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Earlier this year Leonie Dawson started a 21- Day experiment to reduce her time on social media. It proved so life-changing that after the challenge, Leonie decided to take her marketing elsewhere and leave social media altogether!
Leonie’s bold decision was a huge inspiration for me stepping back from also stepping back from social media. I was SO taken away with Leonie’s courage to step back and take a massive (or what I perceived to be at the time) risk with their business.
Because let’s face it both our personal lives and marketing our businesses without social media feels so overwhelming doesn’t it? Our lives seem chained and completely enmeshed in these digital spaces.
So where and how do we even start to disentangle ourselves away from social media? Is it a case of chasing ‘the grass is greener on the other side of the road’ sort of thing? Or is striving for a healthy balance the best way to go?
Well, in all honesty, I still don’t know in my heart the answer to all of the above. But what I do know is that Leonie sparked something within me.
So, not long after Leonie announced she was leaving social media for good, in March of 2021, I decided that I wanted to be the alchemist of my own lived experience with social media and step back to see if it could enhance the whimsy, wonder, and enchantment that I so dearly cherish.
In addition, I wanted to see, with heaps of curiosity, if the answers to this experiment could inspire you too!
This post is a documentation of my process from stepping back from social media, coupled with the announcement of Leonie Dawson’s incredible new workshop in July 2021: Marketing Without Social Media Workshop (time-sensitive if you wish to get the course for just $79. Soon to be $99, although that’s still such a great price!).
So truthfully, it’s a sort of ‘to be continued’ journey on behalf of myself, because I’m truly so very intrigued to embody the material from Leonie’s workshop and apply it deeply into both my personal life and also my online businesses.
As you read this post I’d so love to hear YOUR thoughts, experiences, and current observations about how social media feels to you right now.
As you’ll see from my experience below, I shift between my idealist core that believes it can both be used for immense power and possibility, to on the other hand seeing it as immense personal sabotage and personal emptiness.
I’d truly love to know how it feels to you so please do leave me your thoughts in the comments below!
Why did I step back from social media?
Let’s start this post with my reasons for stepping back from social media.
I’ve chosen to write ‘stepping back’ as opposed to ‘quitting’ social media because I haven’t honestly decided long-term what will be best for both myself and my businesses.
So, as stated in my introduction, this post is very much a lived experience I am still finding myself in. Also, I’m looking forward to cementing and clarifying my direction for my online life with the workshop from Leonie Dawson as featured below!
However, as for the moment, I officially stepped back from social media entirely based on the decision that had landed in my heart back in early 2020 whilst I observed how the spaciousness and serenity that my time traveling had left me feeling.
Without a bombardment of digital connection, I felt even more deeply connected to the whimsy, wonder, and enchantment that both runs through me, and outside of me.
I particularly noticed this in the U.A.E where I was 3 to 4 hours ahead of European time. Just this small time difference alone meant that there was an obvious stillness that pervaded my mornings. It transformed into an immense feeling of bliss that washed over me just like the gentle tides of Saadiyat Island where I was staying at the time.
I also had many beautiful, raw, vulnerable, and honest conversations with my friend there about feeling very unhappy online. He himself isn’t very present on social media so it was so fruitful hearing his own perspectives. But for me, these conversations had been rattling around in my own mind for some time as something had felt off since the arrival of Instagram. Is it just me, or did this app kind of change everything?
I am of the generation that has always known social media and yet Instagram to me felt particularly all-consuming. However, on the one hand, I must not forget that I have optimised social media for its immense power that culminated in building two online businesses that have provided me with significant abundance in my life.
And yet, as some of you may have seen from this post, documenting my journey from Beauxoxo to the present day, my twenties were quite the rollercoaster full of healing a great depression I entered into at University, to being diagnosed with up to 7 chronic illnesses in the years leaving, and all whilst managing an online accessory business and this dear blog.
Again, without a doubt, social media (although I must admit, that power was all mostly due to Pinterest!), provided me with a gift to share my creations and voice with the world. I want to forever remain eternally grateful for that. As a result, because of this, social media is something I am deeply indebted to. Truly.
However, the not-so-rosy side to social media to me has always felt more pronounced.
