A question that came up in a coaching session recently was, will quitting social media help with sobriety? To answer this question I will explain why, as a sobriety coach and addiction therapist, I became so worried about the effect of social media on my own sobriety, mental health and overall wellbeing, that I myself am quitting social media.
Reducing stress and triggers is one of the most helpful things that you can do in sobriety to make your life easier. So, spoiler alert, it absolutely makes sense than that if it is a source of stress and anxiety for you, then yes, quitting social media will help with sobriety on so many levels.
The impact on Social Media and Mental Health
On February 15th I made a decision to take a break from social media. I have been thinking about how I’ve been using social media in my own sobriety. I quit drinking in March 2018 and didn’t use social media at all in the beginning, but began using it when I launched this website and as a way of helping others with their sobriety. Lately though I have been worried about the impact my social media use has been having on my mental health (and probably my physical health too.)
Having tried moderation (sound familiar?) I thought the only way I’m going to know if my social media usage is actually something to worry about, or if I’m just making a fuss, is to take an actual, proper break which is where I am right now.
I realized that I was spending too much time worrying and thinking about social media that was healthy, and most of all my social media usage was getting in the way of things I really, really wanted to do and it was making me feel rubbish and a little bit scared that I might have a problem.
When I wasn’t on social media, I was thinking about it. feeling guilty for not being on there and then guilty for being on there when I could be doing other, much more interesting things.
Just like alcohol, social media was taking up too much space in my head and I was worried about it.
This is not a post on why you should or shouldn’t be using social media for sobriety support or otherwiswe, the benefits of quitting social media, how to leave Instagram for good, or indeed if you should go sober from social media, as I’m still just in the testing phase. But I have noticed quite a few positive changes already which I want to share with you. First of all why am I doing this experiment in the first place?
Why I am quitting social media
As I said in this video, the first thing I thought about when we arrived at a really amazing location on a family outing was, ‘where can I take a selfie for my Instsa stories?’ I mean, just look at where I was that day. Instagram should not be the first thought that pops into my head.
I was reaching for my phone all the time and feeling anxious when it wasn’t with me.
I was starting to get headaches and a sore neck.
My morning pages would drag out because I’d keep looking at my phone which is so not the point of morning pages!
I would worry all the time about what to post, when to post, the look of may page, the quality of the image, was the caption deep or profound enough, was I really helping people with this post, is there enough value here, am I sharing enough tips, am I sharing enough about my life, am I sharing too much about my life, am I posting too much, not enough, why hasn’t anyone commented, why are there no likes, why has x got more followers than me, should I swear more, should I be more/less controversial, am I too vanilla, am I too weird, what are people thinking about me, are they even thinking about me, who cares anyway, why do I care so much….?
Basically social media was taking up too much space in my head and too much time.
Time is precious, my energy is important and social media was zapping all of that.
Looking at my blog posts or listening back to podcasts, I realized that I hardly ever mention using social media for sobriety support because there are so any other, more nourishing ways to get the help and support you need.
I would find myself scrolling because I had ‘five minutes’ or popping into Twitter every few minutes to check if I could help with a journorequest, or checking my Facebook or LinkedIn to see if anything had happened since I last checked 5 minutes ago.
Posting and looking at social media was becoming my priority. The thing I thought about the most, the thing I always did over other things, then complained I had no time for other things.
When social media makes you feel bad about yourself
I started to feel bad about myself because of my social media usage. I wasn’t obviously organized enough or strict enough or wasn’t using it properly.
I found myself comparing my life to other people on there, the number of likes, and comments, how other people’s writing is always more beautiful than mine, how they are better at being sober than me, have done more, achieved more, have more to say and a better way to say it. Oh wow, all the negativity was getting too much.
I reached a point where, like my drinking, I realized that I couldn’t carry on the way things were going and despite coming up with a schedule and a plan, I always slipped back into old habits and then beat myself up about it.
Do you really need social media to help with sobriety?
But, much like my drinking, I didn’t think I could NOT do it. How will I reach people? How can I help them? How will they know I am here for them? What will people think?
I thought I would miss out on so much if I stopped using Facebook or Instagram. I thought if I didn’t check Twitter all the time I would miss that call to be on Oprah. And I thought that if I wasn’t in all the places, all the time, someone would reach for a drink when they didn’t really want to, because I wasn’t there to help them.
