This is part 2/3 of my blog posts about my 6 month social media breaks. If you haven't read the first part, here it is!
Part 2/3 What happened when I went off social media for 6 months
So what happens when you get off social media for 6 months? let me break it into parts for you.
My Mental Health
Being off social media was like stepping into a quiet room after being in a crowded, noisy place for too long. At first, the silence was unsettling. I found myself grappling with my own thoughts, and truth be told, I didn't quite enjoy my own company. That discomfort used to send me running to TikTok or Instagram, seeking instant relief from whatever stress or unease I felt.
The realization hit hard: I was using social media as an escape from myself. I didn't like the person I was when left alone with my thoughts. But over those six months, something incredible happened. I began to appreciate solitude. I fell in love with the tranquility of my own mind. There was a peace I hadn’t known before, a serenity in being alone with my thoughts.
However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Initially, my anxiety skyrocketed. It felt like I had turned up the volume on that anxious voice in my head ten-fold. But then, something unexpected happened. As the weeks went by without the constant bombardment of social media, my anxiety began to ease. It was a revelation—I hadn’t felt this light in years, maybe even in my entire life.
Side note: Social media had this way of thrusting heartbreaking news upon me without warning. I remember many moments of when the weight of a stranger's tragedy brought me to tears. It hit me hard how we're not built to carry the collective sorrow of the world on our shoulders.
Being away from the constant influx of sadness and tragic news stories allowed me to reclaim control over my emotional well-being. It’s liberating not to drown in the sorrows of strangers. It’s a small act of self-preservation, but one that made a world of difference to my mental health.
Revisiting the depths of my soul during these breaks from social media has been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride for my faith. The first time I unplugged, I anticipated this blissful spiritual awakening, only to find myself plummeting into what felt like a faith crisis.
Detaching from social media wasn’t an escape—it was a raw confrontation with my own spiritual uncertainties. It was peeling off a bandage from a wound I hadn’t tended to in years. The exposure to my doubts was like a sting of fresh air hitting a neglected wound. Painful, but strangely liberating.
What struck me most was realizing how I’d been stifling my spiritual questions under the noise of the online world. Away from the constant stream of opinions, I was forced to confront my own beliefs without external influence. It was an introspective journey, a dive into the depths of my convictions.
Those initial six months were a torrent of tears and internal battles. I had to discover what I truly held dear. It was like navigating through a maze of uncertainties, questioning even the existence of my God.
However, that painful excavation led me to a place of tranquility. It was an opportunity to redefine and reconstruct my faith. Subsequent breaks from social media became moments of building upon the foundation I laid during that initial deconstruction. Each hiatus brought a deeper understanding, and now, these breaks are more about growth and less about grappling with doubts.
There’s a peace in knowing that my faith is my own, shaped not by the opinions of others but by my own attempts to access divinity. It’s an ongoing journey—one that’s brought me to a place of solace and genuine conviction.
Social platforms offer a semblance of connection, but they fall short in sustaining the profound, vulnerable relationships we truly crave—ones that demand reciprocity and authenticity.
Stepping away from the digital noise has shifted my focus. Acquaintances and Instagram friends that once occupied unnecessary brain space gradually faded into the background. Instead, I found myself investing more in the tangible connections—family, friends, and neighbors.
I made two friends in my ward and our boys are all best friends to this day 3 years later. In general when I’m off, I have way more play dates with other moms. I can’t explain it…I just have the brain power to plan them? Maybe it’s because I’m not getting cheap senses of connection from instagram? Maybe it's because those moments in line at the grocery store, previously dedicated to scrolling, were now channels for brainstorming and planning.
And you know what? Despite missing out on those digital announcements—a wedding here, a baby announcement there—I’ve come to realize something significant. The ones that truly matter, the events that resonate deeply, somehow always find their way to me through the grapevine of family and friends. There’s a beautiful simplicity in that, a genuine connection that transcends the digital realm.
The trade-off of missing out on digital noise for deeper, more intimate connections is one I gladly make.
It's curious how being off social media seemed to grant me a surplus of mental bandwidth. Then there’s the impact on parenting.
My kids, undoubtedly, have been blessed by my absence on social media. With a calmer mind, I discovered an ability to linger longer with them. I think I lose an ability to understand time when I am on my phone. It just moves so fast and then when I put my phone down, sitting still and doing nothing (being present) is almost painful. It’s already hard to slow down with kids, and my phone makes it near impossible to feel present because time feels so distorted compared to how they are experiencing time.
Being off social medias is It’s as if my kids and I exist in the same temporal plane. My kids absolutely have more of my undivided attention, and here’s the kicker. It feels easier to give that to them.
My husband hasn't done a 6 month social break with me yet, but he tends to be less compulsive with his phone anyway. Nevertheless, It’s remarkable how our habits intertwined—my decreased screen time led to a similar shift in his phone usage.
