I Did #ScrollFreeSeptember. Here’s Why Everyone Should Try It.

AKA ‘Does posting to Twitter via Medium count?’

  • Night Owl: Taking a break from social media after 6pm
  • Busy Bee: Taking a break from social media at school or work to increase productivity
  • Sleeping Dog: Avoiding social media in the bedroom, to promote better sleep

Some transgressions….

Yeah, first thing’s first: there were a couple of things that were challenging about going cold turkey, and on which I ‘cheated’ slightly.

  1. We scheduled a Halloween party in my flat. Once again, I had to make the event on Facebook to invite everyone…
  2. I started writing on Medium more regularly, and when I hit ‘Publish’, I also publish directly to Twitter. I’m not sure this counts as cheating, but technically still means that I appeared to post during September.

What was awesome…

I didn’t touch Instagram at all

Instagram, my number one drug of choice, was entirely abandoned for September. No more waking up to scroll through pointless pictures. No more pointless scrolling on the tube. No more taking pictures of stupid stuff in the hope it will make for Instagram fodder later.

My mornings felt so much more relaxed

Holy heck, did I have a lot more free time before work. Who knew I was spending so much time scrolling? I honestly never thought about it before, because I always considered myself someone who ‘doesn’t really use social media a lot’. What I’ve discovered is that, while that is true compared to many, I was still a lurker. I’d scroll by images even if I wasn’t really interacting or posting a lot. And that takes up time. Without the scrolling, my meditation and other morning routine items had a lot more time to flourish…

I read so much more

I read The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (a complete giant of a novel), as well as the Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich and Autumn by Ali Smith. I‘m part way through Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris. That’s a lot more reading than I usually get done in one month. I think this is because every moment where in the past I’d scroll mindlessly, I picked up my book instead — on the tube, in bed, waiting for friends, etc. I feel amazing about this, because I actually really love reading. Who’d have thought?!

I wrote more — and better

Similarly, my writing productivity massively improved. Part of this was the elimination of flicking between whatever I’m writing and scrolling Facebook or Twitter — a very bad habit of mine. Instead, I was more likely just to finish an article or passage of a story, without getting distracted. I can’t really attest to a quality rise in my writing overall, but I did feel like I achieved ‘flow’ much more easily and more regularly, making my writing much more of a joy. I felt much happier with what I produced, in the end.

I felt more present

Without a social media dashboard to fill the gaps at every dinner table, party, or tube ride, I often found myself not even bothering to look at my phone at all. I actually just looked around and listened instead. This generated a lot of writing ideas, and also meant I felt more present in the moment itself. Mindfulness really does work.

What was less awesome…

I checked my email a lot more

I definitely started filling in the social media gap at times with checking my email. I did notice this and try to curb it, but it was hard — I obviously went straight for something that could fulfil a kind of scrolling without being social media.

I noticed my own FOMO

Not entirely a bad thing, but I became a lot more aware of my own FOMO feelings, as they arose during the month. It didn’t happen often — certainly a lot less than I thought it would. At one point, when my mum (thanks mum!) asked me if I’d seen something on Instagram. Otherwise, I wasn’t particularly afraid of missing out on anything — but I noticed it more acutely when I did. In a way, this was a good thing: I was more able to recognise it for what it was, and the FOMO dried up altogether by the second half of the month.

I noticed the people who I only interact with via social media

It really became obvious that there are people with whom I don’t actually have a ‘real’ relationship. The ones who just exist online to me, via Facebook likes or retweets. While I like those online connections, and I appreciate finding new cool people wherever they may be, it made me much more aware of the value I place on my real relationships. I felt a lot more focused on my romantic relationship, and my most valuable friendships. A bittersweet feeling of missing some of those superficial connections, but also realising just how valuable and real other connections are for me.

Some conclusions…

If this is the first you’re hearing of Scroll Free September, I can only recommend it to you for next year — or maybe just set yourself the challenge another time. It’s been an amazing month of very present, lived experiences — I have felt myself to be more mindful than I have in the past.

Emerging fiction author, London Writers Award 2020. Working on my debut novel, rep’d by Kate Evans @ PFD. Podcasting on Author Not Present.

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