I often felt quite chained to online life during my years at Beauxoxo. There was immense pressure to always be online. To always have creative graphics and imagery for these platforms always ready to go up each and every single day. To literally be an embodiment of the ‘instant’ that Instagram eludes to.
After ending Beauxoxo in 2019, and I began a new life infused with silence and solitude, I was confronted with all the suppressed pain that had been stored deep in the crevices of my inner landscape. This was mostly pain due to my chronic illnesses. With this, I felt that I wanted, and ‘should’, share my story online so that I could reach as many people as possible.
However, being front-and-centre isn’t something I’m comfortable with. I had spent 10 years being the creative behind-the-scenes at Beauxoxo and this blog was always more of an online journal rather than showcasing myself in a bold way. Oh, how I love to be behind the scenes! Is anyone else the same? As you know from this post, showing up can be terrifying for me!
Ultimately, my online life suddenly became very muddled.
I started my personal Instagram in 2017 as a wanderlust travel diary. However, when I started to weave my health struggles into this space it was often alienating my followers who, from my travels that I posted, had perceived me to have ‘the most perfect life’.
I always thought it this ‘perfect life’ comment was a compliment until my friend in the U.A.E really prompted me to enquire if that sat right with me. And, no, it didn’t. Not at all. For what is a perfect life? And who actually has that? Is the highlight reel focus on social media part of the problem anyway?
In essence, I had somehow fallen into the glossy social media world of posting my highlights to numb the torture I felt internally. As a result, I then felt terrified to be vulnerable about my health outside in case people didn’t react the same as they did to, say, a photo in a pretty dress in a beautiful location.
Feeling great shame for how I was presenting myself rather one-dimensionally, I started weaving my health into my captions and stories.
On the one hand, I was so immensely proud of myself and the people who shared their own stories with me, who messaged me for space holding for their illnesses, and those who shared my awareness posts. This all felt beyond life-affirming. Meeting people so deeply was such a balm to the soul. It’s all I ever wanted: to touch the heart and souls of those I might not meet but feel such compassion for. My dharma of helping people was truly ignited. Moreover, a Facebook birthday post from November reached £400 from my friends and connections for Scleroderma Awareness. I was beyond overjoyed!
And yet, just some months later, as I opened up even more and pushed the edges of my own vulnerability, and perhaps my followers, I had some people from my past who used this as an opportunity to shame me.
In these painful instances, some of my posts were pulled apart to scrutinize my methods of healing (some, even triggered by me seeking enchantment) and persisted with letting me know how much I had disappointed them and myself. This ripped my heart and soul to pieces. I spent the next few months, and truthfully to this day, nursing a vulnerability hangover and a deeply broken-hearted, wounded spirit. I immediately logged out and deactivated most of my accounts.
After copious therapy with my incredible, life-changing therapist I realised that actually, it wasn’t just this one incident and that rather, it was actually a culmination of growing up and finding it hard for people to see me in all my humanness at most times. And ultimately, what do we humans crave more than just being seen, heard, and held? And does social media exacerbate this alienation and loneliness?
The profound discovery of myself, a change in my relationships, and shifts in my life so far by stepping away from social media
After focussing on my own personal reasons for stepping back from social media, I thought I’d address how my relationships have changed, how I have spent this time reconnecting with myself, and other profound shifts since stepping back from social media.
Let’s start with the shift in my relationships.
Truthfully, this has been the hardest and most painful thing to adjust to. I just wasn’t prepared for how profoundly my relationships would change.
Perhaps Brene Brown says it best (as always):
“Social media has given us this idea that we should all have a posse of friends when in reality, if we have one or two really good friends, we are lucky.”Brene Brown
These words are so reflective of how my time stepping away from social media has been. And I’m just going to state this very vulnerably: I’ve never felt so isolated after stepping back from social media. I instantly became alienated and deeply lonely.
This was so fascinating to me because I thrive on silence, I thrive on solitude, and I thrive on aloneness. And yet this emptiness made itself very known to me.
As the months have passed this feeling of alienation and loneliness is still there, however, I think it’s welded into my ongoing grief after losing my Granny last year, and years enmeshed in a digital landscape that makes you feel that every single person you connect with is a source of deep connection.