I don’t think I’m alone in the experience where I climb into bed and start scrolling. My husband comes to get in bed and starts scrolling too, cause I was already doing that. Well when I’m on my breaks, that just doesn’t really happen. We end up hanging out and talking a lot more, or, hear me out, going to bed on time.
Interestingly, this time away allowed me to delve into the work of Jennifer Finlayson-Fife, particularly her enlightening insights shared through the Room For Two Podcast. Her wisdom became a guiding light, subtly altering the dynamics of our marriage in ways I couldn’t have imagined.
shifting from external validation to internal
A month after going off instagram, an artwork I felt quite proud of was hung in an art show. It was my first time ever seeing my art in a gallery and on opening night, my friends and family came with me to see it. It was a milestone, a debut in a gallery setting, surrounded by an array of remarkable pieces.
But as I stood there, my vulnerability on full display, a wave of insecurity crashed over me. Suddenly, the piece that once held my pride felt inadequate. I immediately wanted to take it down. All of the sudden, it felt like one of my worst pieces. My vulnerability felt palpitable. My family gave me so many compliments but it just wasn’t enough. You know what it was missing?
Was this a 1000 likes painting? Was it only 600? What if it’s only 200 likes worth and I DARED to enter it into this artshow? (I know.. I know.)
The absence of external validation forced me to confront a distressing reality—I had linked my identity and value too closely with the praise my art received online. It’s uncomfortable to admit, but when the applause faded, I found myself questioning my worth. It was a bitter truth that demanded reckoning.
In the four years since that moment, a transformation has occurred. I’ve untangled my identity from my art. I am Carly, an artist, but my art isn’t the entirety of me. This realization was a hard-won victory, forged through the fire of self-discovery away from the validation loop of social media.
Now, the fluctuations in my art's reception no longer wield the power to wound me. Rejection doesn’t sting as it once did, and success doesn’t inflate my sense of self-worth. My art exists separate from me—a powerful distinction I unearthed during my hiatus from social media.
With all that being said, my art has become more pure, more clean. Less dirtied by expectations of what others want and I can now more easily speak the language of my heart. This has left me feeling more confident in my creations and created a voice for me as an artist.
And speaking of time, the journey to this space of purity and confidence wasn’t instantaneous. During my first six months away from social media, it took a substantial chunk of time—three months, to be exact—to feel the stirrings of inspiration. Those initial months were a medley of exploration—cooking adventures, revamping furniture, embracing the outdoors—before creativity surged in.
When it finally arrived, it was an overflow. Ideas coursed through me, painting became a torrent, and for the first time, I wasn’t scrambling for inspiration; instead, I was racing against time to capture every idea bubbling within me.
Added benefit: Because I compartimentalize all my art making into the first 6 months of the year, the pieces I make all share common themes, common color pallets, common styles. Next year my color pallet and style might change, but pieces all can stand together because it comes from the same time period.
Sheesh. That was a lot. Do I keep going? Ok, I will!
Let's talk business
I have a pretty set business model that I first implemented during my first break, and haven't turned back since. That is, devoting the first half of the year to creating art and the latter half, from July to December, to marketing and participating in art shows. I journal, do self introspection, and paint for 6 months, and then hold a big art show out of my home right when I get back online. Compartmentalizing creativity and business has been a game-changer. No longer do I feel pulled in multiple directions, torn between painting and attending to the administrative chores of running an online store.
I had to ask myself, "If instagram disappeared tomorrow, would my art business survive?" This opened up a huge list of holes in my business that needed to be worked on.
There's also a huge shift that happens when you step away from social media as a business owner. It's a shift from others telling you about opportunities, to making your own. For example:
Instead of trying to make art for last minute art calls or shows I just heard about, I made a list of shows I'd like to be in for the whole year. My art got accepted into these shows because I had more time to be intentional as I prepared.
I held my own art show out of my home, rather than waiting for an art gallery to pick me up.
I photographed and made prints and artist statements all at once of my artwork. This allowed me to not only have everything ready for my annual show that happens when I get back online, but my next six months’ worth of Instagram posts were all set and ready to roll, crafted with the hope of reclaiming a balanced, less-consuming presence when I returned.
OK, I fear I'm making this sound too easy. There was a break where my teacher only posted assignments on instagram, so I had to use my husband's phone to see them. There was a time I couldn't participate in an art show I really wanted to do, because it required us to advertise for it. There were so many other things that I had to work around, and that's just something to be expected.
Financially, the results surprised me. Despite the shift, despite the ebb and flow of seasons in my life—sometimes punctuated by the arrival of little ones—I’ve found a balance. I rake in a similar income in the latter half of the year compared to the days when Instagram consumed my entire year. Some years yield less, others more, but it all balances out in the grand scheme of life’s seasons.
This newfound structure isn’t just about financial success; it’s about reclaiming my time, preserving my creative energy, and finding fulfillment in a rhythm that embraces life’s diverse chapters.
I guess that's what this whole thing is about.
This is part 2/3 of my blog posts about my 6 month social media breaks.
ready to move on to tips and advice?
read the next and last part here.