Earlier this month, I decided to do a 10-day social media fast. As part of my Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training, our instructor had us celebrate Navratri. Fasts are traditionally observed during this time, but as my personal ayurvedic vegan diet is already down to the essentials my body needs, I saw this as my opportunity to (finally!) slide off social media for a while. To be clear, I didn’t use Instagram nor Facebook for those 10 days – those are the platforms I use on a regular basis.
The only other time I did this was in 2018, when I went on a personal retreat for 10 days high in the mountains of Andalucia – a fabulous, much needed break from pretty much everything, post-burnout.
We observe fasts for purification. Our bodies and minds always come out clearer and rejuvenated after any form of fasting – the depth of this depending on the type of fast, of course.
Choosing to not open those apps for 10 days was my way of allowing myself, first and foremost, to be purified from the overload of advertisements and unwanted suggested posts I get bombarded with every time I open them. I used to love Twitter, but, again, the amount of unwanted content I see on there whenever I open the app, say, for the past 2 years now, has made me stop using it entirely. I link it up with my Instagram, and that’s it.
* By the way, if someone can let me know of the best ad blocking apps out there for social media on the phone, I’d be super grateful. I do use an ad blocker on my computer, which is absolutely stellar, but I mostly use my phone for FB and IG, and I really have no more tolerance for the amount of unwanted content I get spammed with everyday.
I also saw this fast as a way to experience life without using social media. How would I feel not using those apps, what would I do instead? I never spend that much time on there to be honest, and a lot less now than, say, 7 years ago, but not using it at all was a first, after so long.
I’ve written about this in a previous contribution to ASM – I never wanted to get on there in the first place. I was super happy with MySpace, as a musician, and reluctantly opened my FB account in 2010, after lots of pressure from people around me who told me Hey, we’re not musicians, and FB is the best way we can follow you. And then, as I’ve also written before, FB was great and super practical for a long time – and then algorithms happened, and advertisements happened, and now it sucks (for me anyway).
It wasn’t hard for me not to use social media for those 10 days. I’m already way too busy for my own good, mostly, so I was happy for the clearer mindset, and extra time. I didn’t feel any fomo – I just texted my friends when I wanted to hear from them (hey there Millennial, remember life before 2005, when we’d call our friends to ask how they were doing? Also we used MSN messenger and ICQ, and more. It was fine, really). Sure, it’s super cool to just open up our apps and get the chance to see what EVERYONE IS DOING, ALL THE TIME (doing and eating and buying and wearing and reading and drinking and where they’re going and see all their pets) in about 2 minutes of scrolling, but, I mean, maybe it’s not super necessary for us to see all that, all the time. Sure, we can filter our content, but, I mean, I follow my friends, and they follow me, and that’s the way it goes. They see what I post, I see what they post (or at least, that’s the intent, this isn’t actually much the case anymore with all the unwanted suggested posts and ads), and we get to share our experience as human beings who do things and eat things and go places and wear clothes, and show our appreciation and opinions by reacting to each other’s posts and commenting.
That’s what social media is about. It’s part of our lives now, as human beings. Us millennials, we’re the ones who made that happen. We made this part of our lives, part of the human experience of the new millennium.
I felt a bit uneasy about my businesses, not gonna lie. I posted about the fast the day before I started, letting people know I’d be off for a while, and I do see fellow artists of all kinds do this whenever they choose to take breaks as well. It was such a relief to not use these apps during those 10 days, but I know I gotta keep my accounts active on a regular basis – that’s just the way it goes. And moving from these platforms to others sure is on my mind a lot, but I’m still in a place where I’m contemplating my options, letting time and society do their thing. Facebook is on its way down, that’s a fact, and yet Facebook remains so much easier to share music than Instagram. It’s possible to do it on IG, but it’s not like you can just post the link to your Bandcamp. You gotta get fancy with an audio/video post, and the platform shadowbans any post with the words “link in bio” in it, so it takes a lotta juice out of us just to get the message out there. With Facebook, I can just post my link, and pay for it to have some decent reach if I want, and that’s it.
I’m contemplating the mailing list option, but this will require me taking time to message every single person who follows me on the platform and ask them if they wanna give me their email – which is a lot, tbh.
Prior to this fast, I used to wonder why I am the way I am, with such a strong, unyielding will to do my own thing with my life, being self-employed and a musician, all the while hating to use the tools required to do this in this day and age.
