9 Things I Learned From a Social Media Detox

TAGS: social media detox, detox, free time, social media practices, mental health, motivation, Nic Bronkall, communication, social media, instagram, control, time, strength and conditioning, success, health, strength training, strength coach

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Back in May, I quietly deleted all my social media accounts. I needed a break. I felt like my life depended on it. For over two months, I lived without social media in my life. Not that anybody cares or cared, as you’ll see in Point 3 below. During that time, I learned a little bit that I’m hoping to share with you and will help you with your relationship with social media. I will also touch on my brief return and why I’m in no hurry to get back on it.

In order for me to gain control over something, I had to understand the mechanism of what was going on. It’s like in sports and injury prevention, you need to understand the mechanism of injury so you can prevent it.


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Through some research, I found that social media was ruining my brain. It was, in fact, rewiring it in a manner that I really didn’t want it to. There is a part of our brain that monitors social needs. One of the main things it does is release dopamine when we achieve success of any kind. Those kinds of success include likes and friend requests — two of the many reasons why social media can be so addictive. It’s also how social media hijacks your brain and plays on this subconscious and instinctive drive for social approval.

This part of the brain only reads and interprets things and reacts. This is engrained in our brains. The old brain. We actually can perceive confrontations on social media as a threat to our well-being. This is why many of you argue on these platforms, as you don’t want to be wrong. We’ve evolved, though, and we now have what we can call the new brain. This is where thinking and higher cognitive processes occur. The old brain and new brain are both important to survival in today’s society.

The problem is our old brain doesn’t think. It just acts. It can’t distinguish. Once the old brain kicks in, the new brain is taken offline. The more this happens, the easier it is for our brains to do. This is a stress response, and the more it occurs, the bigger the negative impact it has on our mind and body and life. As most of you know, chronic stress is not the greatest thing for a healthy lifestyle.

Part of my problem was that I was comparing myself to others. I was getting depressed that someone else was doing what I wanted to do. This wasn’t fair to me or to others. It was a wake-up call: If they can do it, you can do it. Also, most of us only post the best versions of our lives online, so I realized that comparing myself to others wasn’t based on reality; it was based on my perceptions. That person who looks like they have their life together or the couple who sets the standard and #relationshipgoals actually aren’t relationship goals. The only person I should be comparing myself to is myself.

I also wasn’t getting shit done. We all do it. “Ahhh, just going to check Facebook real quick, then I’ll get to work.” An hour later you keep telling yourself, “Just 15 minutes,” and nothing ever gets done. It’s impossible to switch the brain on and off between work and play. You can’t get deep into work and practice done if you’re checking your phone every 15 minutes looking for that next dopamine hit.

The average time spent on social media per day is almost 2 hours and 30 minutes, and that average rises every year. If we do the math, that’s 912.5 hours a year. There are only 8,760 hours in a year. Don’t you think that time should be spent on other things? Is that really how you want to spend roughly 10 percent of your year? I know I don’t.

Hands Holding Speech Bubbles with Social Media Words

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Here are nine things I learned during this social media detox.

1. You'll have more moments of solitude.

This was the biggest takeaway for me. Some of you may be too young to remember this, but when we just had radios and no smartphones in our cars, you would be driving and scrolling through the radio stations, only to find nothing to listen to. So, you’d turn off the radio and just sit in silence.


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I’d forgotten what it was like to be alone with my own thoughts, as I filled my time up with mindless scrolling or listening to podcasts that didn’t provide much value outside of entertainment. Many of the greatest artists and thinkers actually had moments of solitude scheduled into their day. I think solitude is one of the most important components for improving clarity, creativity, and your overall well-being.

I think moments of solitude are something that many of us lack in our lives. Start building these into your lives where you just leave your phone at home. You can do this by going for a daily walk or in your car where you just sit in silence.

Be alone with yourself. Be present. It’s worth it. And science even shows us that most of us are predisposed to seek moments of solitude, so seek it and find it.

