Y’all, we’re surrounded by constant noise in the realm of social media.  How many times have you found yourself mindlessly scrolling as you’ve lost track of time?  I bet your right thumb has so much muscle memory that it could navigate social feeds even if your brain got turned off somehow.  I get it – FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is a real thing.

But just what is it that we think we’re missing out on?  In this article, we’ll lay out how to take a Social Media Sabbatical.  Thirty Days to clear your palette of cat videos, creative wedding proposals, and political opinion (“Make America Intentional Again” – or at least make yourself more intentional in how you use these incredible platforms).

a hand holding a smart phone taking a photo of a music concert

Background Story

I’ve just recently unpacked my bags and settled back in to the nuanced world of social media.  That’s right – around the end of golf season this year I cut the cord.  I deleted Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat off my phone.  I went cold turkey because I knew it would be the only way to bring about the change I craved.  The change I needed.  I’m getting ahead of myself though, let me back up a bit.

I’m extraverted to a point where I am nearly “off the chart” on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (I’m an ENTJ) and if you don’t know what you are – no worries.  I’m going to write an upcoming post that will dig in to Myers-Briggs.

I put a boatload of stock in to what others think of me – it’s long been something I struggle with.  I’m working through it but I can get myself down when faced with harsh criticism or when I perceive (perception is NOT reality) that others are displeased with me.

The Catalyst For Change

Long story short, I got my spirits crushed a while back when I shared a link on Facebook to a story about our program.  I was held responsible for something that I did not have control over.  It wasn’t personal – I feel good about that part in my clear heart and conscious.  As the coach, however, I bore the brunt of this person’s anger and disappointment with the contents of that story.

I let it affect me deeply!  Looking back it seems silly, but in that moment I was in tears (multiple times), down in the dumps for days, and generally not my best self.  I felt crushed by something I had done with the purest of intentions on social media – sharing a story that promoted our program.

It was, however, what I needed in order to push myself to finally do something I had been thinking of doing for a long time.  To get off social media for a period of time and reset my brain to use those tools in an intentional way.

To break myself from the addiction of likes, favorites and retweets (to not put so much stock in others approval of me).  To stop the aimless scrolling and spend more time playing with our daughter and spending time with my husband.

So, what did I learn and how can you set up your own successful sabbatical?

FIND YOUR WHY:

In order to be successful with your sabbatical, you must first find your “why.”  Ask yourself, “Why do I want to do take on this challenge?”  “What could be different after the thirty days and how can that make me better?”

The importance of discovering your why cannot be overstated.  The reason is simple:  There isn’t going to be a “Social Media Sabbatical” cop roaming around your analog life making sure you don’t break your promise to yourself.  Nope, this challenge is self-regulated.

Knowing and fully resonating with your “why” will help in those moments when you experience that “Fear Of Missing Out” and justify to yourself, “I’ll just hop on for a few minutes and check in.”

Here is an example using my why:  “I want to reset my brain to not measure my life by the “likes” of others and to be more intentional in the time spent with my husband and daughter.”

TIMING:

You need to consider the best timing for your sabbatical.

I know, it seems antithetical to get ya fired up about a challenge, and then tell you to choose your timing carefully.  Here’s why it’s important:  As a leader in college athletics, there are certain seasons where your presence on social media isn’t just for fun.  During certain times of the year, it’s important for your career to be active on these platforms.

For example, if you’re a coach it may not be wise to take your sabbatical right smack in the middle of recruitng season.  Likewise, if you’re an administrator it may make sense to choose a time away from beginnings of semesters, fall football season, NACDA and similar conferences, and graduation.

Only you can determine the best time for your sabbatical.  For me, I chose right after our conference tournament ended and before recruiting season was in…wait for it…. full-swing!

FAIL SAFES:

Ok, let’s revisit the “Social Media Sabbatical” cop imagery for a moment.  He doesn’t exist!  It’s gong to be more like the Wild Wild West of analog, so it’s important for you to protect your challenge with a few fail safes.

Consider writing out your “why” and putting it in a place you’ll see often.  Ideas to jump-start your thinking:  bathroom mirror, desk at your office and background on your phone.  Tell your spouse or a close friend and let them check in with you periodically throughout the month to help hold you accountable.

Finally, avoid temptation by deleting all social media apps from your phone.  Go a step further by logging out of all social platforms on your computer so that if you hit a moment of weakness you’ll have the extra step of logging in to rethink your actions.

ALTERNATIVES (How Will You Use That Time):

It’s a good idea to have some ideas in place to take up the time you used to spend thumbing through a social feed.  The temptation will be there and it’s hard to ignore.  Having some “go-to” strategies will really help in those moments.

For me, I wanted to play more intentionally with our daughter so I knew that the evenings would be spent in the floor playing creatively.  You may want to use the time gained by learning a new craft, reading an awesome book, or beginning a journaling practice.

Perhaps you’ve been meaning to spend more time outdoors or focusing on exercise.  There are countless ways to fill the time – I encourage you to take on a productive pursuit.

TRANSFORMATION & RESULTS:

After the Social Media Sabbatical, I feel refreshed.  There is a lightness now in the way I approach social media.  I don’t feel held captive by the number of likes and retweets; in fact, I find myself posting less overall but, hopefully, with stronger content.

What I love most is championing others by taking the time to like and comment on their posts.  It feels good to “give” and not be worried about the “take.”  It’s why I started the “Leading Beyond Sport” Facebook group.

I also went through Facebook and Twitter and purged, like whoa!  I was subscribed to so much random stuff that clogged my feed with things I no longer find relevant or productive.

I even deleted people whose feeds were filled with negativity – I don’t need that.  As a result, I now have a curated collection of content I want to see and people I want to connect with.

Not all social platforms made it out as easily as Facebook and Twitter.  I put the ka-bosh on SnapChat completely, and it would be a full thirty additional days before Instagram got added back in.  It’s liberating, y’all!

Do I still engage with social media?  YES, absolutely!  But, I am much more intentional with its use.

I am on social less and less overall these days, preferring instead to remain intentional in my goals of more quality time with my husband and daughter and more time to devote to productive pursuits (for me that’s writing this blog and developing a community of folks in college athletics).

I’ve rediscovered that “social” actually happens in analog too.  My relationships are healthier, deeper and richer.  My mind is less foggy and I no longer associate self-worth with “likes.”

As a family, we’ve done things like kayak down a river, go to downtown concerts, travel, and have water balloon fights.  I feel like LIFE just retweeted me – and that’s one “account” I’ll continue to follow.

I count this social media sabbatical as one of the single-most influential things I have done for myself in adulthood. So much so, that I plan to take a social media sabbatical for thirty-days twice a year.  I’ve already got the next one marked in on the calendar.

REFLECTION:

So now I gotta know….will you accept the challenge to take a 30-Day Social Media Sabbatical?  What can I do to help you stay accountable?  What are some things that would/could be different after your reentry from the sabbatical?  I wanna hear all about what you’re thinking – let your voice by heard below!

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