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Sari Gabbay Headshot

The Hard Truth About Being Addicted to Social Media

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I moved to LA for many reasons, one of them being that I wanted to have a more enriched and fulfilling life. My excuse for being addicted to television and internet in Toronto was because of the weather. That during the summer my "addiction" was limited because I could actually go outside and enjoy myself. Fast-forward a year and here I am with hours upon hours a day on various social media platforms and in front of the soul sucking television.

I started to get serious anxiety, knowing that my life's precious moments are being wasted but justifying that it's dark out, there is nothing much to do, saving money, etc. My husband would come home from work and my nose would be in my computer working or stuck to the television getting caught up on the latest drama.

We barely spoke to each other during the week, which was justified by many excuses on both our ends but none of them really being valid. Still in denial I started finding myself feeling more stressed, and even though I was working all day on the computer, communicating with clients, art directing, writing, I was constantly being pulled into the vortex of my Facebook news feed and would often find myself mind numbingly scrolling through posts after posts.

During which, if I were actually paying attention, my emotions would fluctuate within seconds based on what I was looking at. For instance my thoughts would go something like this:

Oh that's a new article on the 80 millionth way I can use coconut oil, oh I shouldn't be eating that meat now it's contaminated, oh no our water is being polluted by radiation!, oh wow I am a spiritual strong being and can't forget that I AM AMAZING! (Insert inspirational quotes for about five status updates) look at the success of those people I wonder what they are doing to get to where they are.

And on and on and on... so I would go from feeling guilty about the food I was eating, then paranoid about the state the world was in, then uplifted by random quotes, then frustrated that I'm not hustling enough, and repeat. Exhausting to go through in a matter of less than 5 minutes!

I didn't realize at the time but I started feeling depressed, I felt like it was so difficult to focus on anything and that I actually had ADD. This went on for a long time and honestly I can't even remember when it started, probably the minute I opened up my Facebook account. Who knows, but I was realizing that the life I thought I was going to have in LA was beginning to mirror the misery I was feeling in Toronto.

It wasn't until I was speaking to one of my best friends Nikki Jumper did I realize what the root to my emotions of defeat and sadness were. We started talking about our careers, what we wanted to do in life, what we were feeling and it didn't take us long to realize that we were both on the same page. How was it that two, talented, intelligent and ambitious women were both feeling stuck, frustrated and uninspired. It finally clicked when I blurted out "You know what, Nikki, I hate Facebook sometimes" and went on a rant about how it has taken over my life and that even though a lot of my work is based on social media communication, there is no reason that I need to be sucked into that vortex when it clearly is not serving me.

"Here we are trying to connect to everyone in the world through social media and yet all we are doing is disconnecting from the people we are with, from ourselves, from the moment, it's complete hypocrisy!" And then the light bulb went off -- insert aha moment.

"Nikki, let's you and I commit to something here and see what happens" -- she was intrigued as always to new and exciting ideas (I love her) let's limit our usage of social media, television and emails. I'm going to write out a schedule as to when I'm allowed to go online and stick to that schedule for two weeks! Then let's document all the stuff we do when we aren't online, when we would have been trolling through our various social network feeds hypnotized by empty words. She was in and needless to say the second we got off the phone I started to schedule.

Now I want to be clear, my intent is not to completely obliterate social media, the goal is to be selective and allow myself short windows throughout the day to participate with the technological world. There is no way I can cut out social media from my life because it is a major part of my career as a marketer. I'm not rebelling, I'm simply taking things in moderation and removing the unnecessary chatter.

The first thing I am committing to is that for the first hour of the morning I am not touching my phone. It is BRUTAL that I wake up every day, say a little prayer thanking the Universe that I'm alive and immediately reach for my phone and go through my emails, Facebook, Instagram what have you, before I even brush my teeth!

Immediately stress levels are elevated from the second I wake up, what an awful way to greet the day. So that was step one, no communication through technology until I've been out of bed for one hour at least. Step two; limit my social media time to three intervals for 30 minutes each. This means if I have any client work I can use that time to communicate and pre-schedule (I also have a team of people working on my client social media stuff so they are not being neglected by any means), I can keep my newsfeed open and talk to people and network during those times. I have set my alarm to go off as to when these social media times begin and then when it's time to shut it down. I have given myself a morning, afternoon and evening window. (Oh and if for any reason I miss that window, it's gone for the day, I cannot make it up during another time)

As a result I have turned off all notifications from my phone. This was the WORST constantly being bombarded with updates on news-feeds and comments and what have you. I felt like I couldn't let go and just get a moment's peace. I have also allowed myself a maximum of 2 hours of TV every day. In addition to that all emails are turned off at 7:30 p.m., there is no world where I want to live that I am at the beck and call of my "job" even if it is my own business. I have created the freedom of being an entrepreneur and I plan on actually using that to be free and not a slave to my own business. (Been there done that and it sucks hard.) The other thing is that I am turning off my phone after 10 p.m. No communication for 1-2 hours before I go to sleep. I am committed to creating a ritual of down time for me to start relaxing and winding down and getting ready to clear my head and be prepared for a new day of clarity.

I'm on day two of this journey and so far I have seen amazing transformation. Yesterday my husband and I spent the whole day off social media (I forgot to mention that Saturday is a complete disconnect day) what I discovered was that using our time to talk and connect and dream was incredible. We spent the entire day and night together and we had so much fun and we didn't need the distraction of television, or movies or internet to fill up the space and time. (What do you know I actually have a great relationship just being with my husband enjoying our time together)

My grandparents, God rest their souls, used to eat dinner at the dinner table (not in front of the TV) and then sit in the living room and chat for a few hours before they retired to the bedroom and only then would they watch TV and fall asleep. This was after 63 years of marriage. It's only been two for us, so we have a long ways to go, but I want to establish a pattern that we can build off of and not bad habits that create major separation for us to repair later down the road.

On day two as I see text messages coming in from Nikki as to how productive she's already been, I have managed to write three pages of this inspired post or series of posts whatever it is going to be. What I would have normally done was sit on Facebook and scroll through feeds and really drove myself nuts again. My alarm went off to tell me I can get on social media this morning, but I ignored it. (Granted, I did go on for like five minutes about half an hour ago, but I'm still keeping disciplined.)

I know it's going to take time but I'm going to do my best without judgment. The irony in all this is that I told Nikki as soon as I wrote out this schedule that I felt like such a fool to even have to do this -- it seems so idiotic that this is what my reality has come to. What did we do without social media? Well we sat on the phone for hours, I remember that.

I will keep writing about the changes I experience, not for anyone else but for myself, to see how I can use my time to be more creative, inspired, and productive. I'm looking forward to seeing the outcome of this challenge and I already feel a HUGE relief just knowing that I have made this commitment so far.

If you want to join me on this journey, I welcome it! We can share our experiences together (possibly on social media but only in our allotted time frames). It's different for everyone, and I have no judgment for people who just love to be online all the time, it's just not for me. So when the alarm bells are ringing, it's time to take action.


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