October 15th, 2020
About 4 weeks ago now, in mid-September, I decided to log off my personal Instagram account for 100 days and to only use my other social media platforms for necessary communication purposes.
This decision came as a result of many factors telling me that I was spending far too much time on social media. One of these was my iPhone screen time insights; notifying me that I was averaging upwards of 2-3 hours daily, with the majority of this time being spent on social media (Instagram in particular). My daily screen time drastically declined when I logged off and it has remained around 30 minutes per day with my primary activities involving communication (i.e., no scrolling feeds, checking social media notifications, etc.).
I also became more aware of the “dark sides” of social media. The following include some of these sources:
- The Social Dilemma – Netflix documentary highlighting the negative impacts of social media use on our mental health and the controversial industry that is data collection.
- The Great Hack – Netflix documentary revealing how the company — Cambridge Analytica — used Facebook data insights to influence many elections including the 2016 United States presidential election.
- https://www.ted.com/talks/cal_newport_why_you_should_quit_social_media?language=en – TED Talk by Cal Newport, a computer scientist at Georgetown University, offering reasons to quit social media and debunking common objections.
- https://www.msn.com/en-ie/money/technology/why-are-silicon-valley-execs-banning-their-kids-from-using-social-media/ar-BBPcNZP – Article stating the prevalence of Silicon Valley executives banning social media use by their children because of the known-negative implications.
- https://www.healthline.com/health/how-social-media-is-ruining-relationships#Theres-a-capacity-for-friendships,-even-online – Article describing our capacity to maintain 150 relationships, which social media has obliterated, resulting in a source for energy drain/burn-out.
In this post, I’ll list the benefits that I’ve been experiencing regarding improved running performance, after being off social media for just 4 weeks. While there isn’t necessarily hard evidence to demonstrate that being off social media is connected to these findings; I am describing my personal experiences and how I’ve been feeling over the last month after making a significant change to my daily routine.
More Time and Energy
As demonstrated by my screen time from September, the amount of spare time that has been added to my days is tremendous. As a result, I have more time to spend on recovering and re-charging so that I feel refreshed going into a day of hard training. Additionally, the article linked above by healthline.com indicates the mental and emotional drain that social media has on individuals. The reality is that we are immersed in a virtual world of endless conversations that can take a large toll on our energy levels. Ultimately, the time offline has translated to more face-to-face interaction with close friends and family, which is much more fulfilling than virtual conversations.
In terms of running performance, I’ve noticed on my recovery days and hard training days, I feel much more fresh — mental, physically, and emotionally — and ready to tackle whatever my coach has planned.
From my experience, running on the Canadian national team [2019 World University Games], competing on my university team [U of S Huskies], and having a passion for all things sports (i.e., athlete documentaries, podcasts, biographies, etc.); I realize how vital it is to compete “in the moment”. Simply put, it’s a state of focus associated with being calm, cool and collected. Or as I mentioned, in an article after bringing home the bronze medal from the 2019 World University Games:
This “presence” I now bring into all aspects of training and life. I’ve noticed during training; in the moments where I would fill my head with whatever distracted me from the tired legs and heavy breathing, I now embrace these moments with a clear mind and supreme focus. Similarly, I’ve incorporated more presence into the simple moments in life, like playing a game with my 6-year-old niece.
Ultimately, living is being off screen in the real world as opposed to a virtually skewed perception of reality.
Creativity is cultivated in blank spaces. Therefore, the abundance of time, energy, and presence that resulted from logging off social media, translated to more blank spaces for my mind to wander and be creative.
How this creativity has positively contributed to my running, is best summarized by drawing connections between the following quotes:
What does an actress like Mary Lou Cook and an athlete like Michael Jordan have in common? They used creativity to try new things without fear of failure, and make mistakes while learning from them; until eventually they succeeded.
Social media fosters an environment for comparison. Although some people make valiant efforts to show the negative moments in life alongside the positives; for the most part, these platforms construct a highlight reel.
To provide context on how this affects an athlete, scroll through your own social media feed and consider the amount of times that you make a comparison to someone else’s life. Now imagine the same situation, but for a very competitive athlete/person [this may be you] that follows many other highly competitive athletes/people, all posting their fastest workouts, stellar races, strong muscles, and so on. It creates an environment that amplifies these ingrained competitive instincts; which personally, translated to overtraining. If a professional runner (male or female) had just posted a fast workout or their pace per kilometre/mile on a recovery run, this often resulted in me attempting to do the same or having it linger in my mind throughout the workout.
After reading the book, Bowerman and the Men of Oregon by Kenny Moore, I began to understand how this comparison was really just hurting my performance. The book tells the story of Bill Bowerman, one of the most influential running coaches of all time; demonstrating some of the key lessons that he equipped his runners with including the author and two-time Olympian, Kenny Moore. One of the lessons that stuck with me was the importance of creating training programs based on individual differences. In other words, it’s not the need for comparison that makes an athlete great, but the realization that each athlete is unique and should be treated as such.
Over the last month after logging off social media I have felt much more relaxed in training, by focusing on running to how my body feels on a certain day and what coach has planned, instead of comparing to what other athletes are doing. It’s a method of training that’s lead to greater peace of mind.
Lastly, it probably is not new information to you that sleep is a very important factor in training at a high level. Not only is it important for feeling better, but also, for reducing and avoiding injuries.
The combination of not being on social media and shutting off my phone at 8:00 pm (at the latest) every night, has had a profound impact on the quality of my sleep and therefore the quality of my training.
Hopefully these 5 findings show you the positive things that can happen when you spend time off of social media! I have yet to decide how or if I will use my personal Instagram (and other social media) accounts when my 100 day break ends at the start of the new year; all I can say is that my perception has changed.
If you are a runner or someone that has also logged off social media and realized positive impacts because of it, please share your story in the comments!