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Need a Break from Social Media? I knew I had to change..

by Laura Eccleston

09 Apr 2024


Need a Break from Social Media? I knew I had to change..
Are you addicted to your phone? I didn't think I was and would constantly judge my teenage daughter for spending too much time on her phone, but when I actually looked into how much time I spent on my phone, it was actually MORE than what my daughter was spending on hers. Primarily it was Instagram and YouTube based. I gave up Facebook many years ago and I have no interest in doom scrolling on TikTok, but even so, I was surprised and somewhat embarrassed at just how much time I wasted on my phone. Time I could be crocheting.

My excuse of course was that it was for work and yes, I would say a good proportion of my time was spent marketing and chatting with subscribers and viewers, building that community, but the vast majority of my time was actually spent simply negotiating algorithms and trying to stay relevant in an ever increasing demand for content production from social media companies.

When I thought about it, I wasn't even enjoying my time on my phone nor was I making any progress in building the community I really wanted. In fact, things were going backwards. The more I tried to fit in to current trends like Reels and Shorts or installing Threads and trawling through that, the LESS interest I seemed to be getting on my channels. I started to think... what was I actually trying to achieve?

I used to love those beautifully curated photos on Instagram. A simple image that captured a moment in time, a peaceful vibe of yarn, a coffee cup with a beautiful view. I know, maybe it wasn't an accurate representation of how a crocheter was working, we've all made those types of photos, but they were lovely to look at and I would come away with a positive feeling. Just like a glossy magazine or a relaxing travel program, things felt slow and calm.. peaceful. They were a form of escape for me and they inspired me to design my own photos and think about how I presented my work. I never saw this as a negative, I never felt the need to compete because I was always happy with what I had, some natural light, a simple camera and pretty props like shells and flowers to add to each project photo. I did this especially with my art channel and even now I enjoy looking back at my old photos. This is an important aspect to working with social media, to feel inspired, not competitive or anxious.

I think we're all familiar with doom scrolling and toxic conversations on social media these days. I've also written before about how much social media has changed from pretty pictures to the TikTok-esque hell we have today. It's all about reels and shorts. No-one seems to have an attention span beyond 60 seconds, if that, these days, and everyone seems to be copying the same memes over and over again with the same dire music used again and again. This is fine, I don't have to get involved... but oh wait, I do have to get involved according to Instagram if I want to achieve engagement.

So for a while I tried. I added a few reels and a few shorts. I tried the hashtags, I tried commenting on Thread posts. You know, I tried to achieve this engagement rate that I thought I desperately needed to be successful, but I was wasting so much time doing this. I began to produce less tutorials and less patterns. My business was actually doing worse! Also many of the posts on Threads are so negative. Drama seems to be a hook to get people engaged these days, but how is this affecting our mental health? If every post we see is pulling at our fears, our stresses, our worries, making us angry and judgmental without us even realising this is how we feel, what affect is this really happening on us and our creativity?

Have you ever spent time on your phone only to come away feeling irritable or anxious for no reason? You can't seem to pin down this feeling, your life is good, but it's there. This nagging feeling that something is wrong even though you felt fine this morning. Maybe it was that morning coffee? Well, it's more likely to be your phone...

Some of the other emotions to look out for is..

- Comparing yourself to others and what they're creating
- Feeling angry at things you weren't thinking about before
- Jumping on your phone as soon as you wake up
- Having trouble sleeping with a fear of missing out
- Feeling disappointed with lack of engagement on your posts
- Lack of motivation to do other things

So back in February I realised that something had to change. I finally made a decision to stop being controlled by social media and posted a traditional Instagram photo, just by itself that laid out all my feelings in full. I didn't want to create reels unless I had a genuine idea for one. I didn't want to get involved in toxic communities on Threads anymore that wound me up and made me feel anxious and angry and I didn't want to create content that didn't make me feel good or resonated with my true-self. Hardly anyone was seeing my posts anyway because Meta was controlling my content and hiding it away because I wasn't feeding into these dramas or short attention spans, and I definitely wasn't doing it regularly enough. I realised I was simply wasting my energy and ruining my mental health in the process.

I also had the unfortunate side-effect of people copying ME and studying what I was creating. Another large British crocheter openly admitted to me once through private messaging that her YouTube manager actually TOLD her to copy what others were creating, in turn, leading to me issuing a copyright infringement claim. Thanks YouTube!

