The Power of Unplugged Weekends

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, my way to use Instagram has changed during the years, I’ve quit Twitter and Facebook, but it still doesn’t mean that I’m not addicted to social media. In the past, I’ve found myself multiple times scrolling through pages and pages in order to find something catchy to read online, constantly refreshing my Instagram feed and spending too much time in the Explore feed. I started noticing that these unhealthy habits were affecting my life as a student in a bad way. It started being more and more difficult for me to concentrate, it took me an embarrassing amount of time to prepare my last few exams to be honest with you, mostly because I couldn’t focus my brain for more than 10 minutes straight. I even tried to lock myself in the bathroom with just my textbook once because I was feeling incredibly frustrated by my unfocused mind. I thought I was having some mental issues at some point, especially after realizing I couldn’t concentrate even to read a book for pleasure. I constantly felt the need for something funnier, quicker, easier to consume, like social media contents. I could even find myself picking up the phone to scroll my Instagram feed when I was out with friends, always ready to fill those free pockets of time.

I tried meditation and it helped me to calm down a little bit when I was too anxious for University, but I couldn’t stick with it until I incorporated it to Yoga. I started with the quick and easy Yoga practices of the Yoga With Adriene channel and I ended up forming the habit of 20-30 minutes of Yoga every day, thanks to Adriene’s 30-day series (it’s free, the playlist can be found here). I love this moment of self-care and I always look forward to it every day, it helps to clear my mind, to keep my body flexible without having to sweat in a crowded gym, and it’s definitely less boring than just sit and meditate for me.

For 2018, I picked up SLOW as my guiding word because I definitely wanted to change the way I was running my life, always online and ready to fill every minute of my days, not being able to watch a single TV show without checking my phone. I didn’t have many plans, aside from just slowing down.

Then, I decided to spend the whole Christmas weekend away from social media and it changed everything. I wished Merry Christmas to my online friends on December 24th and then I completely ignored social media until December 27th. For the first time, I felt myself actually present, actively participating in my family’s activities, I even watched an entire Disney movie without missing my phone. On December 27th I didn’t even want to go back on Instagram because the idea of catching up after 3 days was too exhausting for me!

After that, I decided to take one day of the week unplugged for the rest of the year, I chose Sunday because it’s when people are less active online and I thought it could be easier for me to avoid FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). And it worked. I also set the rule to not check social media before noon, I start my days reading a good book now rather than catching up with the world and I have to say that my anxiety level decreased a lot.

A Few Frequently Asked Questions

(Inspired by Madeleine’s post about her own experience)

How do you keep yourself from picking up your phone?

I don’t have any social media app on my phone except for Instagram. During my days unplugged, I usually remove it from my home screen so it’s hidden in the app drawer (I have an Android phone). More than once I can surprise myself turning on the screen of my phone and swiping around looking for something to do until I realize that’s just the twitch to reach Instagram, so I lock my screen and move away from my phone. It gets better with time, I promise. I reach for my phone less and less these days.

Does this bother others when you’re unreachable?

My unplugged days don’t include turning off my phone, I still use it to take photos and chat with friends and family on WhatsApp. However, I only receive notifications for calls and text messages, I only have a red badge for new messages on WhatsApp and the other apps are totally muted. I still check emails once or twice a day, but it isn’t a big deal for me, if they require a long reply or me doing something, I just leave them in my inbox for when I’ll be at my laptop again.

Does being unplugged mean you don’t watch TV either? Or use your computer?

I’d like to say yes, but the answer is actually no. Partly because I’m currently researching/writing my thesis, so I can’t take a whole day off (I already have a “day off” when I work at the library once a week), but staying away from social media helps me to focus more on my work, so Sunday is usually my most productive day of the week. Also, at the end of the day, I like to relax watching Netflix because I’m usually too tired to read (but I try to dedicate half an hour to Harry Potter every night!).

In the near future, I’d like to take Saturday away from social media too, but I’m not forcing myself right now. I like how things are going on and I prefer to introduce new habits slowly.

How do you handle social media? Do you feel like they are affecting your life in a negative way?

