How Would You Feel About Two Months Off Social Media?
Have you ever taken a break from social media? Maybe you tried unplugging for a long weekend or took a break while on vacation. Or perhaps like me, you've never been able to take a proper break. I've been posting on social media since 2007. Until this summer I'd never taken more than a few days off in a row and only a couple of times a year. How would you feel about two months off social media?
I chose to take the summer off social media because
1. I was experiencing burnout partly brought on by posting up to 30 pieces of content a day.
2. My creativity was blocked and my business stagnant.
3. I was in a tremendous amount of pain, and being at a computer or on my phone was making it unbearable.
On the new moon in June 2022, I started my summer break from social media and my business. I removed the social apps from my phone and logged out of them from my computer. The first priority of the summer was to rest.
Many of us Gen-Xers grew up with the "productivity myth", which is basically that if you're not being productive you don't have any value. To learn more about this productivity myth here's a great article in the BBC Science of Focus Magazine. We keep a scorecard in our heads, checking off boxes throughout the day. If we haven't checked off enough boxes by the time we're in bed, we berate ourselves for not having done enough that day. The advent of social media marketing has made this exponentially worse - especially for business owners and content creators.
Before I took my break I was spending 40 hours on my phone a week and creating content on Facebook, Facebook groups & pages, Instagram, Instagram & Facebook stories, TikTok, Twitter, plus a weekly newsletter, new podcast episodes each week, and YouTube videos and shorts. Often I would repurpose content (which is not as easy as it seems especially when you're using music or popular sounds) to post on several sites. This is encouraged by popular online marketers like Gary Vaynerchuk, whose work I used to admire and emulate.
Living on Vancouver Island, I often start my day with sunrise on the beach. I enjoy capturing images of the sunrise and would later share them on my photography social sites. Often I'd take my phone with me into the ocean for a cold immersion dip. Other times, I'd set up the phone on shore (using my shoe as a tripod) and use that footage mixed with sunrise videos and a voice over commentary before posting. I used the app InShot to clip and edit my videos, without text or captions, which would be added later in the specific app I was posting on. For the photos I edited in PicMonkey on my phone before posting. Then I'd write captions for these various pieces of content- all before at 10:00 a.m. And that's only a fraction of what I would post in a day.
One of the phrases I kept repeating to myself this summer is "you don't owe anyone anything".
I don't owe people my sunrise photos, or videos of my cold immersion.
I don't owe anyone a new podcast or a daily gratitude quote.
I don't owe anyone a TikTok series of educational videos.
I don't owe anyone anything.
Not even my family.
Especially at the expense of my health.
I had been so caught up on the hamster wheel of daily content creation for my audience that I was unable to complete simple tasks around my home without pain.
When my husband was away for 2 weeks at the end of June with our daughter, I had a stark revelation: I was unable to care for myself without my daily pain levels being unbearable. It was a tough time for me, I nearly begged him to end come home early but I kept my thoughts to myself and did what I could by asking friends for help and getting treatments from my team of holistic practitioners. My first two weeks off following his return home were spent doing almost nothing. I couldn't sit or lie down without pain.
Over time I rediscovered things that I love to do that aren't considered productive, like napping outside. I spent a lot of time in my garden this summer. I worked my way through a crossword puzzle book, did some arts and crafts with my sea glass collection, and read more than a dozen books. I've spent more time with my husband than ever and without a phone to distract me, it felt like true quality time. We started a habit of walking our dogs before his work day, collecting blackberries along the way. We played video games on our PS5 and I beat him at cards often. I had to learn how to ask for a lot of help from him and our daughter. I stopped worrying that he would be judging me for napping or lying down.
My daughter and I also got closer, which is a small miracle as she approaches 12 years old. She says she trusts me and chooses to confide in me, which feels amazing as a mom. I'm not holding my phone in my hand during our interactions and as cliche as it sounds, I'm more present for her and my husband.
Before I took my break, I recorded a short TikTok video and wrote a subsequent blog on how I felt like I had holes in my cup that self-care couldn't fill. Taking the summer off work and social media has helped me to heal some of the holes in my cup. With self care as a daily priority, I've done a lot to refill my cup.
When I took my break I mentioned that everything was going to be on the table in terms of my work, and that I might not be able to (or choose to) pick everything back up.
As the summer approaches its end, I find myself concerned with things I hadn't thought about all summer. I got my haircut. I worried about a new zit on my chin and a weird spot on my cheek. I wondered if I needed to get my eyebrows done. All this because I planed to create and release more content. I'm not usually preoccupied with how I look - I don't wear makeup and my style is a t-shirt, hoodie, and yoga pants. When I started thinking about making videos again, I thought about how others might be judging me. I'm still learning on how to let that go.
I am grateful that we were able to make it work for me to be off for the summer. I've built a business over the last 16 years that allowed me to earn income even though I wasn't working. I'm figuring out how to use accessibility tools for my computer and my phone, so that I can use my voice more and my body less, to keep my chronic pain manageable.
For now, I've decided to try to do three things between now and the Christmas holidays:
1. My Vancouver Island Sunrises Calendar
2. The 6-Week Gut Reset program for women, which I have an amazing partner and team to work with.
3. Supporting my clients with USANA supplements (and I'm open to taking on a few more).
The Wake Up With Gratitude podcast remains on hiatus. I'm open to being a guest on other podcasts and speaking at special events such as World Gratitude Day. I can't promise how much I'll be on social media and there won't be a Weekly Gratitude Love Letter. I don't see myself writing many blogs as I find it difficult to do much typing, editing and formatting.
This summer has been filled with changes for me and my family. I am not sure what the future holds for me and my business. What I do know is that the way I was working before is no longer sustainable. And I've learned that taking care of myself has to be the number one priority every single day.
I learned this from The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron:
Treating myself as a precious object makes me stronger.
This is my daily reminder to stick to my priority of self-care and rest, as I have it posted in my bathroom. Do you keep reminders posted in yours?
You were in my thoughts this morning when I woke up, wondering if I would hear from you and there you are! So good to read your words. I have always enjoyed your letters. So glad that you were able to focus on yourself and your health this summer. Keep up the good work and keep making it work for you. I will miss your letters but understand that you have to do what is right for you. Take good care of yourself Julie Big Hugs
I love this Julie. You are continually an inspiration to me. (an a mirror)
Working through to get the “job” done and believing your doing the best for you. Thank you so much for this, your continued honesty and showing me how to value myself.
Congratulations on making your health the top priority. I found this post quite interesting. Keep taking care of YOU.
Love your post and your openness and honesty.
Lovely post, Julie, and I applaud your commitment to more presence, connection, and wellbeing. Years ago I ran a campaign called “Standing up for Lying Down” which was about the power of downtime. More than ever we need voices to stand for staying in tune with our bodies, each other and the natural world. See you on the beach soon!