2. You have a lot more free time than you realize.

All of a sudden, I would open my phone and not know what to do. Being in front of that screen became so integrated into my everyday life that I now had all this free time. I began replacing social media with audiobooks and Kindle books. I was instead using my smartphone to make me smarter and leveraging it to help me build the person I envisioned becoming.

Many of us want to be writers or content producers or whatever else it is you envision for yourself, but too many of us are spending time with our heads down, looking at other people and what they are doing.

It’s easier to live without social media than it is to live with it. I’m spending more time outside, reading, and being with my family and my significant other. I’m writing. I’m actually getting shit done.

I’ve also started meeting up with different people one to two times a month for coffee. I’ll scroll through my phone, find the name of someone who I haven’t seen or spoken to in some time, and I’ll go grab coffee with them.

3. Most of your followers don’t care about you.

I posted consistently every day for years. Initially, I thought that so many of the people following me would notice me being gone that I would receive all these messages asking, “Bro, where are you?”

Not one person reached out.

That’s when I realized nobody really cares about me or my time. The person who should care the most about me and my time is the reflection staring back at me from my dimly lit phone.

You’ll quickly find out who’s actually in your circle and who’s not. I don’t say this to be like, “Oh, woe is me!” I say it to make you think about who matters and what matters the most to you in your life.


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4. You don't bother arguing over Xs and Os.

Coaches arguing over Xs and Os drives me insane. Like, “Oh, his squat wasn’t low enough! Oh, those cleans are terrible!” When I returned to social media for a brief moment, the first things I saw were coaches arguing about front squats and cleans.

A lot of the things coaches post on social is also context-dependent. You’re seeing one to two reps of a program that’s been implemented over months. But a lot of you don’t ask about the context. You don’t reach out to the coach and ask them the hows or the whys. You just rip them in the comments or dismiss them as a coach.

But hey, guess what? In the overall grand scheme of things, Xs and Os don’t matter. This isn’t rocket science. Performance enhancement isn’t hard. In my opinion, the concepts are easy for 99 percent of the athletes we train with that one percent being reserved for the elite-level athlete, and even then, it's not as difficult as some of us like to make it seem. Get your athletes stronger and faster.

My former high school football coach taught me great coaches don’t argue over Xs and Os; the ones who do fear culture. Spend more time on building your culture within the community you serve, as opposed to arguing over box squats and cleans.

5. You’re not missing out on anything.

FOMO! I’d always hop on social and see my friends and family doing these things, and I would get bummed out and feel like I was missing out, wondering why I didn’t get the invite (I didn’t get the invite because I wasn’t making an effort to be in their life. When was the last time I invited them? That’s why I’ve been getting coffee with them as shown in Point 2).

The world isn’t that interesting when viewed through social media. The world is interesting though when you go out and experience it with real people. Stop trying to live vicariously through people you follow and don’t even know.

I found that I wasn’t being present. I was so worried and upset about what others were doing. I would see all these amazing things, and all of a sudden, I’d lose focus on what I was actually trying to build because I was like I want to try that amazing thing. I’d have 20 projects going and nothing getting done.

Being off of social media allows me to focus on the one thing I truly want to do and not get sidetracked by things that look cool that maybe I want to try. You can do anything you want. You can try to do everything you want in your lifetime. You just can’t do it all at once. 

6. Acquiring knowledge is simpler.

I’d have three different web browsers open, all with 10 different tabs; you know, because research and studying. But I realized I wasn’t actually retaining anything. I was going deep down rabbit holes every day reading about things I, for the most part, didn’t even care about. Yes, things like YouTube and Wikipedia are addictive. Why was I reading about theoretical physics and the structure of a wolf pack? I can’t tell you one thing about them, but I sure spent hours reading about them.


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With social media, how we are acquiring knowledge is different. We aren’t actually acquiring or retaining a lot of things like we think we are.

It was different sitting in a library and actually having to find solutions to the problem we were having. It’s different to see your athlete move poorly and having to figure out the solution. I realized it was giving me problems that I didn’t even have. I would see another coach’s post and be like, “Oh, I have to do that!” or “That’s what wrong with my program,” when in reality, there was nothing wrong with my program and what I was doing.

