In no uncertain terms, social media is a rat race where Millennials vie for likes, clicks, and comments all to validate and boost their digital popularity and gain acceptance. This tidal wave leaves even the most confident of Millennials crippled by feelings of anxiety, jealousy, and exhaustion.
The currency of likes does have the ability to translate into a monetized social media account. Reserved for the savviest of social media mavens with followers reaching into the tens (or hundreds) of thousands are sponsorships to peddle consumer products promising faster hair growth, flatter tummies and an entire week’s worth of uncooked dinners in a single box, are the symbols of success for some.
For Millennials who have their sights set beyond sponsored social media content, the burgeoning class of neo-entrepreneurs relies on social media to market their brands, services and attract clients. A social media presence is paramount for Millennial entrepreneurs but also carries a burden.
In simplest terms: the not-so-tacit competition that is social media is an addiction. Bank of America’s Trends in Consumer Mobility Report, released in summer 2017, reported findings that some of us suspected to be true. Among the digital natives, 11 percent of Americans have already done a digital detox – or intentional and purposeful disconnection from a phone, tablet, or computer for more than 24 hours. While 43 percent are on board with the concept and would consider a digital detox. Nearly half of Americans reported that they couldn’t last the challenge duration.
Meet three Millennial entrepreneurs from across the United States who unsubscribed from social media and shared their stories with New Theory.
Stephanie Williamson, 27, runs her web design and branding business from her home office in Parsippany, New Jersey.
Prior to her entrepreneurial foray, Williamson worked in the marketing departments of two venerable companies. Despite what some would consider an Instagram-worthy life that included business trips to the Grammy’s, Williamson didn’t feel that experiential marketing was her truth and her passion. Inspired by the digital world, she dove head first into creating her own website design and digital branding business.
Any entrepreneur worth their salt will tell you that when they broke the orthodoxy of working for the man, they traded away their 9 – 5 for the 5 – 9. Williamson learned this lesson firsthand. Between the online community she was building consisting of her social media accounts, blog, portfolio, website, and e-newsletter, plus teaching herself to code, the small business owner began to look at social media as a necessary evil, emphasis on the evil.
After hitting the preverbal wall, Williamson reflected and recognized her fatigue was rooted in social media. Williamson welcomed the late-nights and early-mornings of networking and devoting her time to her growing roster of clients with gusto. That was the raison d’etre Williamson started her business; it was social media that made her measure herself against others and question her self-worth.
Blame it on her unrelenting perseverance, but the one-woman band admitted she was running on all cylinders. Behind the curated and glossy false reality that she presented to her bevy of social media followers, Williamson’s health suffered.
Williamson shared, “I found myself feeling deflated every time I scrolled through Instagram or Facebook. I felt like I was constantly being bombarded with a new strategy for this, a new hack for that, or other people’s opinions about everything under the sun.”
In the digital world where life’s most personal moments are often broadcasted, Williamson couldn’t perpetuate the bluff another day longer; she was willing to try a social media detox.
Without warning or explanation, Williamson digitally went dark on June 6, 2017. For months, her social channels and web presence remained frozen in time.
She continued, “I didn’t want to have to explain myself, I wasn’t ready to share what I was going through because I didn’t have clarity on any of it, I didn’t want to pretend that everything was okay when it wasn’t, and the way I was using social media just didn’t feel right anymore.”
Almost four months later and out of the valley, Williamson’s considers her social media detox to be her smartest business decision of 2017. Decompressed and armed with clarity, she feels liberated from the metaphorical chains of the social sharing community.
The benefits of digitally unplugging extended far beyond a quieter life for Williamson. She was less edgy and far more relaxed. In a world absent of FOMO, envy, and jealousy, she was able to focus on herself, her relationships and business. Much to her delight, Williamson’s business continued, despite her fear that it would fold like a house of cards without social media.