And I'm not alone. A survey conducted in 2022 across the US, UK, Australia, and Norway found that during the pandemic people who used social media for entertainment or to decrease loneliness actually experienced poorer mental health than those who didn't. The whole system is designed to keep us addicted, afraid and competitive and I no longer wanted to play the game. I was tired of being a puppet.

Do I still use social media? Yes, but I use it differently now. I produce content when and how I want to and I pay zero attention to whether it does well or does badly. Has my business been affected? Not one bit. Do I feel happier? Absolutely! I am finally in control of what I want to create and when I want to post and my phone time has drastically reduced, (apart from me taking up online Hungarian lessons that is). If I have an idea for a reel I create it, if I don't, I don't force any ideas to come and I certainly don't copy what others are creating. If I have designed a new pattern or uploaded a new tutorial I will share a simple picture of that design. I don't force myself to take multiple photos that look perfect just so I can create a carousel of images, just because it might get more engagement. I just pop on to Instagram, post my one photo, let people know where the pattern is, reply to comments and then I'm gone. I've also started a new announcements channel on Instagram which followers can subscribe to, to get up-to-date information and direct links to patterns and tutorials. A dedicated newsletter of sorts direct to people's inboxes if they choose to receive them. I no longer struggle to get my content seen to those who aren't interested.

As for YouTube, I don't force myself to upload regularly. If I miss a week because I'm busy with real-life, then I simple try for the following week. I no longer put pressure on myself to produce content just to keep my channel relevant. My channels should only ever be relevant to me and Misi and those who choose to follow along. Social media giants should never have so much control over my creative process. Has engagement dropped? Ironically no, in fact it is better than it used to be. I am either in the green happy tick zone or I'm receiving more views than usual. Do I create shorts? I prefer to just wear them when it's hot.

Things I now do that work for me AND my business

- Uninstalled TikTok and Threads from my phone
Find what apps work best for you. Uninstall those you don't like, waste too much time on or make you feel anxious. You can keep your accounts live, but you don't have to invest your time and energy into them.

- Misi occasionally shares links to Facebook via his desktop computer (remember those?)
I don't have Facebook installed on my phone at all and I never visit their web page. Misi likes to keep our new Facebook page active when new patterns are released, but I don't get involved at all. A few years back I actually deleted our Facebook page altogether with over 70,000 members! as I felt it was a very toxic environment, but due to someone copying our brand we had to create a new page.

- Design patterns and create tutorials for YouTube only when I feel inspired and have time
Life is busy outside of HappyBerry with kids, cooking, shopping, cleaning.. normal day to day activities. The time I do get to myself is for pattern designing and testing, filming tutorials or sharing here on our own website, which I love. Prioritising what is really important in your life is the key to a happier and more content life.

- Share photos and links to Instagram when I feel inspired or have a new pattern to share
I jump on, I post, I reply to comments and then I leave. I foster the community I have and I don't try to push myself to build something more than I need. This gives me more time for those already subscribed. I only create content that I want to create and if I don't feel like being on Instagram for a week then I don't go on. If I don't feel like creating a reel or can't think of something clever, then I don't, and I pay zero attention to engagement. Has this been hard? Interestingly not at all, although a few people have asked if I'm okay because I'm not online, which is amusing and lovely in equal measure.

Years ago when I was on Facebook, I never posted photos of my family life. I'm quite a private person, but people in my local community often thought we never did anything because I never shared photos online. When they found out we had traveled to Japan one time they couldn't and didn't believe us! I thought that was very peculiar.

- I started an Instagram announcements channel via DMs for those who really want to reach my content
This has been a wonderful way to remove the stress of trying to get my content seen and it gives subscribers a direct and up-to-date way of knowing when a new pattern or tutorial drops, just like a newsletter. You can subscribe and unsubscribe at any time and you'll be the first to hear about a new written pattern going up on my website, a new tutorial being released on YouTube or even a shop update, which I am excited to share more about soon...

So now, instead of reaching for my phone, I reach for my hooks and my yarn. Staying offline has helped me be more creative. I'm no longer comparing myself to others or wondering if I'm doing enough, posting enough or creating enough. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders that never had to be there in the first place. And! because I am more passionate when I do finally post on social media, people can relate more to that so I feel my posts have more quality behind them now, deepening that community connection. I don't feel so rushed anymore or pressured to create. I have a much larger sense of freedom now, which makes me feel like anything is possible! I'm also reading more.

I hope you've found this article inspiring. Can you relate to these feelings? Let me know in the comments below what your social media journey has been like and whether you've ever taken a social media break or adapted how you interact online. I would love to know your thoughts!

- Laura

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