This is Week 4 of 4 in Sophia Breene’s #socialmediafast experiment. Read Week 3 to see how socializing makes social media-free weeks fly by, Week 2 to learn why she deactivated Facebook, Week 1 to discover the unexpected benefits of social media, and Week 0 to understand why she decided to give up social media in the first place.
November 4 was a momentous day that will live on in history (for at least a week). After a month-long social media break during which I abstained from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, I finally rejoined the 21st century on a fateful November morning.
Did going 31 days sans social media change my life? Am I going to swear off all social media forever (or move to a tech-free monastery)? Read on to find out how the social media fast both positively and negatively affected my relationships with friends and family, my work, and, above all, myself.
Life Without Social Media: What Changed and Why It Mattered
Let’s begin with friends and family. Life without Facebook (minus one tiny slip-up) meant that I couldn’t rely on photos, status updates, and messages to stay in touch with loved ones. For better and sometimes for worse, when I wanted to get in touch with people I had to actually pick up the phone, send a text, employ a carrier pigeon — you get the idea.
This was mostly great. I had more conversations with far-away friends during the month of October than the previous few months combined. Plus, choosing not to access sites like Facebook and Instagram largely eradicated FOMO from my life. If people were hanging out without me, I had no clue, and that freed up a whole lot of energy for me to care about other things.
Paradoxically (but perhaps not surprisingly), the lack of constant contact was also the main drawback to my social media fast. My trusty friends filled me in on upcoming events, but I usually found out right beforehand (as in “Oh, you didn’t know about James’ party? It’s tonight — you should come with us!”), so I missed out on the anticipation and planning phases of fun events. Finding out about social events at the last minute was sometimes a bummer, like when I’d already made other plans or was too tired to go out. But most of the time the eleventh-hour plans made me feel surprisingly spontaneous, which is not a trait I’d normally attribute to myself.
At work, I was awed and a little bit retroactively ashamed to find out how my productivity soared without social media breaks every hour. I was a one-woman writing and editing machine, I tell you! On the other hand, I had no clue what was “trending” or “going viral” on the Internet, which had the power to complicate my ability to do my job. I’ve been woefully behind on trends for the past 31 days, which just goes to show how social media spreads fads and current events like wildfire.
Me, Myself, and I
Photo: Melissa Hickey
Despite all these noteworthy observations, the most important (and largest) change that happened due to the social media fast involved my relationship to myself.
Deactivating my social media accounts meant that most of the time, I was living more or less without external influences (aside from day-to-day interactions with coworkers and strangers in public). During October, I did a lot more good old-fashioned thinking than had been typical for me during the peak of my social media use. Instead of flicking through my Instagram feed while waiting for the bus (or in line at the grocery store, or on the subway platform… living in NYC involves lots of waiting), I made plans about the future, ran through my schedule for the week, and spent an awful lot of time just daydreaming.
This was amazing. It allowed me to really get in touch with my inner dialogue (forgive me if that sounds a little too hippie-dippie). As the month progressed, I noticed that I felt less and less worried about what other people were doing and paid more attention to my own needs, thoughts, dreams, desires, and musings. My opinions, from where to go to brunch to which winter hat to buy, were based upon my own conclusions — and not the number of “likes,” shares, or comments one option or another received on Facebook or Twitter. Life without social media let me re-learn to trust my own gut and ability to make independent decisions.
The Fast is Over — Now What?
I’ve learned that I enjoy and sometimes need social media as an informational hub. Facebook and Twitter make staying in touch with friends in different time zones, finding out about social events, connecting with Greatist readers, and reading the latest headlines much easier. On the other hand, Pinterest and Instagram take up a lot of time and mental energy, but usually just leave me unhappy with my own (comparatively) lame social life, interior decorating skills, and cooking prowess.
With these observations in mind, I’ve decided to reactivate Twitter and Facebook (but delete the app from my phone) and permanently delete my Pinterest and Instagram accounts. Since rejoining the digital world, I’ve pledged to keep my social media use corralled to one or two views per day — anything past that and it’s time to check myself (aka go on a social media mini-fast) before I wreck myself.
After making it through one month on social media lockdown, I’m not scared of the consequences of going without. I value daydreaming, long phone calls, and productivity too much to let social media take over my life again.
Would you ever embark on your own social media fast? Share your story in the comments or get in touch with the author on Twitter @SophBreene.