The Social Media Fast: Why I'm Going 30 Days Without Checking In
This is Week 0 of Sophia Breene’s #socialmediafast experiment. Want to see how it went? Read Week 1 to discover the unexpected benefits of social media, check out Week 2 to learn why she deactivated Facebook, skim through Week 3 to see how socializing makes social media-free weeks fly by, and find out the final conclusions in Week 4.
Ring…. ring… ring… the electronic chimes peal softly, slowly pulling me out of a dream in which I’m just reaching the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. Sigh. Another day begins.
Because my iPhone doubles as an alarm clock, switching off the alarm leaves me in a great position for some morning social media lovin’. Before hopping out of bed, I take a few minutes (OK, 10) to flick through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, checking in on acquaintances’ lives (kids I went to high school with getting married, what!), acquiring a hefty portion of FOMO, and starting my day with some quality bonding time with my phone.
You’d think that as a health, fitness, and happiness writer, I would know better. I’ve read countless influential op-eds, watched powerful videos, and heck, even written articles about why we should all unplug. Clearly, I’m the worst hypocrite in the entire world. Or maybe I’m just another millennial trying to stay connected with far-flung friends and paying the price.
But no matter how good the reasons for this hyperconnectivity, something’s gotta give. Some research found that users between the ages of 18 and 34 spend an average 3.8 hours a day (!) trolling social networking sites. While my habits might not be quite up to par, I’m still losing a lot of livable hours to the internet.
In light of the unplugging trend, the editorial team at Greatist came up with a challenge: What if a staffer went cold turkey on all social media platforms for a whole month? It would be like Derek’s #absperiment, but with much fewer Tweets (and photoshoots). Since I was already looking to curtail my out-of-control social media habit, I jumped at the chance. Would I feel more fulfilled without Facebook? Less twitchy without Twitter? More introspective without Instagram?
I'm spending a month without social media. Here are the ground rules:
- Start date is October 8, end date is November 8.
- No logging into, checking, or posting to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest (since those are the sites I actually use).
- Discussing social media is allowed (since I work in online media, it's a bit of a necessity).
- Texting and email are allowed.
So what will I do with 20 extra hours in the day, you wonder?
For starters, I want to focus on creating more meaningful connections with friends and family. As a recent(ish) college graduate, I have close friends all over the country whom I rarely talk to. Instead of cyber-stalking them, I want to pick up the phone, pen letters, and get together with buddies in my area.
I’m also curious to see if avoiding social media will influence my relationship with my “inner self” (bear with me). NYC can be a crowded place — emotionally, mentally, physically — and a lil’ peace and quiet on the home front might help me recharge and reconnect with my own thoughts and feelings.
Once I’ve achieved all those goals, I’ll use the leftover extra time to learn Swahili, or something.
PLUGGED IN? MORE LIKE STRESSED OUT
Research suggests I’m doing myself a favor by taking some time away from technology. Ignoring a beeping cell phone, signing out of Facebook, or switching a smartphone to “do not disturb” have legitimate health benefits, such as allowing the brain to recharge, rest, and form new memories.
Even though social networks are designed to help people connect with one another, logging on can actually make us feel worse about ourselves. When confronted with others’ seemingly perfect lives, we can become frustrated, angry, lonely, anxious, or just plain jealous. While I don’t consider myself a Mopey Mabel, I’ve definitely experienced some of social media’s adverse effects (like FOMO and just feeling bummed about my own life and circumstances) after an Instagram binge.
As the stat I cited in the intro (millenials are spending an average of 3.8 hours a day on social media!) suggests, I’m not the only one whose social media presence has gotten a teeny tiny bit out of control. A recent report from the Pew Research Center shows that 72 percent of adults who use the Internet have at least one social networking profile. Millenials like me are carrying the team — 89 percent of Internet users ages 18 to 29 use sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
MY SOCIAL MEDIA HABITS: THE BAD AND THE UGLY
Before embarking on this fast, I spent a few weeks tracking my existing social media habits. Here’s what I figured out:
Lost in the Interwebs
While I don’t clock multiple hours each day on social media sites, checking them is still a considerable part of my day. I spend about five minutes per hour on one or another social media site. It doesn’t sound like much, but that five minutes can easily become 10 (… or 20) if I get sucked into photo-stalking my middle school lacrosse teammate or click on an especially profound Buzzfeed article. Added up, it’s about 1.5 hours per day on average. Yikes!
Life of the Party?
Most of the time, checking social media doesn’t make me feel so great, especially when I stay in on weekend nights. It’s FOMO central, people! Is everyone having the best life ever? Why don’t I live in rural coastal Oregon? Why don’t I have a kitten? Why???
I’m by far the most attached to Instagram. My friends, family, and I use it religiously (at least 2-3 posts per week), to the point where “Who’s gonna do the Insta?” is a recurring and slightly sickening joke at social events.
Since posting articles to social media sites and keeping current with the Internet is part of my job, I often feel justified for spending tons of time on these sites. News flash: I shouldn’t! Procrastination is still procrastination.
Checking social media sites is the first thing I do in the morning and the last thing I do at night. It’s like some kind of unsatisfying, technological long-distance boyfriend. Ick.
Over the past year (since graduating college, starting work at Greatist, and moving to New York City), I’ve noticed that my social media usage has grown exponentially. And when I can’t (or don’t want to) check my phone, I get an unpleasant nagging feeling, like when I skip dessert. This is getting ugly, people.
LOOKING FORWARD (AND NOT AT MY PHONE’S SCREEN)
I’m pretty curious about this month. Will I gain perspective, learn some new hobbies, and connect better with my friends and family? Or will I turn into an antisocial weirdo who has no idea what Miley Cyrus is up to? Check back every week to see what I learn on my #socialmediafast.
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