And yet, (because this whole thing is basically a paradox!) as much as I adored connecting online, I realised that it simply wasn’t possible to be deeply connected to the hundreds of people I’ve followed. As a result, I constantly felt like I wasn’t ‘doing enough’ to support and like every single thing online. And still, I cherish and remember how many breathtaking like-minded spirits I have met online. Truthfully, part of me worries about losing this ability to meet such like-minded souls.
However, what I know to be true is that the most profound and stunning illumination from all of the above was how I am genuinely blessed with what I consider to be really true best friends offline. Actually not just friends, but platonic soulmates. I always knew that I’ve been blessed with incredible friendships, but I didn’t realise just how much so until I stepped back.
And so, if there is one thing I’ve truly learned about stepping back from social media it would to be quite simply: cherish your loved ones. Deeply. The ones that see you in your wholeness, that light up your heart, that see you and love you through all the rainbows and storms.
It takes my breath away when I spend time with my people (although as I have been shieldng it’s more connection through text messages, Zooms and care parcels), and don’t realise how much I truly need to be with them especially when I creep into hiding away from the world and battling the weight of it all alone.
Additionally, sometimes life pulls the rug from under my feet. And in these moments, when I find myself broken and unable to get back up, and when I think all hope is gone, I see more than ever now that it’s my people that are always there to sweep me off my feet, dust me off, and tell me everything is going to be okay. When everyone else leaves the room, these people are the only ones still cheering and giving me that little piece of hope to carry on. That became very, very apparent when I stepped back from social media.
So hold tight to your community. In my opinion, they are our glimpses of angels in the flesh to remind us of how beautiful this world truly is. If you’re yet to find your community, they are waiting for you. Trust me. If stepping back from social media feels daunting due to this, seek out communities that have been marketed on social media, but have their gatherings off these platforms.
Here are some examples of communities I found on Instagram but participate in gatherings offline: The Spiritual Fem’s ‘Root To Rise’ Membership, Dr Sarah Coxon’s ‘Thrive’ Membership and The Self-Love Success Club.
Now I love to write letters to my friend, send out care parcels, have long, deep conversations and just feel so blessed in them wrapping me in their love and seeing me in all my authenticity.
A final point of changing relationships is beautifully summed up by Cal Newport (see below for more about the impact his work had on me!) who describes trying to keep up with hundreds online as ‘social snacking’. So, for example, for many, like me, it means so much more to share my sacred news and intimate thoughts with people who truly see and know me.
‘Social snacking’ examples can be seen in big ‘congratulations’ posts rather than say, interacting with the person in a more meaningful way such as sending a personal card or reaching out by phone/text. Or if you’re unwell a ‘get well soon’ post as a comment on an Instagram post isn’t as meaningful as a personal message, card, flowers etc.
In a beautiful turn of events, when I posted that I was stepping back from social on Instagram stories, I had messages from so many cherished souls who asked me how they could connect. That just made my heart swell. Since then, I’ve really nurtured these relationships and accepted those that haven’t left social media spaces.
Since stepping back from social media I’ve gained pen-pals all over the world, had a stunning care parcel from a treasured soul in New Zealand, and got to connect even more deeply with you all, my cherished darling readers (and my Whimsy World readers, I value you beyond words). Whenever I have doubts, I concentrate on these great acts of love. I have always so loved you, but this appreciation has magnified significantly.
I’m so curious and would love to know how other people have experienced their relationships shifting since leaving social media? Did you experience something similar to mine?
Now, in saying this, I’ve very much been part of the ‘social snacking’ culture for years and many of these souls have truly become cherished friends. However, it was enlightening hearing Cal Newport discuss this. In turn, it helped me understand why I only felt lonely online.
I highly recommend this interview with Lewis Howes.
Outside of my relationships changing, I had more time than ever to focus on being human. With that, accepting myself and learning to love myself unconditionally as a flawed, feeling, and dealing in the best ways that I can with all of this.
Since stepping back from social media, I stick to the routines that help me feel settled and I practice all of the techniques I have learned that help to soothe me without seeking external validation or noise. This includes less distraction as I write my morning pages, buckets of creativity, an abundance of time spent in nature, and a feeling of deep inner peace.
