On the 18th of December 2020, I deleted my social media apps and packed away my computer.
I had planned to be courageously INVISIBLE for two weeks, the entire Christmas break. After two years of showing up multiple times a day (apart from the odd day or weekend after a launch), this was a bold step away from my norm.
This was more than stopping work, this was removing myself from the online world. A move that to many people wouldn’t feel particularly radical. But for me, at that moment it was a massive statement to myself, my audience, and my mission.
For exactly the same reasons I tell people to stand up and be seen, I had to sit down and be quiet. This was as strategic as any marketing decision I have ever taken.
Now let’s be clear, disappearing from your audience’s eye line is not something I would generally recommend. In fact, helping business owners show the fuck up is my thing. This decision surely flies in the face of that. And yet it doesn’t. It is about strategic compassion. It is about trusting your instincts and sustainability.
2020 had taken its toll on me.
Despite our fortunate circumstances, social media has felt like a war zone at times. It would burst my happy little bubble at home by either reminding me of the latest death toll or pushing an argument about masks, vaccines, or blood guzzling pedophiles in my face. I had drawn and redrawn my boundary lines many times over the year but I really felt like I needed a real break. It is too easy to accidentally fall into a negative hole online and I had just about had enough. Add to this my general screentime consumption and lack of balance meeting real people, the most compassionate thing I could do was make a real, significant social media holiday.
What did it feel like to be invisible?
What happened after I deleted the apps was very curious. I was acutely aware of my muscle memory, my hands would grasp my phone periodically and without conscious thought, I would unlock my phone and swipe left and right (this wasn’t Tinder, I promise), searching mindlessly for those pesky social media spaces. Of course, each time, I eventually put down the phone, shaking my head at myself, feeling irritated and restless.
I took a picture of my youngest. She looked so grown up in her Christmas jumper and she was brimming with excitement, it was infectious. After I took it, I stared at it a moment, unsure what to do with it. My natural reaction was to open social media and share it. I don’t share pictures of my kids every day but this one was worth it. For a moment I sat there and pondered the point of taking photos at all if I wasn’t going to share them. What was the purpose if they are just to stay on my phone? Maybe I won’t bother taking any pictures this Christmas?
Of course, I did take pictures and I treasured them but it was an interesting experiment to listen to my own thoughts and be mindful of my feelings as I step into the uncharted territory of courageous invisibility.
Ironically, it seemed easier to recognise the effect social media had on my life when I didn’t have it.
Peace on earth
I’ve been aware for some time now that I think in social media posts. After being visible for so long, I trained myself into finding content around every corner and hidden under every stone. A post office visit, a wardrobe malfunction, a haircut, or a mini breakdown. It is all good content. It helps your audience see you as a person. It enables them to know, like, and trust you enough to spend their hard-earned cash on your product or service.
But when I stopped posting on social media, I had nowhere for these thoughts to go. These daily, inconsequential moments that can so easily be turned into a 1500 character sound bite with a few hashtags for good measure, just became moments again.
This was something quite beautiful and unexpected. Just enjoying a moment without having to experience it through the eyes of a screen or for the purpose of a message, just being. It was ever so slightly liberating and brought peace to my mind.
Through this peace, I could hear a voice. It wasn’t the voice of God, Michelle Obama, or even my mum. It was mine.
Social media is the noisiest place to be. It is common to get stuck on other people’s content as a procrastination tool. How can we be expected to know what we want to say when we can hardly hear ourselves think in all that chaos.
Back on the social horse
Christmas came and went. I settled into a world without Facebook. I became more present and more in-tune with my own thoughts, feelings and actions. My mission and my goals became clearer. Untainted by anyone else’s, it was purely mine.
I was nervous coming back on. Worried I had enjoyed time off a little too much I wouldn’t want to come back. But I did my grounding work. I re-read my mission and I looked through my testimonial folder on my phone. I reminded myself of my impact.
Everything I have done in the past few years, the business I have built, the life I have created for my family, the friends I have made, the people I have helped, the ripple effect of that work… it all starts and ends on social media.
Yes, the place can feel like a minefield, especially when global events rock the world but it is just a reflection of humanity. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I have a lot to thank social media for and I also have a choice as to how I respond. How I use this break, the peace, my newfound voice and amplify it. I can do this without letting it impact my mental health.
Time is precious. It is finite. I used to feel like it was my kryptonite. It was my enemy and I was always fighting against it. Being courageously invisible is not just about vanishing. It is about respecting your time and your mind and using it effectively. To serve your ultimate purpose, your mission.
Do you ever take social media breaks? Is this something you would consider scheduling into your calendar? Remember if it is guilt that is stopping you or a feeling or what you should or shouldn’t do, as a business owner, you make the rules.
If deciding to take a break means you can hear your own voice more clearly and have the energy to show up more courageously, then it is a smart business decision to delete the apps and hide under your duvet watching Netflix every now and then.