What I Learned From My Social Media Fast And What’s Next

August 18, 2014

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I wrote a letter to Social Media last week declaring that I needed a break from our relationship.

That was the beginning of my week long Social Media fast.

Today, I want to share with you what I learned this week about myself, and about where I want my relationship with Social Media to go.

But first, I need to clear up a few things.

What I REALLY think about Social Media

08_18_Social_Media_Fast_PinterestAfter reading a few of the comments on last weeks article, it seems that a few of you thought that I feel that Social Media is a bad thing.

In my opinion, that’s like saying that knives are bad because they have killed so many people all over the world. Well, knives don’t kill people. People kill people.

In the same way, I don’t believe that Social Media makes us anti-social, nor is it responsible for us becoming our own idols (and by us, I don’t mean all of us). I don’t think that it’s what’s wrong with society today.

Secondly, if you’re using Social Media heavily, I don’t think you’re necessarily doing something wrong. I’m no one to judge on that. You may be, or you may not be. I’ll let you decide.

Thirdly, I think that Social Media is probably one of the most amazing things ever invented. When used correctly, it has the ability to enable regular people (like you and I) to impact the world in positive ways on a large scale and to really connect with others.

I believe that Social Media gives US the ability to change the world, and that if we choose to use it the right way, we can do amazing things.

Lastly, I do stand firm by my statement that I do believe that the big guys (who control these Social Media platforms) don’t always have our best interests in mind.

In many cases, it’s definitely more about how can they make as much money as possible from their businesses, regardless of how it affects the little guy (but that’s a whole different topic for a different blog written by a different person) 😉

What I actually did

So you may be wondering exactly what my fast consisted of. Here’s what I did: [unordered_list style=”tick”]

  • I have not been on a social media site for the last week (unless you consider my blog to be a social media site).
  • I used the Self Control App (only available on Mac) to block access to these sites on my computer. There was literally nothing I could do to get on one of these sites on my computer. This is what Facebook looked like to me this week:Facebook_Screen
  • I’ve deleted all social media apps from my phone

What I learned about myself

Facebook interactionThis was the interesting part. I really did learn a few interesting things about myself.

1. Facebook was my default

This was one of the weirdest things I realized that I never realized before. Whenever I go to open a new tab in my browser, my left index finger always hits the “f” key on my keyboard, followed by my pinky finger hitting “enter”. Because Facebook is always in my browser history the combination of these two keystrokes automatically takes me to Facebook.

It doesn’t matter what I’m opening the tab for. It could be to go and do a Google search. First, I automatically go to the Facebook homepage to take a quick (or long) peek, and then I move on to the task at hand, and as you can imagine, that ends up wasting a lot of time.

2. Everything was a Social Media moment

Whenever I did something that seemed mildly interesting, I was ALWAYS thinking about how to show that on social media.

If my son did something cool, I would pull out the camera and often get disappointed that he wouldn’t do it again so that I can make that “perfect” video of him being awesome.

If I heard an awesome quote, I would think to myself – man, that’s tweetable.

Even when I would go to the park in the mornings and have my devotions, I had to bring the world into my private moment with God by making an inspirational video to bring my “friends” into that moment.

3. My brain is a very noisy place to live

Brain EEGHave you ever tried to sit down quietly and just meditate? I’ve tried it a whole lot. However, because I live my life in a constantly interrupted state (much of which has to do with Social Media), my brain is constantly interrupted.

It goes in a bunch of directions even when I try to slow it down. It makes it hard to focus unless I’m very engaged in a particular task.

4. I have the “It’s not you, it’s me” disease

Have you ever had someone break up with you and use that line? It never feels good, does it? However, if the person saying that REALLY means it, it can often be harder for them than for the person they are saying it to.

Well, that’s what I realized about Social Media. It wasn’t the problem. I was the problem. Yes, I stopped using Social Media, but that didn’t eliminate the distractions. Instead of constantly jumping to social media sites, I found myself jumping to email, checking to see if anyone sent me anything in the last few minutes.

I eventually ended up removing my email app from my home screen on my phone in the middle of the week and forcing myself to not check email as often.

5. Technology can be very helpful, because I’m a weak punk!

Even though I made the decision to stay away from Social Media, without using some of the tools out there, I’m not sure how successful I would’ve been.

So, I decided that until I’ve strengthened some of my punk muscles, I shall continue using tools. Here’s a great article I found that gives 10 tools for better attention and focus, some of which I will be testing out and writing about in the future.

6. Despite my issues, Social Media is very useful for me

Now that I’ve left my job as a University Professor, I’m a full time blogger/entrepreneur who usually works from home. That means no more interacting with students on a daily basis. No more co-workers that I see in person. However, I’ve connected with so many awesome people online and that gives me a little bit of that interaction.

It’s great to be able to check in on your friends. It’s great to be able to connect with people, even if it’s only virtual. Social Media is very useful for this, if you do it right. And yes – I did miss connecting with my friends on Facebook.