Ultimately, what this experience has taught me is how I wish people would understand how hard it is to feel loved while being pressured to be something you’re not. It feels so hard to encapsulate in words, but that’s how I felt on Instagram.
One of the most uncomfortable portals of self-discovery has been learning to heal from feeling abandoned when I have come to realise that people can often love or admire a version of you in their head that isn’t the living, breathing, hurting, real you.
How I have discovered a deep reverence for whimsy, wonder and enchantment
Ultimately: by stepping back from social media I’ve recovered the person you intended to be. Just for me. This is such a gift. As a result, I’m able to embody whimsy, wonder, and enchantment more deeply than ever. I’m also able to redirect this as fuel for deeper creativity in all I do.
In essence, technology and indeed social media can be just so very wonderful when it’s used in an empowering way. Although in my opinion, I don’t believe it should be used as a fake marker of progress.
I think my most striking realisation in 2020 was that whilst most people think of humans as far beyond what we used to be in our ancient civilisations, I personally believe that in so many areas we’re actually just the same.
As a result, in these years to come, I think we would benefit from observing if these systems we have created to date truly are reflective of our nature.
Once I stepped back from social media I could really critically evaluate whether we, as fragile human beings, are simply built to be bombarded with so many different expressions of what it is to be human in any given day. Or to witness the copious ways of what it is to believe or to be alive. Isn’t this ultimately just too much for people to hold?
Furthermore, another moment of clarity was witnessing that when I stepped back from social media I felt calmer, more restful and fully able to process and take part in the big conversations of our day. In doing so, I feel that I’ve moved from a pure empahtic state to the compassion I always seek.
After a while, I was starting to realise if it’s possible for humans to deal with that totality (bombardment of social media) and that much fragmentation.
After all, social media because of its ubiquity and because of its constantly accessible nature, suddenly makes everything we look at as though it is part of human consciousness. Interestingly, of course, everything was once at the idea/design phase and therefore social media is a reflection of qualities that are present within human beings. However, as Cal Newport described above, Steve Jobs ultimately sought minimalism in the early days of Apple. And let’s face it, that’s a far cry from what these tools can do today, right?!
As a result of the above, I was left wondering, therefore, if it’s our inherent qualities that need to change and actually not social media itself? What I feel to be true to me if these ideas as described above can be simply life-changing and bring about so much abundance. I mean, how would I be able to communicate without this laptop I type onto, or the internet to send these musings into the world. Goodness, I am so blessed for technology. I really, really am.
And yet, the more negative side of technology could be seen in the endless growth and the endless consumption. Which of course, naturally social media is part of. This can lead to our primal instincts being manipulated by our culture so for example, we endlessly scroll and these apps are can prey on our desires which are repurchased as tracking and ads, etc.
So how does this fit into the world of whimsy, wonder and enchantment you ask?
Well, because I believe us all to be a unique expression of the universe. And with that, we know that we all have unique fingerprints. So for example, a tree will grow to its full fruition if it is given the right nutrients and I believe being human is just the same.
I truly believe that whimsy, wonder, and enchantment are magnified when we allow ourselves to re-wild with both our natural self and the world outside of us. And it was at this moment, that I realised how important it is that we create systems, societies, and cultures that are reflective of our nature. As someone with multiple chronic illnesses, it means I need to find ways for the modern world to nourish me and forever enchant me.
So, is this a complete goodbye to social media? No, I don’t think it needs to be a complete goodbye. Because I have to be realistic based on where the world is right now. Moreover, I consider it a priviliege to totally remove myself from social media. Whether I like it or not, this is where the majority of my audience are and so I still need to figure out how to market myself offline (I’m excited for the course below, as a result!)
Right now, I’ve found the bountiful balance of small memberships centered without social media, I will continue deepening my own self-discovery, I will spend as much time as possible reveling in my creativity, I will root myself in nature as often as possible, and simply continue to explore and nurture other realms I am exploring.
So, as of right now, it’s definitely not a complete goodbye to social. But rather, one that is reflective of the wondrous connections and moments that I forever seek to explore. I feel grateful for this time to dig deep into the wounds I had with social media, and feel blessed to have this period of deep introspection when I needed it most.