A Different Way to Use Instagram | My Experience

I joined Instagram back in October 2013, when I got my very first smartphone, a second-hand iPhone 4. It quickly became my favourite social media and I used to publish at least one photo every single day. At that time, I liked to experiment with different angles, filters and so on, I didn’t follow any rule and I loved to take tons and tons of photos of my daily life, even if it was boring. The following year, I discovered Project Life and I even became a member of Becky Higgins’ creative team in 2016, which is one of the things I will be forever grateful for.

I’ve never had an Instagram-perfect profile, I’ve never gained tons and tons of followers, and I’ve always thought I would never get tired of the app. But then, I started feeling less and less inspired to take photos, one of the things I noticed is that, even during family dinners or simple moments outside, I was constantly trying to take Instagram-worthy photos, excluding people from them (since I don’t like to share private stuff online). Also, I stopped experimenting with lights and perspectives and this led me to a complete lack of inspiration.

These days, I’m lucky if I even take a photo in a whole week. For some time, I tried to force myself to go around with the camera app open to record my life like I used to, but it doesn’t work like that anymore. I can’t force myself to do something that used to be an enjoyable pastime. If I don’t feel like it, I don’t feel like it.

So I decided to reduce the number of Project Life pages, going with a monthly layout (rather than a weekly one) and, most importantly, to finally convince myself that’s okay if I don’t share a photo for a whole week on Instagram. I will probably lose some followers, yes, but it’s not the end of the world, after all. After 4+ years, I’ve lost my inspiration and that’s okay, the market is so saturated now that nobody would even notice the lack of posts from my account, to be honest.

I started using Stories more though, it’s less intimidating and now that you can save the highlights on your profile, it’s definitely a better experience. Not sharing photos on my grid doesn’t mean I don’t use the app, on the contrary, I still like to keep myself updated following bloggers and friends on Instagram, I just changed the way I share my story online. Back in the days, I missed the Snapchat madness when it became the app of the moment because my old iPhone didn’t update anymore, so I couldn’t play with all the filters. When I finally got a new phone, Snapchat wasn’t a thing anymore, so I basically never tried to gain some followers there and now I’m happy I didn’t since I find it easier to have it all under Instagram.

Stories allows me to share crappy photos without feeling guilty about it, short messages to my friends, replacing Twitter, and the best part is that they are gone after 24h (if I don’t save them as highlights on my profile). Another feature that I like of Stories is that people can only send you a message to reply to your photos and can’t Like them. This way, you aren’t tempted to constantly check numbers and stats.

I’m still convinced that the good old Instagram was better. Your feed was shown chronologically and you didn’t have to spend tons of time on the app in order to see all the new posts shared by your favourite people. But I’m grateful for Stories now that I lack inspiration.

Are you still using Instagram the same way? Do you like/use Stories?

How I’m Using Social Media in 2018

A few days ago The Minimalists published a blog post explaining why they took January off from social media and how they are going to use them in 2018. I really enjoyed reading it and it inspired me to write something similar since I’ve made some quality changes during the last few months.

First of all, I’m one of those people constantly complaining about the algorithm changes, starting from Facebook back in the days to Twitter and then Instagram. I firmly believe it ruined the experience on those platforms, not just for me, but for all the people who don’t want to invest money in ads.

I used to open Twitter and scroll my feed to the last tweet missed being able to read what the people I’ve followed had written while I was away, I replied to tweets, retweeted some stuff and shared a couple of thoughts. It was nice, Twitter was the place where I chatted with like-minded people about Tolkien and Middle-earth, blogging and books. It was my favourite social media, to be honest. Now it’s a completely different experience. When I log in, I scroll my feed and I have to actually look for the people I’ve followed because it’s now full of sponsored posts, tweets from people I don’t know but that the people I follow liked and, the worst, they are no longer in a true chronological order. You can imagine that when you tweet a good old status like “I can’t wait to see Black Panther this week!”, nobody would notice in that chaos because your tweets now need to be visually appealing, containing a link, 200 hashtags, and so on.

Same thing with Instagram. I’ve read so many blog posts about the best strategies to “beat the algorithm” and they sound just too much for me. The most insane one I’ve read was that, in order to get more engagement on your photos, you have to be active commenting and liking stuff 15 minutes before AND after sharing a photo. Sure, engaging with others helps you to get more visibility on Instagram, but we have a life to live! And we can’t beat bots (that people hire to do the dirty work for them), so why bothering.

