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#11: My Social Media Diet & My Journey to Reduce Anxiety, Practice Presence, & Improve the Self

Updated: Jul 20, 2019





I’m addicted. There—I said it.


I’ve never been addicted to anything before. Well, besides Ranch dressing, but who isn’t?

I didn’t catch on to any of the signs that a habit was forming. It felt as passive as the end of that sentence, but the truth is, I was actively building a habit of reaching for my phone in more moments than I’d care to admit to.


When I had time to kill, man would I kill it with my phone. And God forbid I forgot it at home.


It was like my stomach was constantly being tugged by it’s absence. I’d mindlessly reach over to pick it up, only to find empty space and a deep longing for….did I even know what I was longing for?


Why was it always my go-to when I had free time? What was my reason for pulling up these apps and scrolling for sometimes thirty minutes?


Maybe it was because I constantly felt like I was missing out on something. Maybe I was just curious about people’s reactions to my posts. Who liked them and how many. Who was paying attention—who cared about me.


Or maybe I needed to be seen. Recognized. Validated. Did I have something to prove? And was it to others or to myself or both?


All these questions swarmed in my head. Why did I need to go on social media so often?


I was like a smoker who first started because it was cool and everyone was doing it. And then I wanted to stop because I knew it was affecting my quality and quantity of life, but I couldn’t because I had built such a habit around it. It had become more of an impulse than a desire.


It felt so subconscious.


Like my hands had a different agenda than my mind did. Did I even want to scroll through social media? Did I gain anything from it? Apparently I did, because every chance I had I’d reach over and pick up my phone and head straight for ‘em.


And the crazy part is, half the time I didn’t even catch myself! I’d just do it. At red lights, in the bathroom, before bed, in waiting rooms, in line—really any time that life allowed me to be idle, I’d fill the passing time with checking out the list of people who viewed my Instagram story or catching up on Facebook notifications.


Sure, social media can be helpful. It’s great for keeping in touch with people we don’t get to see. It’s awesome for entrepreneurs and businesses. And sometimes, it can be nice to have access to “news” that doesn’t come out of the mouths of major corporations.


But how often do I use it for that?


Most times I’d just do it to keep my hands busy. It was something that was always within arm’s reach that also didn’t require much—or any—brain power.


I could just sit and scroll. Sounds innocent.


But then, I’d come across a girl with more than 500 likes on a photo of just her in a bikini popping her butt up to the camera and I'd wonder what she had that I didn’t.


I guess we just live in a new time with new values. So different from the Audrey Hepburn’s and Eleanor Roosevelt’s. Did I have to start taking selfies, wearing make-up, and buying revealing clothing to get such a fame?


Then, I realized something that changed the course of my life.


I really don’t want to be famous. And if I must be, I hope it’s for my brain and long after I’m gone. What I want more than fame, more than likes, more than recognition—is time.


All I want is just more time here on this beautiful Earth with my little family.


So why was I getting rid of it? Why was I giving—no, throwing—away my precious time to something that didn’t value it? How often did I ignore my surroundings so that I could look into someone else’s life? How much of my kids’ time did I give away to look at pictures of other people’s kids?


Don’t get me wrong—I love keeping up with my friends and loved ones and seeing their adorable little ones just as much as I love posting pictures of mine. I just believe that there’s a time and a place for everything.


And I was using my moments all wrong.


I’d say to people, “Where does the time go?” Well, shit, Lauren—just check your cellular data usage.


If something cool was happening I'd get out my phone to take a picture of it, adding all the right elements, cropping out things that "ruined" it, and thinking about the likes and comments that it would ring up. When, I should have been thinking, "Remember everything about this moment. Not just the pretty stuff. But the broken, the ugly, and the imperfect ones. Because this is the only time everything will be this exact way. After now, it will only be a memory."


As I sat and watched Charlie play with Conrad, and Reece laughing at the fan above him, I absent-mindedly felt the urge to reach for that technological black hole. Mid-reach I stopped. I caught myself. What could be more important than watching my children find joy in life’s little moments? What am I teaching them to value if I were to choose my phone over them?


