While you’ll see me roll my eyes and sigh like a conservative old man at certain aspects of millennial culture, the internet is not one of them. I will proudly tell anyone that I love the internet. And not just because it’s full of memes and reassures you that at any point, you are not alone in your existential crises. The internet has created millions of opportunities for everyone since its conception – to start a business, meet other people, have a creative space to share their skills and talents.
For example, take blogging. I think it’s super cool how we can share our opinions and start conversations, all while allowing other people to capitalise on our knowledge through tutorials, recipes, guides. Moreover, connecting with likeminded individuals across the world would be much slower if communication was still done via messenger on horseback: the world is faster and more immediate on the internet. While this isn’t for everyone, I love it in moderation and thrive in an environment where everything is evolving and constantly moving forward. Moreover, as much as people like to separate the internet from the ‘real world’, they are becoming increasingly interconnected and influence each other on a daily basis, often for better rather than for worse (I mean, I highly doubt delicious vegan cafes would be popping up all over the place had it not been for the world wide web allowing the vegan message to spread like wildfire, if you excuse the unoriginal simile).
That being said, the online world has its drawbacks and from time to time, a break can benefit virtually all of us. Of course, there are people out these who depend on it to make a living, and whether you agree with such a career path or not, time off equates to less income. But in many cases, these people have found their thing and provided that they’re doing what they love, taking extensive breaks isn’t necessary except for in extenuating circumstances.
A couple of months ago, a girl I know said to me that when she goes on her annual holiday to France, she has no internet access for 2-3 weeks and simply hearing those words made my heart skip a beat because I couldn’t remember the last time I stayed offline for more than a couple of hours. For the reasons mentioned above, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with that. The internet is amazing, and I don’t agree with people who blindly hate it just because it is unlike ‘the good old days’. However, there must be a balance with everything in life and spending too much time online can have negative consequences, right down to an addiction. We also cannot deny that among all of the self-help resources and innovative ways to find solace in times of hardship, there are unreasonable pressures on here which can make us feel overwhelmed and impact our mental health.
Taking an internet break doesn’t have to mean switching off for months and retreating into a cave or living in a forest (ironic because I am in a forest of sorts in these photographs, but that is entirely coincidental). In most cases, a weekend or a set amount of hours each day is all I need. So, for what reasons may such a break be beneficial?
You can prioritise other aspects of your life
This applies to people who do not sustain ourselves through the internet, i.e., most of us. Recently, I had to take three weeks off from blogging because I had to prepare for an exam and except for an occasional post on Instagram, I was completely switched off. In situations like this, prioritising studying, work, projects not related to your online endeavours, while keeping up with the online world is often not possible, and staying away from the latter is the best option to avoid burning out.
You can avoid procrastination and time wastage
Similarly to the above, you can get much more done when you are not bombarded by constant distractions. Even if I am doing something internet-related, such as writing a blog post or editing photos, I turn off my WiFi as a means of disciplining myself – because I know from experience that ‘quickly checking twitter’ usually snowballs into hours of mindless, unproductive scrolling. When I was revising for my IB finals, my ability to efficiently finish all of the tasks I’d allocate to a given day was largely due to my decision to strictly avoid the internet until 8 pm each evening. Hence, if you ever fall behind and find yourself unable to complete your to-do lists, analyse whether an internet break may be a way to overcome such a hurdle.
You can try new things and re-discover old passions
Undoubtedly, as it plays such a big part in our lives, we may wonder what people did with themselves before the Internet came into existence and struggle to imagine life without it as a source of entertainment. However, there are plenty of options. You can learn a new language, read more books, join a club or a society, write prose and poetry, travel, spend more time in nature… For example, I have always loved painting and drawing, but avoided it in recent months due to insufficient time. But, at one point I had to ask myself – how much time am I wasting online each day? (Here ‘wasting’ is a key word, because connecting with other bloggers and my readers is one of my favourite things.) Is this time well-spent or would I rather dedicate it to something creative and fulfilling? The answer is quite obvious. On occasion, we should all step back as a means of discovering what’s been missing from our lives.
You can improve your mental and physical wellbeing
If you’re on the verge of taking a break from social media because of your mental health, you should 100% do it. The internet is a direct cause of some peoples struggles, which is understandable given how overwhelming it may be, and how hard it is to keep in mind that social media is not a realistic point of comparison when things are not going to plan in your life. Over the years, I’ve become an expert at shielding myself from such pressures and developed an attitude of skepticism regarding displays of perfection, but at times I still need to distance myself from the excesses of Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. Similarly, if you struggle with your mental health in any way, the internet can start to feel like a burden as opposed to a joy. Unplugging in these instances can be the utmost act of self care.
You will have more time to spend with your loved ones
I am not saying that real connections cannot be built online, but dedicating attention to your ‘in real life’ family and friends should never be neglected, especially as the holiday season – a time for gratitude – unravels. It’s important to be as present as possible, enjoying every moment with your friends and family, because frankly they will not be here forever. And, we can all agree on the difficulty of trying to communicate with someone who seems permanently distracted by technology. If you ever find yourself isolated from the people who are important to you, I would recommend unplugging and then re-introducing the online world into your life in such a way that doesn’t compromise the quality of your immediate relationships.
Ultimately, I think that unplugging is all about proving to ourselves that the world doesn’t end when we are not connected to the web 24/7 – if anything, overcoming your fear of ‘missing out’ may open up new opportunities and shine a new light on the things around you which you may have previously neglected. You should search for your own balance between the Internet and the ‘real world’, which may involve extended breaks, or simply allocating ‘time slots’ to the former as I do, to ensure you spend your time online productively, in a way that benefits you. The world isn’t black and white: the Internet/social media is neither an evil that should be avoided nor the only thing worth caring about, but something that can benefit all of our lives when a mindful approach is taken.
Let me know – do you like to unplug from the Internet, and for what reasons? What are your favourite methods of ‘surviving’ a social media detox?
Lots of love, Maria ♡