The Result

Well, my one week Social Media fast is over and I really enjoyed what I’ve experienced as a result.

family dinnerThe time I spent with my family was more meaningful because there were fewer distractions (no, I didn’t say no distractions – I’m not quite there yet).

My mind feels a bit clearer. I went to the park this morning and spent quiet time just reflecting and looking out over the lake and was absolutely NOT thinking about what was going on in the world of the interwebs.

I went to church and realized at the end of the service that I hadn’t taken out my phone once besides when it was relevant to the sermon (and yes, that’s VERY strange for me).

My family and I had lunch with a coworker and her husband (and their two cute little doggies) and not once did I feel the need to document it for the world to see or to check in on what you were saying on Facebook. Nope, we were just living in the moment and enjoying the company of friends.

All in all, I got a glimpse of what life used to be like before all of the distractions that are so natural today, and I loved it.

So what next?

This is the important part. I’ve fasted from Social Media before, only to return with a vengeance to what life was like before if not worse. This time has to be different. I think that having a son is really making me think about the example I want to be for him.

Now, it’s obvious that my business, to a large extent, is dependent on Social Media. It’s also obvious to me that I LOVE Social Media.

SocialMediaIf I am to move forward and be effective, I need to actually have a well thought out Social Media strategy – one where I can actively engage with my online community, connect with friends and family, and continue to build my business.

However, I need to be in full control of that strategy. The truth is that I don’t completely know what that strategy will look like when it’s all said and done, but I do know where I will begin.

First, I will begin by choosing ONE Social Media site. For me, the site that I’ve had the most success with is Facebook.

Over the next week, I will start back using Facebook, but will be limiting its use to 30 minutes per day – 15 in the morning and 15 in the evening.

In those 30 minutes, I will be trying my best to engage with my community, while testing out different strategies to see how I can most efficiently use my time. Once I’ve developed a well thought out strategy, I will determine where to go from there.

To Facilitate this, I will be using the StayFocused chrome extension that will only allow me to spend the amount of time I specify on whatever site I choose (which in this case will be 30 minutes on Facebook). I will use the Self Control App to block all other Social Media sites.

My mobile device will continue to be free of Facebook and every other Social Media app at least for now.

Yes, it might seem kinda lame that I’m using apps and strategies to help me, but hey – that’s just the kinda person I am. Sue me 😉

My hope is that by next week, I can share my 30 minute Facebook strategy with you.

Join the discussion

What are some of the things you’ve done to be in control of your Social Media Activities? Do you think I’m being a bit extreme? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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  • Rebecca Livermore says:

    Leslie, thanks for the update on this. I’m glad to see how far you’ve come!

    Balance is probably one of the hardest things to master in any area of life, including social media. For me, having a checklist of things to do for the day helps keep me focused on the most important things. I still get sidetracked sometimes, but if I have a list of things that I really need to do in order to consider the day to be a success, then I’m less likely to be distracted by email, social, etc.

    • That’s a great one Rebecca. I’m going to use that idea as I develop my strategy. I haven’t really done that for Social Media before, and I think that will definitely help to keep me more focused 🙂

  • Robert says:

    Go Leslie,
    Be strong my friend-
    You can face down any FaceBook
    Beat that Tweet!!!

  • Ruthmarie says:

    Social media has its place in the scheme of things. I too have found it distracting. I thought initially it was the fact that I was dyslexic. But the other problem seems to a sign of the times. The fact that it becomes “all about me”. Marketing and most importantly “push marketing is out of control right now. It seems to crappify (sorry) everything out there sooner or later. The social media thing is a symptom of a bigger problem.

    To be honest, in the US this may get worse. The end of net neutrality (if it happens) could have a devastating impact on the accessibility of our blogs. We may end up being more dependent than ever on social media and other large platforms to get the word out. I don’t trust these telecom companies as far as I can throw them to “play fair”.

  • Mitch Wilson says:

    The reality of it is these things come and go no matter how big or small, they all leave and hardly leave a trace that they were here in the first place. those who don’t believe this haven’t been on the Internet long enough to know. Prodigy, Compuserve, AOL, MySpace, Technorati, Digg, StumbleUpon, and many others..all were POWERHOUSES, with Gigantic addicted audiences. If social media is more than 2% of your business or how you spend your time, you have a 98% chance at failing.

    • I don’t think that’s a fair statement Mitch. Quite frankly, most businesses fail regardless of whether you spend time on Social media or not. However, there are many successful businesses who spend significantly more than 2% of their time on Social Media. Social Media is one way to get traffic. You get your traffic elsewhere, and that works for you (obviously). However, that’s not the only way.