So in that moment, I pulled my hand back and made an active decision to stop. To stop wasting beautiful moments like these to go endlessly scroll and double tap. To stop looking away from what really matters. Because if life goes by in a blink, then why would I even dare to look away?


I'd ask myself, "Why was I trying so hard to be seen? And was everyone else trying just as hard?" It was like we were all on a beach, each of us blasting our own stereos, blaring our favorite albums. We wanted people to see us--to hear what kind of person we were. But in reality the only songs we heard were our own and they were too loud for us to hear anyone else's.


If everyone's trying to be heard, then who the hell is listening? I eventually got tired of this. Of trying to be heard. I decided it was time for me to listen.


I got tired of not only trading my time with my family for Instagram, but I grew tired of the envy that was cultivating within me. I was getting envious of anyone who was living some sort of life that I could only dream of. I’d get jealous of the friends who were out partying without responsibilities while I stayed at home and attempted to soothe two crying kids. Or of someone traveling, or of another photographer, or of just another gorgeous girl.


But why? I was perfectly happy with my life before I picked up this damn phone. I don’t mind the toddler tantrums or my current complacency because I’m honestly super happy about where I am in life.


But after looking at where everyone else was and what they were doing, I couldn’t help but yearn for something similar. Something different than what I had.


Envy transformed into anxiety. Like I wasn’t doing enough or doing the right things or looking the right way. I’d look at these girls who never took pictures of anything besides their bodies, and I’d feel a pull to be like them. To be liked and seen. Or I’d glimpse a picture of some supermom just totally killing it in every area of life and I’d feel inferior. Like I wasn’t as good of a mom or homemaker as she was.


Everything looked so perfect and symmetrical and aesthetically pleasant, and I’d mentally kick myself for falling short of this cape-wearing woman without a strand of hair out of place and no toddler tantrum in sight.


Or so it seemed.


But that’s what social media is. It’s a glimpse. It’s a frozen moment—usually doctored to look a certain way—amidst the thousands that pass by every day. It’s specifically chosen to show us a certain something.


How much do those beautiful girls miss out on when they focus on taking the perfect picture and pairing it with the perfect caption that will evoke a specific, desired reaction?


Or how often do those moms break down and lose patience like the rest of us?


Are their homes really this clean all day every day? Are they really acing it in all corners of life?


I don't even know if that's possible.


Am I the only one that thinks this way? Or does everyone feel some sort of inadequacy and/or desire to be recognized when they enter the social media realm? I don’t know. I may be alone in these feelings. Maybe people don’t feel anxiety or jealousy when they scroll through their feed.


For the longest time I didn’t even address these feelings. I ignored them. Pretended they weren’t there. But I could start sensing a pattern of this negative feeling inside me arise whenever I finished and climbed out of this social media rabbit hole.


Before diving into it, though, I had always been very accepting of who I am, what I look like, and what my life is. But the more access I have to peek into other people’s lives, I can’t help but subconsciously feel like I’m missing something.


I truly don’t want to compare myself to others. We honestly can’t. If we do, we will always find shortcomings in ourselves. Because there are things that people can do better than us. But there’s also things that we can do better than others. That doesn’t make us more or less or better or worse than anyone. It just makes us different.

Being different is what gives humanity it’s ability to work together and THRIVE together. To grow and evolve. We can’t all be Oprah’s. We can’t all be the richest man alive. But we can be exactly who we are. Because no one else can be that.


The world needs whoever it is that you are. And I mean who you TRULY are. Not the person you post on social media, not who you feel like society wants you to be—but what your soul was sculpted to be.


We all have a path. I believe that. I believe we all have our own little purpose. Our own strengths, weaknesses, goals, lovers, and dreams. We are on our own road. I shouldn’t be envious of other people’s lives, beauties, quirks, families, or talents. Because that’s theirs. That’s what makes them them. What makes me me is something I should never let go of just because it’s different or unpopular.


What makes us all beautiful is the fact that we all are uniquely designed to be something that no one else can be.


Why should I give that away? Why would I want to be anywhere else but here with the people that I love?