One of my biggest fears was leaving people with nowhere to go if they needed support, which is silly as I know I am not the only sobriety coach in the world. But I do have really lovely people who follow me regularly so I wanted for them to have somewhere to go which is where my podcast comes in, my weekly YouTube videos, my blog of course and my Sober Bliss support circle.
Social Media is Addictive
Deep down I know that social media is addictive. And not just because I read that social media algorithms use slot machine technology to keep us hooked, But because of my own experiences, conversations with other people and the fact that everyone knows that social media is addictive, of course we do but still we use it even when it makes us feel bad. Again, a striking similarity to alcohol use. This goes against everything I believe in. I want you to experience freedom from alcohol so you can live the life you’ve always dreamed of, and if using social media for sobriety support could potentially cause a different addiction, make you feel bad and actually make your quest for sobriety feel hard, this is not something I want to be part of.
So I decided to stop for a while.
So, if you’re reading this and wondering where else is there other than social media if I need support and connection, these are just a few of the many, many places you can go. I want you to know that if you don’t want to use social media for sober support, then you absolutely don’t have to.
Benefits I’ve noticed from taking a break from Social Media
Now it’s only been ten days as I write this but already I’ve noticed so many good things that can only happen when you look up and live your life.
I’ve not had a headache
I’ve made banana bread
I finished a book and started another one
I started this course on *‘How to Market Without Social Media’ which I bought last year but didn’t get around to doing!
According to my Fitbit I’ve walked 6932 steps more than the previous week
My wellbeing report on my phone shows I spent 11 hours less on my phone than the previous week
Read that again.
11 hours! I gained a whole day!
I wrote a blog (this one). I haven’t written a blog for so long as I have been mostly podcasting, which hasn’t been very consistent either. It feels so nice to sit and type on a keyboard and look at a big screen, instead of slouching, head bent, allowing my finger to ache while I type badly on my phone (yes I am a one finger on my phone typer).
I recorded a podcast
I made a video, two videos in fact
I booked another guest on my podcast
I went out with my family
I’ve obviously been walking more
I feel better without social media
In general though, I feel much lighter. The first few days despite the irritation of wanting to keep checking my phone, I did feel a bit like I was on holiday! It was quite exciting but a bit scary as I wasn’t sure what I could be doing instead.
I’ve felt less anxious and less worried
I feel confident again and more grounded in what I do
I started working one on one with a wonderful new client and I have been so much more present for all my coaching calls
I’ve been more present in general
My sleep is better
I feel like I’ve gotten back on track again. Before I felt a bit derailed, like I was being carried along and doing things that didn’t feel good or being forced to do something that wasn’t in alignment just because everyone else was doing it and I felt like I should too.
Have I been perfect? Absolutely not! In the beginning I had to remove the apps from my phone as I found myself automatically reaching for my phone to check what I was missing. In fact on the first day, I posted that I was taking a break and would be back in a week and what did I immediately want to do? That’s right! See how many likes and comments I had received. I even had to ask my husband to check for me. Crazy I know.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that everyone should be sober from social media, but honestly in my short break, I’ve really noticed such a big difference in my overall mood and wellbeing. I’ve also done much more for myself, my family and for my business than I had been doing.
Will I stay off social media for good?
I’m not sure. Probably.
And, if I am being totally honest, I genuinely do feel so much better and as I always, always tell my clients if something is making you feel bad (drinking) then you have to ask yourself some important questions. I do know that I am going to carry on the break a bit longer and the thought of going sober from social media is beginning to fill me with joy instead of fear.
It is scary though as I do get the feeling sometimes that if you’re not on social media then you’re nobody. I don’t like that! I don’t like the idea that you have to be seen to do certain things and to do what everyone else is doing in order to be relevant and important. But I don’t want my value, my worth and the life changing, transformational work I do to be judged on how many likes, comments, retweets or mentions I get.
I will, of course keep you posted on how it goes. In the meantime, you know where I am and you can always send me an email or book a call if you’ve been using social media for sobriety support but feel it is not enough, and you need more.
How do you feel about using social media for sobriety support? Do you use it at all? Do you love it or hate it? Will quitting social media help with your sobriety? Do you wish there was somewhere else you could go or do you owe your sobriety success to using social media? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear your experiences.
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