Last Thursday morning, I knew with certainty it was coming. Tired, irritable, and moody, I schlepped out of bed two hours later than I had originally planned and looked at my face in the mirror. My eyes peered back with a glazed tint of emptiness; my skin, flat and pale; my thoughts, cutting. Pathetic. Sloppy. Worthless. There had been an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach for the past two weeks, a nausea I was becoming familiar with. “Here we go again,” I thought—my second annual visit from depression was impending.
There are plenty of tools I turn to before a mild episode turns serious: sleep, exercise, vitamin D, a natural supplement called 5-HTP. But this time, I knew I had to try something different. I had to make a lifestyle and behavioral change.
I’ve often wondered about the affect technology has on our moods and sense of well-being. We’re social creatures by nature with a thirst for information. Today, there’s no shortage of content to consume, and there’s more people to share it with than ever. Some could argue the digital age is what the industrial era was to the men who build America. Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg are the new Rockefeller, Carnegie, Morgan. Technology is our new infrastructure. It has evolved the way we communicate; it propels capitalism and our global economy; it is exploited and manipulated along the way. It has fundamentally changed everything, including the way the human brain is wired.
The evolution of the technology sector brings significant improvements to our quality of life. Today, we can escape from our desks and work from anywhere. Mothers and fathers can office from home, allowing us to create stronger bonds within our families. We can preform tasks in half the time, and if we use it wisely, that extra time is ours to spend pursuing more fulfilling objectives. Exotic travel. Training for marathons. Volunteering. Socializing. We have more time to enjoy life, thanks to technology.
Then there’s mass media. And more specifically, mobile media. The newest trillion-dollar industry is built to cater to a more efficient world, expanding seamlessly into the time and space where leisure once lived.
Then there’s mass media. And more specifically, mobile media. The newest trillion-dollar industry is built to cater to a more efficient world, expanding seamlessly into the time and space where leisure once lived. Their products are designed to act as our fifth limb—to pull at our pleasure sensors—encouraging maximum usage and consumption of content. Delectable, juicy, uselessly tasty content. As a result, mass media filters into our lives through the devices we rely on to make a living.
That’s where it get complicated for me. You are most likely reading this during your coffee break, during the time you could have spent playing with your dog or calling your mom. My livelihood exists within this mobile media space. It’s where I’ve built W&D, it’s how I’ve connected with readers and followers, it’s where clients find me, it’s where I share inspiration and essays like this one. It’s also where I spend the majority of my own leisure time.
Given the increased frequency of my depressive states and ADD diagnosis, the writing is on the wall. I needed to look closely at my media consumption and technology usage. It’s affecting my health and it’s affecting my life. I needed to figure out why the simple act of sharing a beautiful moment on Instagram had become damaging to my health. If I redesign my living room, or if I put together a lovely meal, or if in a particular moment I see the world in PERFECT LIGHT, is it the same experience without thousands of “likes” from perfect strangers? Why was I feeling compelled to share every clever thought I had on Twitter? What had Wit & Delight become? What did it mean to me?
So last Thursday, I deleted the apps Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Vine—the forms of social media I use most (even though I don’t actively post to all of them)—from my phone and started a mood journal. After a moment of quiet contemplation, like a nervous tick, I thought, “I should tweet about this.”
The three days that followed were terrible. My mood worsened and I became more lethargic. My thoughts were shaming and I began to question taking a career path that requires I stay active on social media.
The three days that followed were terrible. My mood worsened and I became more lethargic. My thoughts were shaming and I began to question taking a career path that requires I stay active on social media. I shamed myself for not pursuing a career of substance and contribution. I wasn’t using the extra time for constructive activities; I was feeling sorry for myself. I missed communicating with the people I follow. I missed sharing my disconnected thoughts on Twitter. At my lowest point, I just wanted to sign on to Facebook to read status updates from people who think The Onion is a real news outlet. I missed the feeling of tumbling down the internet’s rabbit hole at 3:00 a.m., just like any good addict misses their drug of choice. The question I was left to answer was this: If I don’t share my life on social media, does Wit & Delight exist?