It’s a duality my fast helped to soothe, and I’m grateful for it, actually. I was happy to post again after those 10 days. I’m trying to keep my use of the platforms to just posting now. I’m trying to keep my mind free from all that unwanted content. If it was easier to see my friends’ posts, maybe I wouldn’t have the same aversion to using social media, but the fact is that there’s a suggested post and an ad between every post a friend makes, and that’s too much unwanted content for me within, say, a minute of scrolling.
And as for the wanted content, beyond seeing what my friends are up to, I’m at a point where I’m actually wondering if I wanna keep following all these accounts anyway. Now, this has nothing to do with the content, or the people behind it. It’s got everything to do with how I wanna use social media, and what I wanna see on there, still. I’m evolving, my interests are changing, and what I choose my news feeds to be about must be in alignment with where my own evolution is bringing me. Half my birth chart is in Scorpio, so I’m changing all the time anyway, but from 25 to 35, there’s sure been a lotta renewal within. A clothing brand I loved 10 years ago might no longer be relevant for me now. Shall I just keep following them because showing my support matters? Sure, I can mute them, but does my following them matter that much? And who makes the rules here? What if I didn’t feel bad about unfollowing them? Every like, follow and share matters – they sure do! But are numbers really the most important thing? Probably, still, but certainly not as much as they mattered about 6 or 7 years ago, before algorithms became everyone’s bane of existence.
One of my teachers told me, a few months ago, that it’s better to have 10 good, regular clients, than 10K followers online, with only 10% of them buying your stuff whenever you got sales or deals.
As I contemplate where I myself, and society, are heading to, with the way reality is right now, I can’t help but feel like an online presence won’t matter that much anymore – unless, of course, you’ve got an online business. It’s impossible to win against algorithms, unless you’ve got several hundred dollars to spend promoting every post you make so people can see it.
But if you’re like me, and your job and life are about being in the same room with people, providing them with space, services, entertainment, art and/or teachings, you may very well be better off spending more energy and time creating solid bonds with your communities, “in real life”, so as to say. What if you could walk in your neighbourhood, drop by a florist’s store and end up meeting a yoga teacher there who works at the studio down the street? What if you went into your neighbourhood’s thrift store, talked to the owner and discovered a new local band playing next week at the bar next door? Could a resurgence of neighbourhood communities livelihood be afoot, especially after 18 months of worldwide lockdowns?
And sure, talking to people you don’t know can be super scary, because people can be super freaky sometimes, and aren’t we millennials the generation that started the whole texting, and TEXTING BEFORE YOU CALL movements, because it’s always better to be in a proper, well-prepared headspace to talk to someone – and then some of us have given up on speaking over the phone entirely. Also, many of us, starting with me, put our headphones on the second we walk out of our houses whenever we go out, only to take them off once we’ve safely come back home, and there’s no one to randomly start talking to us on the street – or anywhere, really.
Us millennials (and Gen-X’ers, yes, I do acknowledge y’all here as well) sure have come up with a myriad of awesome ways to shield ourselves from unwanted attention and solicitation, but it’s also good to make sure this proverbial shield finds its balance, as human interactions may very well be the face of the future.
Let’s face it – the harder it gets for us to know what our friends are up to online, the more we’ll shift back to other ways of staying in touch. We might not be there just yet, but it seems like a way we could be heading towards.
Til then, the best I can do is cultivate acceptance towards the way social media has become. It’s not like anyone can win against algorithms, but I do believe in reclaiming our energy and time from those platforms. I believe the less importance I give to social media, the more importance I can give to what really matters to me. I’ve already let go of that need to have as many followers as possible, and the need for people to see my posts. If both turn out for the best, that’s awesome, but at this point, it’s out of my control, and useless to “keep up a fight”. And beyond that letting go, this social media fast experience was really about accepting that I have to let go.
And it’s weird to experience that, because haven’t the past 10 years been about building this online presence and community for myself? Suddenly, it doesn’t matter anymore? Wait, what?
It’s about choosing my happiness, and sanity, and sattva, over my reach on social media. I feel it’s more important, at this point, to work on my art, than work on my reach. The art has to be made, it will find its public, I trust that very much. I control the art, and its manifested form – not its reach.
Us millenials (and Gen-X’ers!) have created the rules of social media – and that means we can uncreate them. This post was certainly meant more as a conversation starter than anything else, and I hope that by typing my thoughts and experience in my blog, you, dear reader, can find a bit of yourself in this. We’re all experiencing this together, and the more we take our power back from these platforms, the better our collective energy and time may be used – I believe.