“What a relief!” I thought to myself this week as I removed the Instagram app from my iPhone.
When I posted saying I was taking a social media detox, some of you messaged to say I’d inspired you to do the same so I know managing our social media use is an issue affecting many of us, and I want to explore this.
In the past, I’ve taken breaks because I’ve been on the edge of burnout, it’s always an excellent way to regroup and re-energise, but right now, I’m not on the edge of burnout. I actually feel great.
But every week, I sigh a big sigh as I don’t seem to be much further on with my projects, and I knew I had to make space somewhere…
So I asked myself: What is coming off social media such a relief from?
Besides the obvious like always being on and available; feeling addicted to my phone; too much screen time; and as a content creator always thinking about what new stuff to post, I’ve identified two key areas that I struggle with which resonate with me:
- Continually Being Seen
Having the confidence to ‘be seen’ is something I regularly work with clients on, and it’s something I’ve had to work hard on myself.
The fear of being seen and therefore judged and criticised is common for so many women because we’re familiar with the notion that nothing we do is ever quite right?
We should be attractive but not too sexy; we should be strong but not show it; we should be intelligent but not arrogant; we should stay at home with the kids but also be financially independent; you get the drift?
Nothing we do is ever ‘right’ in society’s eyes, and this has a huge impact on how we feel about ourselves and can contribute to us wanting to ‘hide’ for fear of repercussions.
And add into the mix the relatively new phenomena of cancel culture, and it can really start to feel terrifying to put yourself out there.
But I do. I’ve worked hard over the years to be willing to ‘be seen’ and be proud of who I am, even when it doesn’t fit what society wants from me. If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll probably have witnessed my journey - from years ago not daring to post a selfie to now where I post videos daily.
These mantras helped me a lot in the early stages:
F*ck it Hannah, you’re doing it.
Feel the fear and do it anyway.
I show up most days and take the risk of being seen, but even after all these years of doing so there is still sometimes a distant niggling feeling.
And this isn’t helped by some of the DM’s I get (always from men) about my age; my hair; my attitude; my marital status; what I’m wearing; or how my opinions and advice are wrong. I’m reasonably thick-skinned, but still, it wears me down after a while…
Additionally, sometimes when I’m about to post I think: Why am I doing this? It’s such a pointless thing to do? Who am I to keep offering advice? Why would anyone care?
Imposter syndrome still raises its ugly head three years since I qualified as a Life Coach. It was still hanging around when I’d done an MA in journalism and working as a Journalist. It was by my side when I worked as a Social Worker with a social work degree.
I share this with you because no matter where you are or what you’re doing, we live in a world that’s conditioned to make us feel like we’re not good enough, and this feeling is difficult to shake off permanently. No matter how much personal development work we do, and despite how much we invest in ourselves an aftertaste of unworthiness can remains and show up unexpectedly.
We can work through these feelings, and I certainly don’t let them stop me from pursuing what I want anymore but it’s easier to do if we spend time in environments or doing activities that make us feel strong and empowered, not lacking and insecure, which is often our experience when on social media.
Social media reinforces feelings of not being good enough because we only get to see people’s best lives, which are not real. So we end up comparing ourselves to others, even when we know it’s not real! We still do it even though we know it’s illogical. And this fortifies the idea that we don’t quite hit the mark. Like we’re failing somehow?
As women in our midlife, we’re already experiencing circumstances which could be knocking our confidence. Feeling insecure about the future, the empty nest, divorce, menopause, an ageing face and body, etc. take their toll. So is it any wonder that social media isn’t necessarily a positive space for us?
Or is it?
One thing I noticed as soon as I came off was that I suddenly felt temporarily disconnected from the world. Luckily this passed after a few hours when I became engrossed in my work, it was just that initial hit of being alone.
But it made me think of one of the toughest times in my life when I was 21 and a single parent. I was completely isolated, alone and desperate, and I’d have given anything for a platform like Instagram to connect with other young mothers or anyone for that matter. What a lifeline it would have been.
This is why social media can be such a good thing, for so many people, maybe for you too? Especially after the pandemic. Friendships may have fallen away, and it seems we’re not as comfortable going outside anymore, we can conveniently have everything we need delivered to our door and even have a successful career without ever leaving the house. It allows us to connect with other human beings and feel a sense of belonging and a sense of inclusion that we’re not getting elsewhere. Social media can be a genuine salvation for many people.
But are we forsaking a richer life experience? One that’s more grounded with in-person connections and experiences, for a life that professes to offer relationships and belonging, but leaves many of us feeling like we’re just not quite good enough and wanting more?
I don't have all the answers...
If I consider all of the above: the uncomfortable exposure, the nasty and sexist comments, imposter syndrome and self-comparison, is it any wonder that I’ve had seven glorious, enjoyable and peaceful days for the first week of my detox? Not really.
I’ve created an energetic container that can’t be permeated by outside influences. This means I get to sit and listen to myself properly and design my days and weeks rather than responding to what’s going on externally. I feel less scattered mentally, and I feel more whole inside.
But….not being on social media can exclude and isolate us - especially if you’re a single woman who lives alone. Many smaller newspapers have closed down, so we can’t even find out what’s on in our local community if we’re not on Facebook. And how do we make connections if we work from home and barely leave the house? Sometimes I ponder that if I didn’t have to be on social media for work, I wouldn’t be on it all, but I’m not sure if I’m lying to myself about this?
My solution is to stay online but take regular breaks. Enough so I’m not caught up and emotionally involved, and it doesn’t consume me.
When I take some respite, I can view it objectively from a grounded place and see it for precisely what it is, a world that was essentially created by tech bros to sell us stuff. They’ve done a great job, haven’t they?
If you do follow me on Instagram (thank you!), I do love creating content for you, I enjoy chatting with you, hearing your stories and offering advice when I can. I appreciate you so much
But I find that when I take these breaks, I come back with more insight, higher energy and even more to share.
Hannah Anstee is a former British Wellness Journalist turned Women’s Midlife & Wellbeing Coach.
You may know her from her work as Beauty Editor at YOGA Magazine or her contributions to The Independent or Psychologies Magazine.
Hannah uses a kind and candid approach to help women rewrite their stories.