile of food before it expires. If you ask me, this was a pretty good first month of the year.
Because we wanted to set an attainable goal, we challenged ourselves to do this only for the month of January. 31 days of practicing impactful change really opened our eyes to see the negative effects social media and spending have on our lifestyle. Without it, I’m a more attentive mother, less divisive wife and all-around better person.
If you’re considering a challenge, this financial and digital detox couldn’t come at a better time. While you’re still home during the winter months of the pandemic, use the resources you have. You can always do more with less.