It's written on the wall... just not the Facebook wall.
It was the day before Christmas Eve, I knew I'd be away for a few days and thought it would be a good time for a bit of a break from social media. I proceeded to delete the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram apps from my iPhone, and ensured I was logged out of all social media pages on my computer. I thought I'd last a week, it turns out that I've lasted one month now and to be honest I'm not sure that I want to return to the world of selfies, re-tweets and likes.
I feel like a reformed smoker whenever someone asks me how I'm fairing without social media, some ask in tone of desperation “Oh, how are you coping?” or “When will you be back?”, others, having had a similar experience to my detox, nod and smile knowingly.
So why did I feel like I needed a detox and what did I discover about myself?
For a while now (maybe 6 months), I've felt less and less of a need to post to social media. Every time I checked my iPhone or logged into my computer, there was a Facebook or Twitter feed vying for my attention, “Read me… READ ME!”; so I'd read my friends posts; commented, liked, retweeted, replied etc. But as each day passed, I felt like I was participating less and less with these “friends” of mine, and time on social media felt more and more demanding.
Little did I realise just how much time this dutiful addiction to social media was taking up in my day to day life, I didn't even realise that I was checking social media every chance I had, especially on my iPhone, just in case I was missing out on something important. In reality, I wasn't missing anything important.
About two weeks into my detox, I came to the realization that we no longer really communicate with our friends, messages are no longer personalised our online communication, we BROADCAST our life online and if it is overlooked or not liked or replied to, we see that as disinterest from the parties involved. I was spending so much time keeping up with the Facebook-Twitter-Instagram-dashians than I wasn't giving myself time to make a life of my own.
In my third week of detox I attempted to calculate just how many hours per day I had added back into my life by not using social media, it was around 3 hours per day. That’s three hours I could catch up with a friend in real life, or read several chapters in a book, take photographs, paint, draw and talk to my housemates etc. That’s 21 hours a week and 210 hours per month. I was spending close to 9 days a month on social media. That’s definitely not living life.
I'm not saying everyone spends this amount of time on social media, but I really didn't think I did either, until I stopped and reflected. Did I really need to see 5 different friend’s photos of their Christmas trees? Did I need to hear about your new car? Or your football injury? Was my life being enriched by your drunk duckface pose photos? The answer is no.
Honestly, my life hasn't felt empty in the slightest since I went ‘offline’, I've probably seen more of my friends face-to-face than I had in months, and those friends who did want to know how I was emailed, or texted, or called. Was any less happening in my life because it wasn’t being broadcast online? No.
I now know that you cannot live your life online, at the whim of other people’s judgments while being bombarded with the broadcast of the news feed hive collective. My iPhone battery now lasts all day, since I'm not checking social media every chance I get, I've discovered just how much I can fit into my day when I’m not burying my head in a constant stream of other people’s views, insights and options.
For someone who has been on Facebook since 2008 and Twitter not long after, I really never thought it would want to quit social media. So, I'm not quitting, but once I'm back "online" I will most definitely be scaling back my access to social media, thinning my friends lists and participating in the online community on a more professional, less personal level.
Although I am ready to emerge from the cave of the summer of my social media discontent, I have to set myself boundaries and see if I keep a clear head about the effect of it on my life. And remember, I am always just an email, text or call away.
I'd really like to hear your thoughts on social media and the role it plays in your life. Have you ever gone ‘offline’ or abstained from social media?