I decided to pull the plug, to disengage, to go dormant. For one week, I was disconnected from social media. Being off of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for days was unnerving, to say the least. I instantly felt like I was missing out on something. World news? Personal updates from my friends? Provocative images that made me happy or upset in seconds?
In some ways, social media is like a Friday night house party happening down the block.
To go or not to go?
I already know whose going to be there. I already know what’s going to happen. A few birthdays. A few anniversaries. Everyone looking their best. Selfies. Shared photos from recent vacations and celebrations. Plenty of lurkers observing. Plenty of spectators commenting.
I go. Who knows, maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised. I exit the living room, leaving the noise and crowds behind. I wander into rooms, some public and some private. Stumbling into a few, I see that this is where new connections are made as people with common interests rub shoulders. Like books? There’s a group for that. Like that new TV show on Tuesday nights? There’s a group for that too.
I’ve made some useful connections with people on social media that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I’ve discovered book bloggers on Instagram that have happily read and reviewed my books. I’ve made friends with other stay-at-home-writer-moms on Twitter. I’m able to talk to them about the joys and frustrations of being both a writer and a mom. On Facebook, I’ve joined forces with other fantasy writers to cross promote our representative and inclusive fantasy novels. For these reasons and more, I see the good.
However, I also see the bad. The thoughtless posts. The insensitive comments. The polarizing debates. The vapid photos. The groups that support small-mindedness. The trolls ready and willing to poke fun and tear down others. And worst is … the feeling you are yelling into a vast, soulless void when no one responses to your posts, photos, or comments. Am I invisible?
5 ways to let social media become an uncontrollable mess:
- Downloading all of the social media apps on your phone.
- Posting the same content on all of your accounts.
- Oversharing regularly with updates about your private health information, over exposing tragic life events, checking in everywhere you go in real-time, and revealing personal trivia by completing a “25 things you never asked me about myself” post.
- Joining a ridiculous amount of Facebook groups.
- Accepting every friend request and following back all those that follow you.
My week without social media was relaxing and enjoyable.
I’ll admit that because of my writing business, I checked my accounts each night for a total of 10 minutes. I was able to address any pertinent issues and overdue requests without creating new posts, sharing photos, liking or commenting on my newsfeed. I was in and out of each account using my phone without scrolling down or browsing around.
Without social media, I remembered that I can call family and friends whenever I want. If I truly want to know how someone is doing, I should call and ask them.
I remembered that it is equally or more satisfying to share photos with people I care about via text messages. Friends and family are more likely to respond to a photo I share, and I don’t have to worry about the 300 or more strangers that now have access to my images.
I rediscovered that I can and should go directly to my trusted sources for news, and more information about the current events I care about. No more reading headlines or listening to soundbites only, and then making judgments with little or no context.
Perhaps the most important thing I realized is that I have a little more time during my day when I’m not stealing time away from my tasks and the people around me to plug into the internet and get lost on social media.
Top 5 ways to reign in the power of social media:
- Periodically go through your list of friends and followers and detach from people that you absolutely do not know, dislike, do not support or never plan to do business with in the future.
- Adjust the notifications on your social media apps to limit the amount of daily or hourly distractions you receive from your phone.
- Modify or turn off the notifications from the numerous Facebook groups you belong to, ensuring that your newsfeed has room for the content from your family and friends.
- Remember that everyone self-edits because they’re trying to put their best foot forward on social media. Photos go through filters, and most posts omit the boring and the ugly. While most people are not lying about their lives, it’s important to remember that we are seeing glimpses of moments they choose to share for a reason.
- Lastly, remember that social media is a reflection of what is happening all around us every day in real life. Live your life with purpose. Try to accomplish something (big or small) each day. Enjoy your meals without the distraction of television or your smartphone. Talk to people. Take breaks from social media, and consider unplugging from the internet for a couple of hours each day or for one day each week.
Experience life in the moment, appreciating it at that time, without giving in to the need to document and share it for all the world to consume.
A week unplugged from social media proved to me that I don’t need an “online presence” as much as I thought I did to feel liked, admired, important, and not alone. Cheers to putting value back into real life, nature, privacy and gratitude. Will I stop using social media completed? No at this time, because I have an author business to grow and promote. Will I use social media differently? Absolutely! Less is more. 😉
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