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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
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:
- I’ve deleted all social media apps from my phone
What I learned 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
Have 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.
Well, my one week Social Media fast is over and I really enjoyed what I’ve experienced as a result.
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.
If 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.