Does this sound loony?
Well, hold on. Let me start from the beginning.
On January 20, 2022, I posted the following on Twitter.
The post said, “I’m taking a conscious break from social media for a couple of months. I want to see what happens when I’m off these platforms for a while. If you’d like to hear from me, subscribe to my newsletter at: Pegcheng.com/contact. See you in April! 👋 ”
People always say, “Time is precious,” and I truly believe that. But if time is so precious, then why do I fritter it away doing things that don’t really help me or energize me like endlessly scrolling social media feeds? I don’t know how many hours I’ve lost to going down Twitter and Instagram rabbit holes, but at the start of this year, I finally said, “STOP.”
At first, it was hard. The first few weeks, I kept thinking that I “had something to do,” and felt drawn to looking at Twitter every day. It wasn’t as challenging to not check Instagram, but not checking Twitter several times a day gave me withdrawals. I kept feeling like something was missing from my day if I didn’t post something and check my feed. When you’ve been doing something nearly every day or every other day for nine years, this is what happens. Twitter and Instagram had become a habit. Of course, I was having withdrawals.
So, what did I do?
I signed up for a class. Not just any class. It was a class to learn Reiki.
For those of you who don’t know what Reiki is, it is a form of non-invasive energy work that helps people with mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual healing. I had read about Reiki in a marvelous book, A Year of Mystical Thinking: Make Life Feel Magical Again by Emma Howarth. I had heard about Reiki before and had met Reiki practitioners, but it wasn’t until I read the chapter in this book about how Emma learned Reiki to help herself, that I felt motivated to learn it as well.
I wanted to learn Reiki to practice self-care and to try to help myself through many mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual challenges. You see, I’d been working in a very stressful job for five months. While I loved the mission of the organization I was working for, and cared for the people we served, this job was tapping me out. I felt exhausted at the end of every week and most of my weekends were spent recuperating instead of relaxing and enjoying my time off. It got so stressful that I developed an eye condition where my left eye would vibrate super fast. Other people didn’t notice it but I could feel it, and every time I did, I knew it was due to stress. Add to this my decades-long chronic gut issues, the surge of perimenopause, and trying to make it through the pandemic without getting COVID-19, and you can understand why I needed to find a way to help myself.
So, I did exactly that.
Learning Reiki over six weeks with my teacher, Rose De Dan, and then practicing self-Reiki every day for three months helped me in so many ways, many of which I cannot adequately describe. I also offered Reiki to some of my friends and family members and being able to help them with their healing filled my heart with joy and wonder.
Had I not quit social media for three months, I would not have had time to take this class, practice, and take better care of myself. I estimate that I was spending about six hours a week on social media before my break–some weeks less and some weeks more. Getting back six hours a week gave me back about 25 hours a month. 25 hours a month was enough time for me to learn how to do magic on myself and others.
Then I went back to social media.
I started posting once a day or even just once a week on Twitter. After more than three months away, I had given myself permission to be on Twitter and Instagram again and most weeks, I didn’t go down any rabbit holes. I was able to spend maybe 15-20 minutes on social media per day or every other day, and things felt fine.
Then, I hit a wall at work and realized I needed to leave my job. I knew that if I stayed, I’d continue to feel stressed and frustrated. I loved working with my manager Melanie and thinking about leaving her made me cry, but I knew it was time to start job hunting once again.
Looking for a job while you have a job is like having two jobs. The stress was piling on and yet, I stayed on slightly-less-shaky ground because of my daily self-Reiki. In addition, I kept practicing Reiki on a few friends, family members, and their animals, and each time I did, I felt buoyed up with energy. To be able to help others on their path to healing felt like a small miracle every time.
During this time, scrolling through social media felt like a “break,” like I was treating myself. I’d known for quite some time that social media was a way for me to avoid reality, to avoid doing the things I needed to do, but it wasn’t until this very stressful time that I started to realize more and more that I might need to leave it all together.
Now, I make something clear. I do not think social media is evil or completely unhealthy. I’ve met some wonderful people through social media and have made friends from all over the globe. I’ve also been able to build my businesses through social media. I started on Twitter in 2013 at my husband’s recommendation in order to promote my law school application consulting business and it helped me build my company and attracted clients from all over the nation. I’ve managed social media for organizations and it’s helped us to market our services and programs and build our online presence. Social media, when used right and with time limits, is a powerful marketing and communications tool, and it can be a great way to make connections.
But by the time I had achieved my goal of finding and securing a new job in late July, I was pretty burnt out on work and everything else. Again, I took a conscious break from social media and signed up for another Reiki class for August. This time, I was going to learn Level 2 Reiki which would allow me to offer a more powerful form Reiki to others long distance. As in, I didn’t need to place my hands on people to offer them Reiki.
Once again, being more conscious of how I was using my time, and using my time to do something I really wanted to do, helped me to learn even more magic. By September, I had offered long distance Reiki to people I knew in Washington, Puerto Rico, and Canada. It was amazing! I did all this while starting my new job at the University of Washington. There’s no way I could have leveled-up my Reiki skills if I hadn’t taken time off from social media and given that time back to myself. Despite the many challenges I still face, my path to healing feels more solid every day.
So, now that we’re almost at the end of 2022, where do I stand now with social media?
On October 28, I quit Twitter after I found out that a megalomaniac had bought it.
I’m considering quitting Instagram, but haven’t pulled the plug yet.
I post job updates on LinkedIn and occasionally post kudos and comments to people I know.
I got a Facebook account for the first time this year so I could participate in online group discussions for my Reiki and tarot classes and so I could join my neighborhood Buy Nothing group. I don’t post on Facebook and don’t “friend” anyone.
I manage the Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn accounts for my new job and spend 10-15 minutes a day on them, so about one hour per week.
After nine years of being on social media, I’ve realized that there are some real pros and cons to it. It’s not black-and-white, it’s more gray.
I’ve enjoyed meeting many cool and interesting people on social media and staying up-to-date on many issues in the world. I’m also grateful to Twitter for giving me a way to build my businesses. But quitting social media for a period of time also gave me the time to learn Reiki which has helped me and my loved ones with healing–a priceless gift. Nowadays, keeping social media activity to a bare minimum helps me feel more at peace. I’m happy that I’ve found a way to gain back time every day, every week, and every month, and that, in and of itself, is a form of magic.
Have you considered quitting or decreasing your time on social media? What do you want to do with the time you’ll gain back?
Peg Cheng is the author of Noodle Taco, a Taiwanese-Mexican-American culinary adventure, Rebel Millionaire, a guide for how to retire as a millionaire even if you make a modest income, and The Contenders, a novel that asks, can enemies become friends? She is also the owner of Plaid Frog Press with her husband Marcus Donner. Born in Southern California to Taiwanese parents, Peg currently lives in Seattle, Washington.
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Time is Precious photo by Harman Sandhu
Peg Cheng photo by Marcus Donner