On Sunday, the clouds parted and my mind started to clear. I didn’t reach for my phone. Instead, I made my first batch of homemade ricotta and blueberry balsamic ice cream for a dinner we were hosting later in the week. I started a loaf of no-knead bread for the smattering of crostini we’d serve and looked into wine pairings. That afternoon, I began our bathroom makeover, selected light fixtures, and picked out wallpaper. I napped with our puppy and played in the leaves. We went on walks. Instead of wasting hours watching HGTV and flipping through Twitter, I listened to the classical radio station, read the book on my nightstand, and flipped through old holiday issues of Gourmet before falling asleep at 10:30. When I woke up, I had more energy and clarity than I’d had in years. I began to remember what it was like pre-Instagram, when I’d spend all day doing the things that delighted me without posting an entry in my visual diary.
The little experiment did shed light on my reliance on social media, and in many ways, my mood is just as affected by other distractions on my phone and computer. I’m feeling much better, but I’m still at risk of slipping into another depressive state. All that aside, the process ended up being surprisingly cyclical. I was reminded that my social media footprint was created to promote self-discovery, and that doesn’t have to change, because Wit & Delight existed before its content reached millions. It’s a point of view and a filter; it’s my leisure, my creative laboratory, my outlet. Somehow along the way, I forgot to take the time to savor and process these moments myself, and for my little family. Wit & Delight is a part of me—a real, live, human being. A real life that I live, and will continue to live, should I decide to part with social media for good.
Plenty of people navigate the mobile media world with ease and grace. Plenty of people have unhealthy relationships with mass media and technology. The point of sharing my experiment is to discuss the link between social sharing and our mental well-being, and to raise questions about the relationship with and reliance on our digital footprint. How real and impactful is an online persona? Does this mean it is essential to become more human in the digital world? If yes, how do we do it with authenticity, care, and purpose? Is curating a hyper-idealized, editorial version of yourself just another way of catfishing your followers? How do we be more human without disclosing too much of ourselves? Or, will be have to find new ways to cope with our connectedness in order to keep up with an increasingly digital environment?
The point of sharing my experiment is to discuss the link between social sharing and our mental well-being, and to raise questions about the relationship with and reliance on our digital footprint.
I’m not sure how to answer these questions yet, but they’ve got me heading in the right direction. After all, it’s not about how other people are using social media, it’s about setting our own boundaries.
1. Presence is important. It is a requirement for self-awareness. It requires paying attention, not being the center of attention.
2. Pleasure and privacy are to be taken seriously.
3. Social media itself isn’t really the problem, it’s how you use it.
4. A performance for an audience of one can be just as impactful as one for the masses.
5. I’m happiest living between the crinkled pages of Gourmet Magazine, head in the clouds, heart in the kitchen.
In closing, I wanted to share a little excerpt from Letters to a Young Artist by Anna Deavere Smith.
“Presence is not the same as attracting attention. It’s not a gimmick, it’s not a brand. I said previously that presence was about ‘grabbing the light.’ No. It’s about finding the light and being a part of it. These days, I believe the light might just be in the audience, with the public, in the world, among the possibilities of ‘us’ as human beings rather than in the language of ‘self.’”
Tomorrow morning, Wit & Delight goes “online” again. On Friday, I’m heading to Savannah with Joe for a little bit of work and a little bit of pleasure. You’ll see instagrams and tweets along the way. We’ll share pleasures and discoveries. There will be wit; there will be delight. Most importantly, there will be moments left undocumented for the sake of finding the light, being in the audience, and getting outside ourselves. Here’s to less media and a more thoughtful way of being social.
Thank you, as always, for allowing this space to be a safe one for me to explore and experiment.
Your Brain on Computers, Matt Mitchell (NYT)
“The way we become more human is by paying attention to each other,” he said. “It shows how much you care.” That empathy, Mr. Nass said, is essential to the human condition. “We are at an inflection point,” he said. “A significant fraction of people’s experiences are now fragmented.”
