Social media has the ability to make your life feel inadequate, with friends and family cherry picking the best parts of their lives and sharing them with the world, making your rainy Monday morning appear particularly dire. So what effect is this having on our mental wellbeing? Is it actually making us feel increasingly depressed?
Researchers at the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen (yep, that does exist) decided to find out. They took a group of 1,095 Facebook users and split them into two groups. The first group were allowed to continue using the social network on a daily basis, while the other group were forced to go completely cold turkey, staying off the site for the duration of the experiment.
The results were incredibly revealing – after just 7 days 88% of the group that left Facebook said they felt “happy” as opposed to 81% in the group still using the site. They also felt less angry, less lonely, less depressed, more decisive, more enthusiastic, and enjoyed their lives more. Ditching Facebook also appeared to reduce stress levels by as much as 55%. They’re some pretty strong results…
“People on Facebook are 39% more likely to feel less happy than their friends,” reads the study. “Instead of focussing on what we actually need, we have an unfortunate tendency to focus on what other people have […] 5 out of 10 envy the #amazing experiences of others posted on Facebook. 1 out of 3 envy how #happy other people seem on Facebook. 4 out of 10 envy the apparent #success of others on Facebook.” So there you have it, perhaps we should all give it a rest and focus on our real lives.
There has been a definite shift in the blogosphere over the last 12 or so months, and I’ve heard story after story of people who feel a real sense of transition in the air. Blogging can take a toll on the strongest of people, what with its 24-hour cycle, it’s relentless need to be updated, and its ability to totally take over your life if you let it.
What I’ve noticed, though, is how hard it is for people to let go. Either to let go of their blogs completely, or to let go of the parts of blogging that don’t serve them (me included!). It could be fear holding them back, or resistance to change, the motivation is different for all – but I wondered how helpful it would be to hear from people who dealt with all of these feelings very differently.
From someone who straight-up quit, to someone who hung in there, to another who merged blogging with other pursuits, the experiences I’ll be sharing this week have given me hope. I always find it useful to see how others have made huge changes and not only survived, but thrived, and I know you’re going to find some solace in the stories from Megan Tietz today, Nicole Avery of Planning With KidsWednesday, and Heather Armstrong from Dooce on Friday.
Megan blogged at Sorta Crunchy for eight years before finally laying it to rest at the beginning of 2015, and setting off for pastures new. If you’ve ever thought of just walking away and starting afresh somewhere else, this one’s for you.
When did you start to realise it might be time to stop blogging?
I happened across a post from my archives a few weeks ago, something I had written in the summer of 2012. That was shortly after my book had been released, and I know now as I read back over it that in my heart, I knew it was time to stop blogging back then. But I had a book to promote and a platform to maintain, so I powered through and kept at it for a few more years.
In the late summer of 2014, I had one of those rare but wonderful epiphany moments where out of the blue, the thought “I’m closing my blog” rolled through my mind, and it felt so incredibly hopeful and liberating, I knew that the time had finally come to be finished.
Were you making an income?
Sort of. I experimented with different income streams including private ads, sponsored campaigns, and affiliate work, but it was only ever enough to pay my blogging bills and have a little extra play money on the side.
Did you know you had a different direction you wanted to go in, or did that come later?
My friend Tsh Oxenreider had been generous in asking me to be a frequent guest on her Art of Simple podcast, and that experience gave me the confidence to being exploring creating my own show. I knew that I was deeply burned out on writing, yet my personality is one that craves connection and community. I’m solidly in my late thirties now and the thought of teaching myself how to work in a new medium was exhilarating and inspiring.
How did you finally make the decision?
I know this sounds a little woo-woo, but I genuinely feel like the decision was made for me. Once I knew it was time to close the blog, I found it excruciatingly difficult to write anything. It was as if after writing easily and frequently since I was in the fifth grade, I had finally used up all of my words. I couldn’t have kept blogging even if I wanted to. The well had run utterly dry.
What were the factors that led you to stop? Were they internal reasons or external?
I would say it was 95% internal and only 5% external. The external reasons include the pressure to create Pinterest-worthy posts, click-inspiring headlines, and content that would perform well on all social media platforms. But as I said above, it was mostly this internal assurance that the time had come to move on and move forward to taking on new projects.
Have you felt/seen/heard evidence that this feeling of discontent is widespread among bloggers?
It’s funny, having been part of the blogging community for over eight years, I’ve certainly seen bloggers far more widely-read and well-known step away from their platforms for a variety of reasons long before I chose to do so myself. Yet I think it’s one of those things when once you’ve tuned into a certain vibe, you start to feel it everywhere you turn. Yes, I think there is a feeling of discontent amongst my peers who are still blogging, but I think that’s the nature of this beast; a beast which on the one hand has done away with the gate-keepers and made a path for creatives to share their work in ways never possible before, but on the other hand, it requires of you the creation of awesome, amazing, share-able content day after day into perpetuity.
I have dreams of exploring lots of new mediums in the realm of new media, but I decided to start with podcasting because I am an unrepentant podcast junkie. The more shows I discovered and the more I found myself delighted by what others are creating in this realm, the more I became consumed with the idea of creating my own show. Even just a few months in, this is one of the most exciting, rewarding, and thrilling things I’ve ever done. I’m in love with the process and product, start to finish. My only regret is that I didn’t start sooner!
What advice do you have for people who are thinking of stopping, but are a bit frightened to totally pull the pin?
When you are dating someone seriously and begin to ask, “is this person The One?” you’re often told, “when you know, you know.” I feel it’s the same way with blogging. When it’s time to stop – not just take a break to recover and rediscover your purpose and mission in blogging, but truly stop blogging – you just know. And it is absolutely scary. I spent a few months scribbling in my journal thoughts revolving around the question, “but now what am I going to do?” So take the time to work through the fear and any other negative feelings that surface as a result of such a big decision, but know that everything good and valuable and important that you learned from blogging can be put into practice in a dazzling number of ways outside of this medium.
What’s life like on the other side?
Liberating. People often ask me if I miss blogging, and I can genuinely say that I don’t! I think that’s because I didn’t take my own advice and pushed myself to keep blogging long after it was time for me to be done. I didn’t realize how much mental real estate blogging was taking up in my mind, but now that that chapter is over, I feel so much more free. There’s a wonderful lightness that comes with following your intuition, no matter how scary the path is that it leads you down. It’s a newfound freedom that I am enjoying immensely.
Do you feel a bit like quitting? Like there’s something else on the horizon you’d like to explore, but you can’t just walk away? Let’s chat in the comments, cos I feel like that too…
Stacey is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net: a writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd balancing it all with being a stay-at-home mum. She writes about all this and more at Veggie Mama. Chat with her on Twitter @veggie_mama or be entertained on Facebook.