  • Lynn says:

    Good gracious, it sounds like you had quite a bit of feedback about wanting to take a break from social media. I think you made the point very clear with this: “Well, knives don’t kill people. People kill people.” If we’re being honest about the tools that are social media platforms, then we can all agree that the people who interact on them can make the environment a pleasant, world changing experience or the kind of experience that makes us want to block our newsfeed and only participate in private groups. Either way, just like people need vacations in real life to find their center to regroup I think it a good thing that you took the time to regain focus so that you could come back and show us new ways to approach how we interact with one another in this common space. (See, I commented of Facebook ha!)

  • Ntathu Allen says:

    What a week uh Leslie! Well done. It is too easy to follow the herd and spend 24/7 in capture/update/share mode. Congratulations for taking time to pause and see how you wish to be in the social media world. Insightful post. Thanks for sharing.

  • Annamarie says:

    Hi Lesley,
    I don’t think you are extreme at all, even though I do not have a website set up and going, no blogging etiher, I do not alow myself to do more than half an hour aday , first thing in the morning while reading through my mail.
    🙂 <3 A.

  • Leslie, the Nielson ratings company recently released a report, “March 2014 Cross-Platform Report” where they stated that the average American watches 5 hours of TV per day. During my over 40-yr. career in senior management at ABC-TV I was well plugged into the Research Department numbers and back in the 70’s, 80’s 90’s it hovered around 7-8 hours per day. Why the drop? The University of Southern California Marshall School of Business released a report in 2013 predicting that by 2015 media consumption, that’s everything TV, computer, gaming, smartphone, etc. will be at 15.5 hours per day. WOWIE ZOWIE. When will we all have time to sleep, eat, love, interact with real humans? I see that encroachment in my own life so I understand completely what you are talking about. I have cut way back on everything doing it cold turkey, no app aids. I just flipped the switch inside my head. Not easy but for my personal well-being and for my career now as a writer it is essential I cut back. I don’t check to see what my “friends” had for breakfast or watch another cute kitten video on YouTube. I want my life and time back. I understand, Leslie, I really do. Heaven help us all if there is an EMP attack that wipes out the electrical grid for years. We’ll all be lost, or found depending how you look at it. So, I think you are on to something here. I am happy for you. I am happy for me. For everyone else, it may be easier than you think. Just throw the switch inside your head. I will listen to your podcasts and read your blogs and maybe even Comment a time or two. But I am sorry “friends” I really don’t care what you had for breakfast, lunch, or dinner (and I really did read that a time or two on my FB and Twitter account.)

    • Only a time or two? I think I see that daily, lol.

      But wow – 15.5 hours doesn’t even sound real to me, but I’m not surprised. If we don’t control it, it will control us. And what they basically want is more of our time.

      Thanks for your comment Frederick. I wish I could go cold turkey like you, but it’s probably a bit more engrained into my lifestyle. Although, I do see how I won’t need the tools pretty soon. It’s a beautiful thing 😉

  • Mary Lahti says:

    Well Leslie, that was an interesting experiment. I had never heard of a Self Control app. It would have to at least have a happy face instead of a frown on my app though (ha). I can remember my husband complaining at the world for not putting their phones down and now, my husband is almost as bad as those he complained about. It really is addictive. I have pretty good self control but even for me, I see my weakness. Two things I did was to 1) stop leaving the social media OPEN in the background when working on something else on my PC so I force myself to logon each time 2) turn off my PC when I went off to do a small chore. And I am probably the minority but I don’t have my cell on all the time so I don’t respond to every notification ding. Yes, I’m the minority. Or, maybe I’m getting old. but balance, as someone else said, is key. Living in New York can sometimes drive you crazy with all of the people surrounding you. You can’t just scroll the wheel on your mouse and have them go away. And yet, experiencing the true live human emotion keeps ya alive. And it’s easier on the eyes. 🙂 Have a great balanced day. Mary

    • Thanks for your input Mary. You’re not strange. I turn my phone off at night, have deleted all my social media apps and turned off notifications for everything except phone calls and text messages. That works for me 🙂

  • Canigan Intl says:

    Thank you for sharing your love and on-line knowledge with us fledglings out here. When you said Good-Bye last week, I was left feeling alittle empty, and regretting that I didn’t express my thanks to you and how inspirational you have been to me all these months! So big thank you! In order for me to balance my life, I needed this process (like you taught me) that on my calendar, I make sure I have all my routine to-do’s like: social media posts, phone calling, networking (face-to-face) events and on-line events which are important for my type of business, plus reading a motivational or study book, worship-time (including quiet meditation time, even meal-preparing, exercise and sleep are all given a percentage of the week, blocked out times for each task. Prioritizing is important but all of the above can steal HOURS unless you give it an allocation of time spent, it will be harder to accomplish what you desire for your end goal AND be a balanced & happy person. Just a reminder for self-discipline. Blessings.

  • Nope! you’re not being extreme at all!! I’m right behind ya on this one!! Limiting FB use is LIBERTY!!! 😀

  • Tom Miller says:

    i am not a FB fan, but I use it on a regular basis at work. This FB obssesion is really bad for people, but good for business. Don’t you think?

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