7. You don't have to think about hashtags and captions.

When I had social media, I was always thinking about it. Thinking about what posts would be cool, what captions would captivate, and what would be the best hashtags to use. What the fuck is a hashtag, anyway? I was literally living my life in posts. Maybe it’s just me.

I also found myself caring more about likes and what others thought, as opposed to working on what truly matters, and that’s coaching and helping those around me.

I was talking to Julia Anto about this. Many of us focus so much time on serving our followers (that’s so weird to say when you think about it; “my followers,” like I’m some religious figure) that we forget about the community we actually serve. The community that supports us.

For some of us, that’s a high school; others, a college; and for those in the private industry, it’s the community in which your business is located. The people you work with everyday in-person are who matter the most.

8. You can focus more on communication and relationships.

As mentioned in Point 2, I was actually having conversations with real people in person. Crazy concept, isn’t it? I’d spend hours just talking with someone as opposed to spending hours scrolling. I would leave feeling like I’m actually living life, all because I was sitting down and having a deep, meaningful conversation with someone. I was forming authentic relationships with other people. It was an amazing feeling.

This is a need that humans crave and desire to have on a regular basis, yet not many of us seek it out, or we ignore it. We are losing the art of communication. People that possess interpersonal skills are almost like a dying breed. There are so many amazing people in this world. Go out there and have coffee with them.

9. Nobody is working together on social media.

Strength and conditioning feels like a kill-or-be-killed type of environment. Having been away from the field because of school and off of social media, I realized how hostile this environment really is, and it’s what’s essentially pushed me out of the field. I honestly want nothing to do with it based on the interactions I’ve had and been a part of over the past year. Our egos are so big and so fragile, it’s actually disgusting and humorous at the same time.


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So many coaches are close-minded and set in their ways that this field is a prime example of cognitive dissonance. For example, I questioned the importance of a snap down, and coaches jumped down my throat. People unfriended me and called me a terrible coach all because I questioned teaching snap downs.

Watch an athlete land on a court; it’s the exact opposite of the way we teach them in a “snap down.” Athletic posture isn’t butt-back, chest up, and knees out, which is how many of you teach it. Watch how athletes move. Prove me wrong, but that’s a discussion for a different day.

We need to work together to make this field better. We need to have an open mind. Just because something isn’t backed by evidence and research doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. Just because a coach challenges your ideas or the way you’ve always done things doesn’t mean they are out to get it.

That’s one of the most dangerous sayings in the world: “This is the way we’ve always done it.” Well, sometimes, there is just a better way, and if we come together and work together, we can make things a hell of a lot better.

Closing 

I wanted to see what would happen when I logged back into my accounts. When I got back on, I thought I had a fresh perspective, only to quickly find myself back in old habits. Habits I thought I had under control. Checking social while driving, having my phone in the shower while I scrolled through my feed, and being on my phone when I was around others, all of which led me to delete it again. Will I ever return to social media? I’m not sure. Right now, I personally don’t see the value in it for me and where I’m at in my life.

I think social media, when used correctly, is an amazing tool, but that’s the thing: You have to use the tool the right way, otherwise you’re the tool. You get to decide the impact and role social media plays in your life. But you have to be self-aware and present to understand when that role is negative and not providing you any value.

If your business is run online, is spending 2.5 hours a day scrolling on your screen really a solid return on your investment? (With your investment being your time.) Wouldn’t that time be better spent elsewhere reading or writing or actually working on your business?

Sure, social media has some good elements to it, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Smoking can help with weight loss, but do you tell your clients to smoke if they want to lose weight? There are even studies that show social media makes people feel ugly and inadequate. Is that really how you want to live your life? Based on the judgment of others? Based on people whom you’ll never actually meet?


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Quitting social media will help you realize how you’re spending your time and where you’re spending your time. Most of us, myself included, are wasting entirely too much time on stupid shit. Time is the one thing we waste the most but wish we had more of. We need to start focusing our time on things that matter the most to us, as our time is slowly running out.

Spend it wisely.

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