The Coolest Girl You Know Probably Uses a Flip Phone, Chiara Atik (Matter)
“No, Judith doesn’t Instagram. She doesn’t Venmo or tweet either. Somehow, she is able to flirt with boys without using an arsenal of Emojis. If someone needs to reach her, they can call her or send a text-only SMS. If she’s around, she’ll get back to you, but sometimes, she’s just not around.”
How to be a Human Being on the Internet, Rachel Hills (What Rachel Did Next)
“But on the internet, there’s not really a graceful way to bow out – at least, not without making a big “I’M LEAVING THE INTERNETS” scene. And then… what if you wanted to come back a couple of weeks later?”
On Self-Respect, Joan Didion (Slouching Toward Bethlehem)
“To have that sense of one’s intrinsic worth which constitutes self-respect is potentially to have everything: the ability to discriminate, to love and to remain indifferent. To lack it is to be locked within oneself, paradoxically incapable of either love or indifference. If we do not respect ourselves, we are the one hand forced to despise those who have so few resources as to consort with us, so little perception as to remain blind to our fatal weaknesses.”
Kate is currently learning to play the Ukulele, much to the despair of her husband, kids, and dogs. Follow her on Instagram at @witanddelight_.
BY Kate Arends - October 30, 2014
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Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.
I think about this topic all the time. I wonder how social media impacts our lives when I’m lying in bed checking my phone while my partner does the same thing next to me. We are so connected but disconnected at the same time. I know some people who use social media as a way to document everything they do – like if they didn’t photograph it, or tag where they are, it never really happened. It’s a conflicting position to be in, and I only hope it doesn’t affect future generations. I went to a concert last night, and… Read more »
Natashia! After a few days off line, all the things I’d normal share on instagram felt that much more special. Says something about how “capturing the moment” may actually make the moment less special. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
I like sounds your way of faithful
Kate, I’ve been a fan of yours since following your tumblr blog years ago. I think all of us can relate to feeling like social media– while it is supposed to increase connection to other people, to work, to opportunity– can really disconnect us from ourselves and from what is truly important. Loved this post and I look forward to reading more (or not reading, if a break from blogging is what you need).
Thanks, Emily!! Connecting with ourselves is so much easier said than done. Thanks for your support!
I love this! Good for you Kate, to take your health seriously and explore all possible options, incl. nixing Social Media for a while. I’d like to think I’ve got a pretty good handle on all things Instagram and Twitter, but then again, I only have a small blog and maybe the pressure to be present is very different. But I also get these moments of, ‘Jeez, I’ve had so much fun this last week, what’s different?’ only to realise I’ve unintentionally “neglected” my sm accounts. Like with everything, it’s all about finding balance I fuss.
Feel better soon!
Thanks for the kind words, Maja!
It’s amazing what the little things we do everyday without thinking can do to our health. I suffered from similar symptoms – depression, unfocused, foggy – for years before I was diagnosed with celiac disease. Who knew that bread and pasta could so detrimentally break down a body, both mentally and physically? While I think it becomes counterproductive to stress over every little thing that could be stressing you out, it’s definitely worth looking closer at the behaviors in your life and how they make you feel. Good for you for identifying it and doing something about it. As for… Read more »
Thank you for sharing your perspective, Kate. I think it does bring real connections with real people. Incredibly powerful! Also, isn’t it strange how difficult it is to accept that our brains are just like any other organ in our body? I still struggle with that.
Yes! I had a blog for almost 7 years. It was really fun in the beginning, like landing on a new planet. The community was small ~ there were just a few of us out there, and that made it fun. It was my first MN winter in many years and it cut the loneliness of being in a new place during a cold and dark time (inside and out). I also realized later I was depressed in this new life, I saw at the end of it, and knew while it was happening, how good my blog focus was… Read more »
DeAnn, I totally feel you. Many of us “original gangsters” saw the landscape change overnight. I’m pretty grossed out by the obsession with followers and stats, too. But here I am, still wanted to put something out into the world. I haven’t ruled out moving on to a new project…someday the time will come for a change! Thank you for sharing your story 🙂
You continue to inspire, Kate! Your voice is heard and appreciated, and I am glad you’re taking the time “offline” to make your life the best it can be. Miss you girl, and have fun in GA. XO
This was beautifully written, Kate! I was trying to explain my tug of war with social media last night to my husband, so it was absolutely encouraging to wake up and read what I couldn’t myself put into words. 🙂
Really insightful post. I’ve considered disconnecting too, and your perspective is really interesting to read. Thank you for sharing!
