Those who know me know my relationship with social media tends towards the addiction end of the scale. At the very least it wasn’t normal.
It’s not normal to wake up at 4 a.m., go to the bathroom and check your twitter feed before returning to bed. (Or before heading out for an early-morning run.)
It may have been kismet that I read Baratunde Thurston’s piece for Fast Company on leaving the internet for 25 days shortly before my own summer vacation began. This, I thought, is something I should/could do.
I wasn’t ready to give up the internet. I am a news lover, after all.
I did cut off all social media, allowed myself to check my gmail twice a day only, closed down my work email (after telling my bosses they could reach me on my cell or at my gmail account), and relied completely on my mobile browsers on my phone and iPad for news.
My phone became a mobile browser, camera and of course… a phone.
I went through various stages of grief during my break, and noted the following observations:
1. Confirmed: The web is officially now a secondary source of news to me. Relying solely on a browser and apps means I am sometimes hours behind breaking news, whereas twitter would have allowed me to learn about things as they were happening. As a newsphile, this was a tough realization to make. (Old fashioned word-of-mouth was sometimes faster. I didn’t hear about the California news anchor who announced racist names of captains of Asiana flight 214 until days after it happened, during coffee with a friend.)
2. I check my twitter feed in the car more than I realized. Traffic lights now seem to take a lot longer – but of course, they are safer. (Happy to have broken this habit.)
3. While I thought I was more ‘in the loop’, I was missing a lot. For example, my boys love to tell jokes – which aren’t always funny, and don’t always make sense – but their clunky jokes cause them erupt into fits of giggles. This part always makes me laugh.
4. Other people are missing a lot too. While at Canada’s Wonderland (where I left my phone in the car!!), I saw four parents sitting beside their preschoolers with their heads buried in their phones. They were oblivious to their kids’ excitement on the slow moving helicopters that traveled through the KidZone.
5. Leaving social media can make you feel anti-social. I realized I have friends I only contact through Facebook. This sucks when trying to make plans with them. I realized too late I didn’t have an email address for many people, and only message through Facebook.
6. I am guilty of the humblebrag. Facebook is as much about validation as it is sharing information. I clocked a great morning run with a fantastic time on my mobile app. A bit of a letdown at when I realized I couldn’t share it. But sometimes a good run is just a good run.
7. Facebook can be a despondent, dumped lover. In the 14 days I had broken off our relationship, Facebook sent me four emails to alert me to more than 100 missing notifications. It wreaked of desperation. “Facebook doesn’t want me to move on,” I noted.
8. I missed having an outlet for a good snarky comment. Though let’s be honest, I don’t need to comment on MP Peter MacKay’s selfie at cabinet swearing in. We’re all thinking it. (And I made a snarky comment to my husband)
9. My social media use has changed the way my kids see the world. About a week after my social media break up, my boys stopped saying ‘put it on Facebook’ after I took their photo. I saw this as a plus.
10. Eventually, acceptance was achieved. Eleven days after leaving social media, I noted: “My phone is quiet. No bulletins. And that’s okay.” Of course, I was about to go sit on the dock.
I’m happy to be back on social platforms, but I’m more aware of how I use it also. I’m not going to miss out on what’s around me while trying to stay in touch with things that are going on around me.
And I will no longer check my twitterfeed at traffic lights.
Note: I also attempted to give up chocolate during this time period. This was just too much, and I crumbled after three days. A tougher addiction to break, I suppose.