So I sat down with my subconscious and had a little talk—in a non-crazy person kind of a way. I addressed my anxieties, this habit, my envy, and I came to this conclusion:


When I’m old and gray and of course super wise, I don’t want to look back on my life with a regret that I wasted time on petty bullshit. I want to look back with a smile—with a feeling of peaceful fulfillment. I want to know that I gave my time to all the right people and all the right things. That I lived honestly and I lived well. That I gave it my all. All my attention, all my love, and all my soul.


I came to the conclusion that I am happy. Really, truly happy with all that me and my life have become. I’m happy for my friends and family and whatever kind of happiness they have built for themselves.


I’ve also come to the conclusion that I need to slow my roll with my phone. So I’ve decided to, not get rid of it all—because you know, everything in moderation—but to only check it once every week for no more than an hour. This will be enough time for me to catch up with my loved ones, give updates on our family, post blogs, and work on my business.


But it’s not too much time that it will be robbing me of what matters most: these precious, fleeting moments with my loved ones.


So, I ask that you join me on this cyber-diet. Not because I don’t want to be alone—I really don’t mind being the only one sitting in a tall crowd. But because I think it could only bring good things.


If you’re like me, quit cold-turkey. If you need to ease into it, cut it down to once a day. Or just mornings and nights! But I ask that you’ll join me on an endeavor to bring an honesty and transparency to social media.


That you’ll join me in living a better, fuller life in which we focus on all the things that we will one day miss.


Like a child’s playful laughter. An ocean crest crashing at our sandy feet. A star falling into the sea. A warm embrace from a parent. The sound of a lover’s quiet beating heart that fills a silent room. All these things are not only things that we might miss when the moment has passed and we no longer have them—but we might also be missing because we are too focused on our phone screens and what the rest of the world is doing.


It’s funny how many of us have used the hashtag “#livingmybestlife”. But can we really if we are splitting it between our phones and actually living?


So I’m putting my phone down so that I can finally start living my best life. So that I can start giving my time to my family and all the things I used to say I didn’t have enough time for. So that I could stop reaching for my phone and reach for the stars.


With that being said, here is my list of things that I will give all of my extra time to. If you feel the way I do, if you want time more than anything else, join me and write a list of 5 to 10 things that you’ll spend your time on instead of social media. If you’re feeling brave, post the link to this blog post as well as your list so that we can start a wave of self-bettering (is that a thing?) and lead others to start living fuller, happier, less-anxious lives.


So that we can actually be in the moment instead of setting it up to capture and share with our friends.


So that we can make improvement and togetherness priorities over popularity and portraying ourselves to the world. Not just for ourselves and our families, but for Him. If you believe in God, this life and everything we do is ultimately for Him.


"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." -1 Corinthians 10:31


If you need some extra help with this new change, I’ve added a list at the end of this post of some things that I did to help quit this addiction.


If we want to make the world a better place, we must first start with ourselves.


MY LIST OF SOCIAL MEDIA REPLACEMENTS:


1) God

2) Loved ones

3) Giving back to my community

4) Building my business ideas

5) Learning about my interests (coffee industry, gardening, how to raise a toddler, literature, and really anything to exercise my brain!)

6) Bettering my body (yoga/exercise)

7) Cooking

8) Adventures with the family

9) Writing

10) Myself (blog post your relationship with yourself coming soon!)



TIPS TO QUIT:


1) Turn off social media notifications

2) Move social media icons to last page of phone

3) Tell your close friends and do this diet with them! Always helps to have people to hold you accountable and to share new changes with!

4) Download apps/podcasts that pertain to your list of 5-10 replacements and put them in the exact spot on your phone where your social media apps were.

5) Put things in arms reach in places you typically sit still for awhile (the couch, the bathroom, the bed, your front porch, your passenger seat, your pocket, and your bag/purse!) I put tons of books everywhere, as well as things to right on (so I don’t pick up my phone to write in the “Notes” app).

6) Don’t wanna use your brain or body and just wanna chill—but don’t wanna sit and stare at the wall? Play music; listen to interviews of successful people; talk with God; call a loved one; close your eyes and think about the day or your dreams or what you’re grateful for. Stretch your legs, make some tea, paint a picture, doodle, color, or draw. Play sudoku, go for a drive, walk in nature, sit on your front porch and look at the night sky. Or try something new! A new language, or an instrument, or whatever the hell floats your cute little boat!