This post. This conversation. Thank you for sparking it, opening discussing and sharing with such honesty.
Love these posts so much. I’m not on social media but I follow blogs (obviously) and I was reaching a point where I was doing a lot of comparing and spending too much time focusing on other people’s lives instead of my own. I decided to reduce the amount of blogs I follow, focusing on ones that truly inspire me in a positive way and that has helped so much. Thank you for sharing this experience!
This. This. Breath of fresh air and truth! Thank you.
I felt better a little away from the social media thanks for the help success
such important words.
i have been struggling with this lately as well, and i found your perspective on the issue so comforting.
just this past weekend i left a brunch with friends where i didn’t take & instagram a picture & i felt an empty feeling. then on the drive home, i called my best friend instead of texting, and when she picked up she was surprised and said, you never call me!
it made me think twice about how i use my phone, how i validate quality and how i communicate.
thanks for the insight!
I’m working on this too. In fact, I posted about it here a few days ago: http://www.friendly-home.net/2014/10/how-to-unplug-in-a-digital-world.html. I am not super concerned about how I use social media most of the day, but I hate to find myself reaching for my phone when my kids, husband, or friends are around. So I found a place in my house to put it away. Out of sight, out of mind has worked pretty well for me thus far. But as a blogger, it’s kind of a tough balance!
This is such a well-said post. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by the presence of social media in your life, and the fact that you took a step back from it all to reassess is so great. I hope in your continued “journey” with this you figure out what works the best for you and your life!
[…] • If you read just one thing this week, make it this: Kate quit social media cold turkey for a full week. Here’s what happened. […]
Oh this is so good kate. Thank you so much for shedding some of your own light on this topic. I’m currently in the throes of loathing social media and would love to throw my phone out the window. But you’re right it is how we use it and choosing to live life with more intention and consciousness begs for less time with our heads bowed down in the glow of our phones. I’m going to step away from Instagram right now and go snuggle with my man:) Thanks Kate for this reminder and for your thoughtful way of sharing… Read more »
Yet another amazing post Kate! It sounds like you are doing all the right things to keep an impeding depressive episode at bay. Your intrapersonal awareness is extraordinary and reading about your pursuit of self-discovery is enlightening. Keep up the great work! 😉
You have such an eloquent way of saying the things that tumble around in my mind often. Thanks for wring such a relatable and smart post about consuming social media and the dark mindset that can accompany it- I feel strangely comforted by it!
Kate – You’re very brave for writing this post. It was inspiring. I think your’e the coolest.
