I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I love being able to catch up with my friends and family, especially since I am so far away and don’t get to talk to everyone as often as I would like. I love seeing my friends’ triumphs and celebrations, and sharing in these moments from afar.
But the other day, I was talking to my best friend, who lives in Bulgaria (yes, Bulgaria! There is a 13 hour time difference between us but we still manage to figure out Skype dates!). We talked about how much time we spend on these sites. As much as I love it, it doesn’t make us happier. It doesn’t always make us feel more connected to our friends across the oceans. Sometimes, it makes us feel even further away.
And for me, being 6 hours behind my friends in New York makes it really hard to catch up on all of their posts. I live in Hawaii – I really don’t want to spend hours every day looking at pictures of people’s lunches. But I admit it, it’s a kind of addiction.
We talked about what a solution for this should be. Should we delete our accounts? Well, what if someone wants to contact us? A few months ago, once of Nick’s high school friends contacted me on Facebook so he could invite us to his wedding. Nick never goes on Facebook, so he didn’t see that his friend was trying to contact him. We ended up going to his wedding and having the absolute best time.
We also really do want to virtually “be there” for our friends and family. We don’t want to miss out on these moments, but we don’t want to be slaves to social media either.
In an attempt to figure out the answer, this past weekend, my best friend and I decided to spend 72 hours “detoxing” from social media. An Unplugged Weekend. An experiment, with no goals or expectations in mind, except to see what happened to us without social media. And if we could even do it.
This weekend wasn’t a completely unplugged, I have to admit – more of a social media detox. I did talk to people on the phone and text some friends, but that’s it. I deleted all social media icons from my phone and didn’t really go on the Internet.
Over the weekend I realized how much of a habit it has become for me to just absentmindedly click those icons. I can’t tell you how many times I forgot about our experiment, picked up my phone, and tried to go on Facebook. But I couldn’t.
So instead of logging into Facebook, I downloaded a book to my Kindle App, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Whenever I was out waiting for something or had a free moment, I started reading the book instead of going on Facebook. And already, I am halfway done with it.
I talked to my friends on the phone. I finished reading the last book in the Game of Thrones series – which has taken me so long to read. I sat in our rental car and looked outside while Nick drove along the most beautiful ocean-view highway on the island. I went to the beach and just listened to the sound of the waves. I forgot where I left my phone at one point. I drank a whole bottle of wine with Nick, just talking and looking at the ocean.
I even watched the entire sunset with Nick. As we were eating dinner outside one night, the sky changed from orange to light pink, then to the most beautiful shade of dark pink I’ve ever seen. For a second, I was tempted to run inside and grab my phone to take a picture, even though I knew that it would never do the sunset justice. But instead, I just sat and enjoyed the moment, drinking wine and eating dinner with my husband.
Because not all moments need to be photographed, not everything needs to be shared. Because photographing that moment would have made it somehow less meaningful.
People are constantly sharing photos and statuses, compelled to tell everyone everything they do. I enjoy this too, but I realized that I don’t want to feel like I have to share everything I do online. Is that a weird thing for a blogger to say?!
And on Monday morning, I logged into Facebook for about 5 minutes. Thanks to Facebook’s weird algorithm, the most important stories from the weekend were right on top. I liked a few posts but really wasn’t interested in seeing every single post from the past 72 hours. I logged off to get back to real life.
The most important thing that my Unplugged Weekend did for me was to help me start to break a really bad habit, and helped me realize just how much time I was spending online.
Mu Unplugged Weekend helped me realize that the main reason I have a Facebook account is to keep in touch with my friends and family. But I can do that whether I go online once per day, or constantly update my news feed throughout the day. In fact, I think that if you do stay online all day, you end up getting posts in your news feed that you really don’t care about, because Facebook needs new stuff to show you. Going on less and less, I just look at the top few posts and then log off.
With all things, I think that balance is key. I do not want to delete Facebook, because I do enjoy seeing what my friends have going on in their lives. In fact, I realized today that I can’t delete it, because part of my job volunteering in the PR office at the Humane Society actually requires me to go onto Facebook.
But I realized this weekend how important it is to log off, to enjoy real life and real conversations and to try to actually talk to my friends instead of relying on Facebook to keep me updated. I need to write more letters, send more emails. These are the things that will help me stay connected to my friends on the mainland.
And, by going online less and less, I will have more time to really be present with Nick.
My new plan is to try to log on to all social media sites once per day, to see what’s going on in my friends’ lives, encourage them, and then get back to my own life. I have yet to be successful in that this week – I have logged on a couple of times per day, but for shorter amounts of time. Hey, it’s a work in progress.
I put the apps back on my phone, but in a special Social Media folder kind of hidden away, as a reminder to not just click the apps when I am bored. I have the Kindle app front and center, as a reminder to read instead. I do have 100 books to read before I leave Hawaii, after all.
Try it! 72 hours without social media could be a total refresher!
How do you deal with social media? Have you set any boundaries? I’d love to hear about them, as this is a new work-in-progress for me!