Social media had me by the balls.

Hour after hour, I would mindlessly scroll, scroll and scroll some more. Every day, I would spend at least an hour if not two or three feeding my brain junk food. Wasting sweet, valuable time on events of the past from people I barely knew. I had had enough, so I quit. And here’s how I’ve felt after one week without social media.

I’d never realized just how addicted to scrolling my feeds I’d become. Unconsciously grabbing my phone whenever I had a spare second waiting in a grocery line. Flipping over to Facebook during a tough writing session without blinking an eye. I’d mindlessly check notifications for a hint of validation during my son’s basketball game. All bad habits that a few times during one week without social media, I’d catch myself doing. But this time, I didn’t get a fix.

It had been a long time coming, but last week I vowed to give up social media for an entire calendar year. This vow means no checking or posting on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn. All social tools that I had frequented regularly.

In the past, I had given up Facebook for a few months at a time. Blaming one social media platform for my mental state seemed reasonable to me at the time. But in true junkie form, I’d fill in the gap with another social platform. Social media browsing had become a dirty habit not much different than smoking. Reaching for the proverbial pack whenever I needed a break, but I always ended up with the side effects of alcohol. I would consume social media without any thought, but the results of the consumption deeply affected my mental health.

Social media is so much like smoking; it’s almost uncanny.

Much like when I stopped smoking eight years ago, stopping the social media habit has immediately given me a sense of freedom. I no longer feel at the mercy of the dopamine hit. Without the crutch of the almighty scroll and notification count, I can now think clearly about the problem I have at hand. I’ll admit, the first couple of days were tough. Over years of social media addiction, working hard to find a solution in life without that distraction became foreign to me. I’m happy to report that so far I’ve not had any withdrawals or cravings for my social feeds. Come to think about it; I never had any when I finally successfully stopped smoking.

Your mind will play games with you if you aren’t ready to stop.

One of the main excuses that I’d given myself when I first thought about ditching social media is social contact. We report so much of our daily lives on social media that face-to-face communication has virtually become unnecessary. What’s left to discuss? Our Facebook profiles have become our “what’s going on?” cheat sheet!

During this first week without social media, I’m happy to report that I’ve had my first uninterrupted lunch date with a great friend. Our phones were off the table, and we had a great chat. For the first time in many years, I carried a conversation and didn’t feel pressured to conform. Social media has a lasting effect on me. It enables me to over think every social situation and fuels my need for validation. Without that cloud over my head this time, I didn’t need validation during my lunch date with my friend.

Presence reigned over us and it was divine!

As my friend and I discussed my absence from social media, I’d cautioned him to be ready the next time we meet. I’ll need more than a “nothing new here” when I ask him what’s going on. I’ll be completely oblivious to the daily life that he shares online. I may need a little more filling in during our next conversation!

Social media browsing is nothing more than a disgusting habit.

Breaking the habit is tough, but it is not impossible. I realize that this is just one week without social media in a very long journey, but I believe this is entirely doable. So far, I don’t feel shunned from civilized life. No fake news is good news and filling in the boredom with scrolling is no longer a concern. Ironically, since breaking the scroll, I’m not bored anymore. I’m not looking to be bored anymore.

The habit of living life to be photographed and posted online is probably the most annoying habit to break. There have been times this week where I’ve wanted to take a picture and post it. But, I reminded myself that it wasn’t necessary. I am living this moment for those who share it with me and not those who could really care less.

For the first time in a long time, I just enjoyed the moment.

I’ve always thought of social as a necessary evil in my life and came up with excuses to hang on. Finally, I chose not to have that evil in my life. Without the evil habit, I have more time to read, write, reflect, exercise, think, love, learn and live to be me. It may only be a week, but I already understand myself a little bit more today than I did yesterday.

Instead of watching other people’s lives unfold, after one week without social media, I can witness my own.

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