Kate, I so admire the honesty in your writing. What has been striking lately me when going through various feeds are people who apologize for not posting for a certain number of days, saying things like, “Omg, I’m soooo sorry I’ve been MIA for three days on here, life got busy!” I feel like reflects a backwards mindset that we owe our followers constant, amazing content, and that if we don’t post for a few days that our followers will notice, be outraged, and walk away. Even if one is using social media for marketing a product, a blog, or… Read more »
I really enjoyed reading this. I feel a profound guilt and almost dirtiness about my social media habits sometimes. When it’s 2 am and the only reason I’m not asleep is because I’m flipping through someone’s instagram and comparing my life to theirs, that feeling is there. It makes me want to wash my hands, take a shower, eat an apple, go for a walk. It makes me feel small and disgusted with myself. I think it’s really easy to get caught up in it and the mindlessness of it. A few months ago, I realized I hadn’t read a… Read more »
I decided to give up Twitter a few months ago. I post to it occasionally for work items but I don’t log in to follow anyone. I decided it was making me insane and was not adding to the quality of my life. If I had my druthers I’d bow out of Facebook as well, but I have family that lives far away and it’s the way we all communicate. Instagram is by far my favorite but even with that I have to be careful of my consumption. I think everyone is going through this though. I have a number… Read more »
Wow, what an honest and sincere post, thank you for sharing it. I wanted to make a sincere comment in exchange. A friend recommended your instagram feed to me and I followed it and while thinking ‘yes, those are beautiful photos’, I also thought two things: ‘so styled, there’s no way anyone in the world really lives like that! Even the dog matches everything!’, and (while looking around the house I’m trying to keep looking semi-respectable with a new baby!) also thinking ‘why doesn’t my house look that? If only I could afford a new sofa / why didn’t I… Read more »
Hi Kate I’m so sorry you are having issues with your mood, I struggled for years with anxiety, add, and really terrible and severe depressive episodes. It’s really hard. For me personally I wasn’t able to make much headway at all with my mood until I quit taking stimulants like adderall. It was hard to do as I took them for almost 15 years but after some health issues I couldn’t take them anymore. Now I truly feel like a complete different person-it may be something to consider. Many doctors don’t admit or understand just how detrimental they can be.… Read more »
I am worried my earlier comment didn’t make clear how gorgeous your dog is. Lovely little creature, she is! Ha ha – ok, on with my day!!
Thank you again, Kate, for giving us your insight–it’s always an eye opening perspective. I left Facebook and Twitter about a year ago because I felt that I had made it a big part of life that there was no need to be present and socialize face-to-face. Plus, I got tired of people saying, “Did you see on FB?” I thought it was sad to start a conversation like that. It also became overwhelming. I’m still on Instagram but I keep an eye on how I use it. I can say I love how I took out FB & Twitter–I… Read more »
This line is awesome “Is curating a hyper-idealized, editorial version of yourself just another way of catfishing your followers?” and something I wonder about too, thank you for writing such an interesting and thoughtful essay 🙂
I honestly believe in the value of expressing our vulnerabilities, so thank you for sharing your experience. I love these personal posts you’ve been publishing—your voice is needed and appreciated! Thank you for your candidness in describing your emotional life. As a psychologist and an anxiety sufferer, living with a man with ADHD and depression, I can relate to the feelings you describe. Sharing your experience is helping to normalize the diversity that exists in emotional life—you have a huge platform and that is a gift! I only do social media for fun, but I still have to try to… Read more »
I recently moved back home from college- where I was dealing with a lot of depression, anxiety and feeling very alone even when living with and surrounded by friends. I made the decision to delete my Facebook and limited my time on Instagram, and have since been finding myself living much more in the present with the people I love. I’ve been Facebook-free for 3 months now and I am finding myself to be a much happier, grateful person. This article really resonated with me and I can relate to so many of the feelings you mention here. Thanks for… Read more »
I love your closing line ‘Here’s to less media and a more thoughtful way of being social”. I have been thinking about deleting the Facebook app this week because I find myself looking toward it to fulfill something or make me feel better about a situation when really it is not. You have inspired me to!
Here is to better days!
This was so wonderfully said Kate. I appreciate your honesty and vulnerability throughout this process and for bringing us along with you. I sincerely hope you don’t stop posting because these are the sort of thoughts worth sharing. I so appreciate your willingness to share your growth even though it may not have a solution at the end. I wrote a similar article about yoga selfies http://yogadork.com/2014/09/23/yoga-americana-the-full-pose-phenomenon/ and the trickiness that lies within our black and white perspective of it because NOTHING is ever black and white and I think it’s time we start to realize how necessary acknowledging the… Read more »
wonderful essay. so well said, and i know just what you mean about the “rabbit hole” and the feelings of irritability and low energy. trying this for sure! thank you for your honesty and vulnerability.
feeling your every word, hard. I recently deleted bloglovin’ because staring at other people’s lives, glassy-eyed and not participating properly in my own is not the way to live. Taking it slow, or stopping for a while, is a necessary reminder.
