This is Week 3 of Sophia Breene’s #socialmediafast experiment. Catch up on Week 2 to learn why she deactivated Facebook, read Week 1 to find out the unexpected benefits of social media, and check out Week 0 to understand why she decided to give up social media in the first place. Want to skip to the end? Check out Week 4 to find out her final conclusions.

Photo: ncaranti

The benefits of “out of sight, out of mind” seem to be kicking in, at long last. Last week (the second week of the #socialmediafast), I experienced some difficulty staying away from Facebook and ended up deactivating my account. This week, though, Facebook (and its tempting friends Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest) was far from my horizons. Real interactions, real conversations, and real old-fashioned hanging out cleared my head and refreshed my resolve.

“Liking” Friends the Old-Fashioned Way

I imagine my parents (or anyone who came of age pre-Facebook) laughing at the groundbreaking revelation that spending time with friends in real life is fun. But considering that social media networks make it possible to “catch up” with buddies without actually finding the time to hang out, a few hours of schedule-free goofing off is much more rare than you might think. Although the primary motivation behind this fast was to achieve a bit of internal peace and quiet, my secondary goal was to forge strong connections with family and friends that go past “liking” a photo or commenting on a status update. My third week on the #socialmediafast proved that this smaller objective might be the more important one.

Previously, I’d felt cut off, antisocial, and lonely without my news feed (even though it didn’t provide lasting connections or real social interactions). This week, I put my money where my mouth is and tried to lead the fulfilled life I set out to achieve by passing up social media for one month.

To begin with, I went back to the office. During the first weeks of my social media experiment, Greatist HQ was under renovation, and my coworkers and I worked from home and coffee shops to avoid inhaling pounds of dust and sitting on patches of wet paint. While necessary (side note: HQ 2.0 is absolutely beautiful), the short-lived diaspora meant that there were days when I didn’t see anyone, all day long. Staying at home breeds lethargy, which means that I found myself cancelling evening plans, even though I knew I’d regret the lack of social interaction. It’s no wonder I felt isolated and ended up bingeing on Facebook!

Photo: Auburn Skies

This week, the paint was dry, and everything was more or less in the same place at the office (give or take the aforementioned dust). I decided to test how socializing affects the social media fast by doing the exact opposite of what I did the previous week. Instead of working from home, I arrived at 9 a.m. on the dot and left at 6 p.m. In place of watching episodes of Scandal at night, I saw a favorite blogger read from her new book, went out to dinner with friends often (my wallet was slightly less happy about that), caught a movie in the theater, and passed many hours chatting with close friends at their apartments. Lo and behold, I didn’t even think about Facebook, let alone go hog-wild.

Balancing A Social Life with Necessary DownTime

The challenge (during the rest of the social media fast and after it) will be to find a sustainable way to balance socializing and downtime in the future. As a natural introvert, I need plenty of “me time” to decompress and relax without the company of other humans. This week proved that too much time alone isn’t ideal, either. Hopefully once this challenge is over, I’ll be able to find a more middle-of-the-road approach to socializing (that includes social media and real-life hanging out) that leaves me invigorated but not exhausted.

Lastly, this week I benefited from spending time with “friends” in a less traditional way. My coworker Shana sent me an email with links to a few other articles about social media challenges and breaks from different news sources. I definitely gained some perspective by reading about how other writers and bloggers took a break from social media, as well as the science behind social media. Here are a few links to get started if you’d like to do some light reading:

Personal stories:

On the scientific side:

Got something to say or want to join the #socialmediafast? Share your thoughts in the comments below or Tweet @Greatist. Don’t Tweet @SophBreene ‘cause nobody’s home!