When I made the decision to unplug from all social media for 31 days, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel.
Would I get more done without the ability to check Twitter and Facebook several times a day? Would I feel lonely without the thousands of online connections and ways social media enables me to easily communicate with friends? Would I go crazy? Would I want to quit the internet entirely?
I just knew that I was in over my head and needed to press the RESET button on my time online.
I decided to treat it more as a Social Media Cleanse. Sort of like those juice diets but a whole lot less juice and a whole lot more hanging outside with my family.
What struck me on the first day was how quiet my mind felt. With no Twitter or Facebook, I didn’t have a constant stream of people’s chattering running through my brain. I also noticed how I, too, narrated my day to myself in brief snippets (in the form of a tweet or status update). Instead of participating in my day, I found myself sharing my day with others in my head. Twitter has reprogrammed my brain, you guys. And that? Scared me.
The biggest benefit during my time away from social media was how it made me a better parent. After a week or two, I noticed that no social media meant I wasn’t comparing myself (or Gabe or Mike) to others (or their children or their spouse). There was also a freedom and joy of going out and not documenting everything to share. Just being present, truly, with Gabe outside – not tweeting or checking tweets or staying connected. In fact, we spent nearly half of Gabe’s awake time outside each day. I didn’t feel compelled to tweet about how freaking wonderful my day was; I just lived it.
There were other benefits, too. I hung out with friends and family more often, took time to focus on the direction and development of my business (!), and didn’t spend as much time trolling around online.
I started forming complete thoughts again. I used to think something and tweet it. Without access to sharing every witty, insightful (ranty, whiny) passing thought on the internet, I found myself processing more. Instead of think –> tweet, it was more think –> think some more –> think even more –> come to conclusion. I didn’t get all ADD on my thought process and start clicking around on Twitter to see who was getting into an argument about breastfeeding now.
My friend emailed to ask if I was getting more done. “Nope. Gabe still exists,” I joked.
And it’s true. Stepping away from the internet for a month didn’t solve all my problems. I didn’t fill my time with more exercise or reading or deep cleaning my home.
What it did do was help me to rethink my time online, why I do this, and how I can do this in a way that fills me with joy and not rage (“Gah! You are SO WRONG, Internet Stranger!”) or guilt over declining my husband’s requests to watch a movie in favor of reading some random girl’s birth story on the internet (The internet is my version of “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.”).
There is certainly a lot (A LOT) of good that has come from my use of social media (like YOU) and I won’t be quitting any time soon. I found that I missed the people on Twitter, the super supportive and lovely community here on this blog, and…not that much about Facebook, surprisingly.
Most of all, I realized that missing out is okay. So what if I don’t know everything that is happening all the time to all of the friends in my Twitter and Facebook streams? So what if I don’t have time to read all the blogs I used to before becoming a mother? Being everywhere isn’t as helpful or fulfilling as being there for the people I care about most in the world.
While I was thinking about this, I found an article on The Fear of Missing Out that resounded with me so strongly I was nodding like a madwoman at my desk. The article discusses the way in which social media instills this fear of missing out; of constantly needing to check in with the internet, even when we’re with friends or family.
“They interrupt a face-to-face conversation to make sure whatever’s going on elsewhere isn’t better. I wonder how this is a good way to promote future, strong social connections?” - Fear of Missing Out
RIGHT?! How often has this happened to you? How often have you been this person? This is why I cannot have a smartphone, people. I am bad enough already.
I wish I could tie up this experience neatly with some pretty words about how I’ll be more present and less crazy-internet-addict (I hope!), but I’m still processing what it meant to me. Mostly, it was a sort of awesome time of disconnection that I’ll probably do again next year; an internet reset, if you will.
Have you ever done a social media break? Or are you not a social media addict like myself? Also, how the heck are you?! It’s been a month!