I’ve spent 2017 forcing myself to make it work for me and my blog, to still use social media to get visibility, in order to prove that on my résumé, to let people know that I can use tools like Buffer, Later and Hootsuite. But, in the end, it didn’t work and it deeply affected the way I approached my life online. It doesn’t matter if I was scheduling my tweets or my Instagram photos, I was still spending too much time online without even getting the results I wanted.

Taking a 48h break from Instagram during Christmas made me realize that the problem wasn’t the blog, the problem was my relationship with social media! Since then, I decided to take it easy, I was very stressed by my last University exam, some health issues and things like that and the fast-paced nature of Instagram (thanks to Stories) didn’t help me at all. I decided that, in order to follow my word for 2018, I’m going to take more breaks here and there more often. I already crafted two little rules that worked very well so far:

  • Don’t check social media before noon.
  • Take Sunday off.

Here is a more in-depth look at my accounts (maybe this will also help you understand where I hang ou the most).

Instagram. Let’s start from my favourite one. I used to participate in so many different challenges, take lots and lots of photos in batches and schedule them in order to always have something to publish every single day. It was just too much for me, so now I post when I have something to share and I try to not stress too much if I miss a post or two from my favourite accounts. Same thing with Stories. This is the best place to reach me out, after the blog, because it’s still the platform where I’m most active (except for weekends, you still have my Contact page for that). 🙂

Twitter. At the end of 2017, I had tons of applets on IFTTT to automate all the things, then I decided to quit and keep my profile only as a placeholder. Then I thought about tweeting the old way (in real time without scheduling nor automating) and, while I enjoyed it more than I expected, I felt like I was talking with a wall since the engagement was basically zero, meaning that my links didn’t even get clicked once, so what was the point of that? I blame the algorithm. To be fair, the only tweet that got some engagement was Tolkien-related and this means that 80% of my followers are still fellow Middle-earth nerds, so I should probably consider that in the future. For now, I will just automatically share my posts through WordPress (no more IFTTT recipes), but I’m not planning to engage there anymore, that’s why I removed the icon here on the sidebar. Last but not least, this is the platform that brings less traffic to my blog. It used to be the first one, but now things changed and so I think it’s useless for me.

Facebook. I deleted my “official” profile 3 years ago and I never looked back. Now I have an anonymous-ish one that I use to interact in a couple of Groups and to manage pages, including one where WordPress automatically shares my posts that I created solely to let people know that I have a blog if they visit my profile from a group (since links aren’t clickable in the Fb bio). I check it only once or twice a day just to catch up with Groups, so it isn’t an addictive platform for me anymore.

Pinterest. The only reasons why I keep it are: you can’t actually delete your profile, it brings a lot of traffic to my blog. Currently, I just use it to do some research and nothing more (it’s the best place to find laptop/phone wallpapers FYI). 😉

Goodreads. I still use it to read book reviews and find interesting readings, but I’m not sure if I will keep updating it, to be honest. I stopped joining the Goodreads Challenge because it gave me too much anxiety and, for now, I feel like a simple list in a notebook works well enough for me.

That’s it! Writing this post gave me even more clarity on how I’m going to approach my online life and helped me to finalize some points.

 

How are you using social media in 2018? I’d love to hear from you!

What’s Saving My Life Right Now

What's Saving My Life Right Now

For the second year in a row, I find myself wanting to recap the past month with a Currently post because lists are my jam and, for the second time, Anne Bogel saves me announcing her link-up.

There are few things that I’m enjoying right now and are making my life better and I thought it would be nice to share them.

1. OneNote. I love to use it for saving stuff to read later, it works similarly to Evernote but it’s completely free and its button on Feedly doesn’t require a Pro account. I like to save articles and blog posts during the week, in order to be able to read them during my free time.

2. Lamy Safari + Leuchtturm. I finally found the perfect combo for my daily journaling practice. I love the way my new fountain pen writes on Leuchtturm paper (I have an A5 notebook with dotted paper and black cover) and I even started dusting off my cursive, unused since middle school (LOL).

3. Netflix. Once again it makes its way on my list, but you have no idea how much I wanted this subscription and it helped me a lot to achieve my goal to watch more movies rather than TV shows this month. I’m going to share the list of the ones I watched in my next post, stay tuned!