[…] + What happens when you quit social media for a week? […]
Thank you, as always, for being brave enough to share these feelings. I relate to your post in so many ways. Though I’m not as present on the web as you are, I find it making its way into my frequent thought and often making it hard for me to really be present. I always enjoy your thoughts on these shared feelings.
Beautifully written Kate. I unplugged from FB months ago because I was constantly annoyed and angered by the what was going on in my country where racist groups could say whatever they wanted on social media, creating so much hate and disharmony. The week I unplugged it was horrible. My finger would automatically clicked on FB icon whenever I reached for the phone. Now I’m happier, spend more time reading things that make me happy, styling the house, cooking more and taking pictures for Instagram – and that’s where I found you and your cute dog!
I just limit myself to a few minutes a day on Twitter and an hour or so, while doing other things online as well, on Facebook. Anything else and it just takes over my life. Besides I see other people on Facebook in particular, who seem to spend all their lives there, and then I see what they do with their lives — nothing — and nope, that’s never going to be me 🙂
Interesting post, btw.
This is an extremely brilliant post. I think that it is extremely important to question the choices we make pertaining to social media and self promotion. It is difficult to explain without coming across as though I am judging others who may have not questioned their roles as bloggers, but I personally feel like it is very important to have these kind of debates with ourselves because it shows that the online world can be full of thoughtful & interesting people who challenge the use of social media or the “point” of having a blog. I recently went through a… Read more »
[…] social media part of your self-care or is it hampering […]
[…] out these social media marketing […]
Great post, Kate. I have taken breaks from social media too. I had some similar feelings about it. I used to actually beat myself up a bit for not ‘styling’ things more. For not picking a filter and sticking to it. For not branding myself enough. It’s what I do for a living after all. After taking those breaks I realized that my social media space is my place to be in the moment. I don’t want to make it work. I want to really share. A lot of that sharing ends up being stuff I’m making in the kitchen,… Read more »
[…] absolutely loved this post about leaving social media on Wit & Delight. My favorite takeaway – “Here’s […]
Hi Kate, have you read this article? I’m not a fan of the title, but the content itself seems tailor-made for the conversations you’ve opened on this blog:
Btw, I had been thinking about deleting my social networking apps for a while (as I do not require any of it for my job), and this piece pushed me over the edge- thanks! Looking forward to the continued dialogue. This blog has really become something special.
[…] is what a social detox looks […]
Hi Kate, such a great article! Thank you so much for being so open and honest about a subject that affects us all, but not many people talk about it. I think you are right about boundaries, I have ‘unfollowed’ all of my photography industry peers on FB, so I can be in a right frame of mind before choosing to look at others work. I have found this to be a game changer for me! Also, I make sure that most of the time, I leave sweet encouraging messages. I also don’t get any notifications on my phone from… Read more »
Wow, thank you so much for writing this! I’ve been following your blog for a while now, and you never fail to inspire, but it’s so great to read something like this – something thought-provoking and honest. I’ve been struggling with the same questions you’ve brought up. My phone got wet a few months ago, and ever since, I’ve been using an iPhone 3 or no phone at all. People don’t really get it, and it’s admittedly frustrating at times, but it’s also completely liberating. Especially when all I see around me are people absorbed in their screens, not even… Read more »
[…] I left social media for a week […]
Kate, thank you for sharing your thoughts. You don’t know how comforting it is for so many of us out there who live out a lot of our creative lives, our desired career paths, on the interweb. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only blogger wary of getting consumed by her next post or by curating the perfectly styled life just for her Instagram profile. I’ve been talking to a few other female bloggers whom I follow and I think there’s a need for a bigger discussion about being a blogger, having an online life, and what it… Read more »
This post was so insightful and honest, and that’s very hard to do! I can’t help but notice I see a lot of posts like this from established bloggers, and as a new one, I have a hard time figuring out where the future of blogging is going.
I wrote a post inspired by yours from that perspective, if you’re interested in reading my ramblings. 🙂