Williamson started to miss the connections social media afforded her and slowly reentered the digital world – but on her own terms. Determined to maintain the progress she made during her digital detox, she has set boundaries and limits for herself to prevent from sliding back into old habits.
Nearly 3,000 miles away lives Sarah Donawerth, a 27-year-old writer and artist from Orange County, California. By day, Donawerth is a social media account manager for a magazine publisher, and by night she markets her artwork through her blog. If Donawerth were to escape the digital world, she would forfeit her livelihood.
What would start as innocuously scrolling through her social media feeds would inevitably spiral into Donawerth questioning her personal valuation. Her happiness and self-worth hinged on the number of likes, hearts, shares, and clicks her content received; a self-destructive practice not unique to Donawerth. She added, “Being on social media too much is like slowly feeding your happiness to a pack of wolves and expecting there to be leftovers.” With every alert and push notification enabled on her iPhone, daily productivity was paralyzed by incessant buzzes and dings. She knew she needed to make a change.
A cold turkey digital detox wasn’t an option for Donawerth, instead, she’s regained the power over social media. Moving social media as far to the outskirts as her world permits and deactivating all notifications have given Donawerth a new lease on the digital world. She maintains that the demonstrable metrics which apply to social media do not translate to real life.
Above ground and out of the social media rabbit hole, Donawerth shared that hobbies of every persuasion fill her days rather than being engrossed in a stream of never-ending push notifications. Now that “doing it for the Insta” has erased from her lexicon, her happiness gained from her hobbies, experiences and moments are no longer contingent upon the approval or acceptance of internet strangers.
Gabby Bastos is a 23-year-old starting a business which sells cricket flour based granolas and seed medleys in Miami. In a niche field, Bastos relies heavily on social media to broadcast her message to audiences that should wouldn’t be able to connect with otherwise.
While mindlessly scrolling through her social media apps, Bastos would immediately feel pangs of guilt for not using her time constructively. In an indirect competition with other accounts she followed, Bastos felt alone because her life didn’t resemble the seemingly perfect lives depicted and reflected in the accounts she followed.
With reckless abandon, Bastos decided her digital detox would take place during the 40 days of Lent. The duration was not rooted in religious piety – Bastos thought 40 days sounded like an appropriate length of time. Upon completion, her digital detox was akin to a religious experience because Bastos discovered enlightenment in the form of free time, presence, peace and restful sleep.
During Bastos’s digital abstention, she admitted that she felt out of the loop with updates from distant relatives and the twinge of temptation to check Facebook for upcoming events in her area. At the conclusion of Lent, Bastos returned to her social media apps but now sanctions her time. She measures herself against others far less now and continues to build her business.
If the stories from these Millennials resonate with you, it might be time for a momentary social media break.
Luckily, there’s an app for that. Appropriately named, consider Cold Turkey your accountability buddy. This productivity tool is available in a free version on mobile (iOS and Android) and desktop (Mac and PC) to block user indicated websites and apps for specific durations of time.
An alternate route is to delete all social media apps on your phone. Employ a trusted confidante to deactivate your social media accounts and change the passwords to thwart any late-night surreptitious scrolling.
If cold turkey sounds too aggressive of a strategy to you, simply try unfollowing the accounts that don’t bring you joy. If a particular account’s content evokes feelings of envy, jealousy, contempt, or anything but happiness – unfollow.
Pick a realistic duration of time that jibes with your lifestyle for your digital detox. Your duration could also be left open-ended, and maybe you’ll return to social media when you’re ready – whenever that may be.
Keep an open mind to the possibilities which exist beyond your screen. Be it increased productivity, deeper breaths, sustained happiness from sources other than anonymous internet strangers, there is a lot to discover in the world when your phone isn’t littered with little circular red notifications.
Above all, go easy on yourself. There’s an undeniable, almost magnetic attraction to our phones and old habits are hard to break.
Have you tried a digital detox? What was the biggest benefit for you? Write to us in the comments below.
((image via Pexels))