4. PDF Converter. You have no idea how many companies contacted me in the past to promote random things for them (underpants, a mattress…just to name a few), so I wasn’t very excited when Cometdocs.com reached me out to test their PDF Converter app. Long story short, this app saved my (academic) life multiple times during the last few weeks and now I’m very glad I’ve decided to partner with Cometdocs, I even made my dad downloading it! You can read my article about the app here if you’re interested.

5. #HarreadPotter. This hashtag is a new “challenge” started on Bookstagram to reread (or read for the first time) all the Harry Potter books this year. There is also the option to join a private group on Instagram, but I decided to just read the books and I’m so happy. It’s unbelievable how many things I’ve forgotten about the story, mostly because I tend to remember the movies better.

6. Breathe magazine. I discovered this magazine a couple of weeks ago and I purchased the digital edition of the last number to read on my tablet (because the paper one was too expensive for me) and I’m loving it! After stopping to read Vanity Fair in high school and a couple of history magazines during the first years at University, I haven’t found something affordable that I actually enjoyed. Breathe contains so many interesting articles that I almost forget I’m reading it on a tablet, almost…because how good is the smell of a printed magazine??

Here is the link to Anne’s linkup.

What’s saving your life right now, friends?

#OldSchoolBlogging and Why I’m Tired of Fake Experts Online

I was planning to write a blog post about the snow we’ve been lucky to have (it basically never happens before Christmas here), but then I stumbled upon an article that made me realize how much tired I am of self-promotion and why I want to go back and write just for fun in my accounts.

Back in 2009, I was struggling with my hate for studying (yes, I’m getting my MA in archaeology and I hated studying) and I had to graduate from high school. I was completely burned out and depressed, so my mom started looking for tips and advice on the internet. She found a nice Italian website (I’m not going to mention it because I don’t want to appear as a rude person, even if it would deserve it) with lots and lots of tips and tricks and advice on productivity, how to beat procrastination, how to study better and things like that. I loved reading it, it was something completely new to me, back then I didn’t even read in a different language than my own (Italian) and outside of my comfort zone (personal blogs).

I followed and supported the author for several years, even during the beginning of my university career, and I even bought a couple of ebooks by him. Then, I discovered the joy of reading English websites. There were a lot more topics out there, so many people writing about so many different things. After a couple of years, I started realizing that that guy didn’t invent anything, he was just reading a bunch of famous blogs and books written by American productivity gurus and repurposing the content for his little Italian blog. Nothing wrong with it, I mean, he wasn’t breaking the copyright rules, but he wasn’t sharing what he learned, he was just sharing stuff as if it was his own personal knowledge using titles tailored to impress the audience (like How to Study a 500-page Book in 3 Hours). I didn’t like that and it wasn’t even useful anymore.

I moved on from that blog and I started following other people I enjoyed more.

I don’t even know why I typed the URL of his blog earlier today, but I did and I noticed that the content wasn’t changed. The same topics over and over again, after 8 years he keeps writing the same stuff, using the same impressive titles. However, I stumbled upon an article that looked interesting and I started reading it. It was about how people are addicted to their smartphones and gave a couple of advice on how to stop it. The last one made me shiver because it wasn’t even crappy marketing, it was a pure mockery.

If your issue with notification often brought you to scroll Facebook, a solution to stop was to like his page and choose the option “View First”, so every time you’d open Facebook you’d see his posts first and that would remind you to not waste your time on social media. I mean, really?? We all know that this advice is crap. This is just a way to get more likes and self-promote your stupid page.

And the best part is that, in the comments, nobody even mentioned it. They all wrote how useful the article was (and I bet they liked his page).

This made me think once more how blogging has changed over the years and how we are all in search of more likes, more followers, more page views, more money. I don’t want to be like that, I don’t want to write a productivity article in disguise, that looks like it would help people but then it’s just another miserable way to get more followers and it isn’t helpful at all.

I’ve seen more and more bloggers and friends writing about how they want to start blogging about personal stuff again in 2018. I think we should start a movement, a community, a hashtag (what about #oldschoolblogging? LOL). Please, don’t get me wrong, I don’t criticize all the people who monetize their work, I’m the first one who writes as a paid contributor and will keep doing it, I’m just against fake experts and people who cheat to get more followers.