As I sit down to write this article, I am at my kitchen table. The coffee is hot and the sounds of the city of Los Angeles waking up are piercing through my windows. Other than my pjs, the only thing I am wearing is a massive amount of calamine lotion. This is why my favorite outdoor activity is going back inside. Who would have thought that out of 10 people camping, I, the person who dislikes sleeping in the woods the most, would get covered in poison ivy. I didn't realize Mother Nature read Coordinates of Her° and knew of my feelings on this topic, but apparently she does. Mother Nature - 1. Kristi Bailey - 0.
I haven't been quiet about my lack of excitement when it comes to sleeping in the wild. My favorite part about camping is when I don't. Even still, I can't argue with the fact that one of the greatest treasures in being out in the middle of nowhere, where most people for centuries have chosen not to live, is that you get to unplug... truly unplug. Due to traveling, I am used to having no service on my phone and shady internet. I quite like that disconnection actually. Camping, however, takes this a step further with offering not even a promise of a connection to the outside world around the corner. You are completely off-the-grid. Therefore, once we arrived at our campsite, my phone stayed packed away.
Instead, I engaged in conversations, sipped coffee with friends, and made meaningful memories around the camp fire. The time away from my phone screen was a welcomed change that I didn't realize I was looking for as well as a reminder of what life used to be like. I was inspired to do a social media detox of sorts and take a week away from photo/story sharing. I had a few things scheduled to post to fulfill previous work obligations. Other than that, I accepted a challenge to go cold turkey down a rabbit hole towards personal freedom, and it was awesome. This challenge was given to myself, by myself. And, while there were no prizes to be had at the end of this race, I did walk away with a few invaluable life lessons.
Here is what I learned after breaking up with social media:
1. It Wasn't a Difficult Breakup
Not all social media is as non-addictive and easy to leave behind as Linkedin. But, still, I clocked out of instagram (the only platform I really use), un-installed the app from my phone, and never looked back. The breakup went something like this: "It's not me. It is you. I just think we need to take a break and to see other people. I wish you the best, and may your stock continue to rise." And, that was that.
2. Personal Freedom
I felt as free as 1993. I was like Britney Spears post buzz cut. I could feel the winds of change, and I was liberated. I wasn't having to remind myself to post or thinking at all about sharing different aspects of my day. I sat back, worked a lot, and stayed focus. My phone wasn't going off with notifications, and even if it was, it was at the bottom of my drawer in my filing cabinet. I was a free women.
3. Unplugged and Loving it
I was unplugged from people’s life. This was an interesting feeling. I knew very little about what was going on with my friends or family except for those closest to me who called to tell me about their day. What I found was that these conversations were more engaging than usual. I hadn't seen their posts on social media prior to the call. We were just catching up on our days like old times. It was nice, really nice. I had cut chords, but certainly not ties. I was still very much connected to the people close to me.
4. Productivity Through the Roof, Ya'll
I accomplished so much more in the past week then I have in months. My house is clean, all of my laundry is done, and I even made a work "to-do" list. I haven't made one of those since...um...ever. I don’t fully understand it, but there seems to be a great correlation between mindless scrolling vs. un-interrupted personal focus. Crazy right?! Who knew?! My mind had no place to wander; and, instead, I was focused more on the tasks at hand in front of me.
5. Need for Inspiration
As a creative, I am always searching out design inspiration. This is part of why I love living in a big city. There is always a sense of hustle and bustle and at any point in they day, I can walk down the street to shops and cafes and gather both a mind break and a creative inspiration in the same breath. What I hadn't realized is that, now, a lot of that happens online for me.
I think this is one of the positives to social media. It is a great creative outlet as well as a creative source. And, without it, I felt a strange shift in my usual creative juices. This past week, I had no source of inspiration in terms of other websites I follow sharing snaps of fun food recipes or cool travel shots. I hadn't realized how much Instagram is a source of inspiration, and without it, what was I to do? Pull out a real cookbook or go on a hike to see a good vista shot... insert gasp.
6. More Active, Just NOT Online
I joke, but actually, by the end of the week, I felt much more inspired to be active... physically. My brain felt more relaxed overall and in a weird way I was more in tune to my body needing physical activity. I took walks, went to the gym, and found ways to keep my brain quiet and centered. I didn't want to sit in front on my computer screen. I had experienced a slice of digital freedom and my body was craving more and more of it.
7. Insomnia Be Gone
A little known fact about me is that I don’t sleep. Mostly, this has come about because I am in the infancy of growing a business, I work extremely long hours; and, typically, I work 7 days a week. This work flow has gotten me to a place in my life where I don’t sleep very well. I can’t shut my brain off at night. I don’t completely understand how this is possible, but this past week off of social media, I slept better than I have in years. Who knew?!
8. Curfew For Life
This leads me to my next point which is the realization that going forward, I need a digital curfew. Without my phone to distract me, my brain could just crash at the end of the day. Again, my brain had no where else to wander to so at night I would read until I fell asleep, and I stayed asleep. From now on, I am setting a curfew for myself every night to shut my phone off until the next morning.
9. The Biggest Surprise For Me
There is an insidious competition to social media that you don’t realize until it is sayonara. In general, I would like to think that I steer clear of competition. It isn’t my thing. I am very competitive against myself, but competition with others doesn't do it for me. I believe in the power of traveling and how it can change peoples lives as it continues to do for me. I share travel shots in hopes to show people that “hey, if I can travel (and I fall off mountains), then anyone can do it.” By nature, that isn’t competitive because the goal is to get more people to go out there and see the world and share in similar experiences. I am sure I fall short of that at times, but still, it is the goal.
Curiously, however, what I noticed within a few hours of starting my detox was that I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. Why was that? Well, what I learned was that it wasn't about being competitive at all. It was more about comparing myself to others and allowing feelings like inferiority to creep into my psyche. By constantly seeing people's lives or at least the presentation of their lives, it is human nature to compare and even feel behind or less than. And, I had fallen into that trap without even recognizing it! What!?!? I hadn’t realized how much stress and emotion could be attached to insta. Oh man. This was a self-reflective moment for sure.
10. All in All: Balance
This digital detox definitely put technology into perspective for me. My break-up with instagram was both liberating and telling. I felt more present, productive, and centered in my own life. I slept better and had more meaningful conversations with others. Overall, I felt less stress and anxiety in work or in life. And, I learned things I didn't know about myself. Things that I had even told myself weren't an issue for me.
In the end, I walked away realizing that I need to create better balance in my personal life and in my interactions with social media. It is an unbelievable tool and a great creative outlet. But, it can also be a distraction and even a stressor on my brain and mental health. All in all, balance is the greatest lesson that I learned. Having a healthy relationship between sharing and engaging with others online, while also maintaining my own analog daily life is now my number one goal for me.