Erika Obama

An Autistic Creator Took A Social Media Break... Accidentally.

At the beginning of this year, I accidentally forgot to check Instagram for several days, and decided to off from social media for 30 days.

Why? Because I was tired in an information flood. As a creator, I was always feeling a pressure of the necessity of posting artworks more often in order to grow my social media accounts. As a consumer, I always wanted something exiting, a passive stimulation. Digital minimalism: Check each categorised RSS folder once a week

I assume, nowadays, many people are feeling the same. But, even worse, I’m autistic. It means that I can be easily addicted to one single activity or thought. So, there was no wonder that the information flood harmed my physical and mental health a lot.

Actually, Nothing Horrible Has Happened

Here is a common excuse: I want to get out of this negative spiral, but, what if I miss the important thing shared on there? I can’t. Now, let me tell the result of my 30-day social media break at first. Nothing really happened. No follower gain or decrease. No urgent and important message on any platforms. Despite the fact that I didn’t tell anyone that I was taking a break. And also, there was no critical update from the people I follow.

Of course, the impact would be depended on your account status. At least, in my case, nothing I was afraid for happened. Rather, I experienced many positive things.

30 Days Of Rediscovering Myself

These 30 days were the period of rediscovering myself, and rebuilding my habits.

I had been believing that I was working on my personal projects hard by my own will. But the reality was that I was forced to push myself by the “needs” social media platform created: posting frequently is required to be seen. This notion leaded me to consider current social media usage.

So, why?
Keeping away from the world of quantity-over-quality gave me enough mental space to listen to my inner voice. I realised that “the way I’ve been making arts is outdated” and “what I really want to make now doesn’t suit to such instant sharing platforms”. This is why I started the YouTube channel.
Social media break let me listen to my inner voice

I also experienced things which are common among digital minimalists.

  • I started to read books more often. I use my Kindle Paperwhite to read foreign books, even though it’s still digital. Because e-books are usually much cheaper than paper books in here where I live.
    • Then I noticed that a single-purpose device does make a lot more powerful effect than a multipurpose device, when it comes to focus ability. There is no notification nor no other destructive function on such an e-reader. Digital minimalism: Reading with a kindle (a single-pupose device) instead of a smartphone (multi-purpose device)
  • I started to enjoy hiding from social media platforms, instead of fearing about missing updates from the people who I follow. (This was a transition experience from FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) to JOMO (Joy Of Missing Out).)
  • And I started to enjoy taking a walk, the activity itself. There was no temptation of sharing beautiful photos of the sky with Instagram stories any more.
    • Also, taking a walk forced me to be disconnected from the chamber with a wired computer. It was very effective to switch my mode between full-relax and full-focus.

These experiences were great, especially for me, an autistic person. Because this social media break was also a break from addictions and hyper-focus on screens. As I said earlier, autistic people tend to be stuck with one single thing or thought. The gravity of attraction works much stronger for us neuro-divergents than for neuro-typicals.
The gravity of attraction works much stronger for neuro-divergents than for neuro-typicals

The Next Steps

All of these were what I accidentally experienced. Now I’m taking the next steps.

Cal Newport wrote on “Digital Minimalism” that optimising how to use digital devices is important. Now I’m thinking about “Which is the best way to do this: digital or analogue?” on things which I mindlessly went to digital or analogue. However, I mostly care about digital activities for now. Because my main problem is having a habit of using digital devices literally all the day. There is no question that it brutally strains my eyes.

Here are what I’m trying right now:

  • Making themed RSS feeds folders with dates (such as “Research Monday” and “Tech Tuesday”), then check the items in each folder once a week and decide which articles to read, to not over-consume information.
    Digital minimalism: Check each categorised RSS folder once a week
  • Habitising strolling more often, to generate good ideas by giving more chances to get out of my room, which is one of the causes of overthinking.
    • To achieve this, I think sticking with a good scheduling system is important. I do this with Bullet Journal.
      • Bullet Journal is a simple task-management/journaling system you can start with a pen and any notebooks. You may find insanely artistic bullet journals people made online, but what I’ve been using for years is far closer to the original version of it.
      • It does not only help my day-to-day life organised, but also actually covers my difficulty of long-term thinking. Digital minimalism: Have a good scheduling systemDigital minimalism: Have a good scheduling system

Anyway, The Journey Has Just Begun

These are the things I’ve learnt in the beginning of this optimisation journey. II still do mindless scrolling so often, especially when I’m tired in evenings. Obviously, I’m not perfect. But, I think nothing have to be perfect, and things will be better over time.

I hope these tips help you more or less.