How I Intend to use Social Media and my phone going forward
To be honest, my average phone use has never been more than 1 hour because I’m more of a laptop person! Having said that, an hour for me personally is too much, and half of that time was spent on apps such as Instagram.
My average phone use is about 20 to 30 minutes a day and here’s how this time is spent:
- A mid-morning check of my horoscope (I adore Sanctuary, The Pattern, Chani and Co-Star)
- My calendar and the weather app (before 2020 I used a proper date-diary but what with 2020 being such an odd year, I just used my phone/laptop calendar rather than a paper diary)
- My Whatsapp and text messages (I check just twice a day- just morning and night- sometimes my phone time will shoot up massively if I send a voice note to one of my beloveds!)
- My selling apps like Etsy, Depop & Vinted (I answer messages/sort out admin, but I actually upload to all of these sites from my laptop)
- Other apps I use occasionally as needed: Camera, Notes, Health App, Google Translate, Podcasts, Spotify, Apple Pay, Parking apps, Google Maps and Travel apps (Citymapper etc)
Avenues I’m considering for my marketing going forward:
- I soon wish to start a weekly podcast called ‘A Whimsical World’ with short 20-minute episodes. If I do this, I’ll certainly let you all know!
- I’d love to write more online articles/have more magazine features: something I so adored in my Beauxoxo days!
- Building Whimsy World even more deeply: this is my monthly email that enables you to embody whimsy, wonder, and enchantment. If you’d like to join me, you can do so here:
How to Market Your Dreams and Business without Social Media Workshop by Leonie Dawson
So, as you have seen from the above, stepping back from social media has left me feeling worried about the reality of marketing my businesses and sharing my gifts with the world.
And so, this is where mentorship can be so very vital. As you already know, I love taking courses and deepening my knowledge. As some of you have already seen, I also have a business mentor you can read about here.
What I know for sure is that when you are surrounded by people who are on this journey with you it makes things a million times more meaningful.
So, I’m so grateful to bask in Leonie’s wisdom in this upcoming workshop. How did Leonie master to step back from social media and sustain this abundant business? Well, Leonie is going to share ALL about their journey and provide you with a vision for marketing away from social media. I am SO excited for this! Want in? If you want to sign up the link is here.
What will you get in Leonie’s ‘Marketing Without Social Media Course?’
* OPTIONS to add other marketing strategies to your business to make it stronger and more sustainable.
* An EXIT STRATEGY if you do want to wean your business off social media in a risk-free way.
* SMART guidance on reducing your time on social media while still getting results. And if you ultimately decide to leave social media, it will give you the support and guidance to do just that!
Other Tools, Resources, Books and Strategies I used to break free from Social Media
- 1Focus for my MacBook
- Cal Newport’s book titled ‘Digital Minimalism’ is so wonderful
- I block all social media websites inside the Safari settings on my phone
What will my future relationship with social media be?
Ultimately dear reader, unless there’s a problem, there’s not a problem! For me, social media, and digital overwhelm, had been a blocker in my life for truly deeply embodying my deepest enchantment. I truly believe that we should always be guided by whatever it is in you that’s taken you this far.
Trust yourself and your intuitive messages more than anything else. I don’t want to make anyone feel that you don’t need to put yourself in some self-imposed penury by forcing yourself away from social media if it truly makes you thrive! We are all beautifully and magnificently unique as discussed above.
As for my future relationship with social media, for me, I felt that I was, and would be, denying my true nature by continuing my social media use as it had previously been. The most important thing to me is seeking a life of pure whimsy, wonder, and enchantment. As a result, for me, this means living a life that is deeply reflective of my individual nature as discussed above.
With each day that passes, I not only find it easier and easier to stay away from social media, but I find my senses have magnified significantly, and my ability to embody rapture and awe both internally and externally, only helps me to more deeply marvel at the magic and miracles all around me.
And so, yes, I do believe that I’ll be stepping back on this sojourn from social media indefinitely, but at this moment it’s not a full goodbye altogether.
Now dear soul, what about you? What are your feelings about this topic? How does social media affect you? Have you ever stepped back from digital spaces for a long period of time? I’d love to know all about it below and so look forward to meeting you for conversations there.