I took a week off social media. This is what I learned.
I quit cold turkey. I deleted all the social media apps off my phone, blocked the URLs in my host file and generally avoided thinking about or checking status updates. I limited social interaction to phone calls, texting, email and, of course, real-life encounters.
Not surprisingly, it was beneficial. Three particular things stood out: I had more productive days, more cohesive thinking and more real-life connections.
More Productive Days
One of the most surprising things about the fast was just how habitual Facebook had become to me. The first day, before I blocked the URLs on my computer, at least ten times, I opened a new browser tab, typed in facebook.com and hit enter. It was shockingly involuntary, and it’s what prompted me to block all social media URLs from my computer. If my day was a coin purse, my social media “habit” was a slit in the bottom.
The real shock was how little time it took me to catch up on all my Facebook notifications. I had fifty-eight unread notifications when I signed in after a week, but I went through them all in about fifteen minutes. Think about that. Checking fifty-eight notifications would have probably eaten up at least fifty-eight minutes of my time throughout the week, and that’s not even counting the time I’d probably burn on Facebook once I had logged in.
Twitter was the biggest culprit, leading me down a trail of fascinating stories, controversial articles, and humorous cat pictures. It was like the Bermuda Triangle of productivity; I’d reappear hours later, wondering what happened, where I’d been and why I’d gotten nothing done.
Disabling these distractions helped me focus more on the tasks at hand, which bring me to the next point…
More Cohesive Thinking
Before the fast, I generally started the day with Facebook. I found that flipping through the news feed got my mind turning enough to compel my body out of bed. But checking Facebook in the morning was like a shotgun blast into a pond. I checked this morning for the first time in a week: a sarcastic article about white-on-white violence, a link to a piece on why millennials are leaving the church, a pro-life picture comparing an unborn baby to a newborn.
All worthwhile things to consider, yes, but instead of being invited in for careful consideration, they’re running amok in my head before the day has even begun. My brain has certain responsibilities to fulfill each day; but it’s off playing apologetic or politician or conscientious dissenter when it should be preparing for the day ahead. I was giving away some of my prime thinking time, leaving me with less mental capital for people and things in my life that really need it.
More Real-Life Connections
Speaking of people in my life…
With social media out of the equation, I was less prone to seeing life through a broadcast lens, less prone to thinking constantly about how it could be presented to others for their consumption. Ironically, this made me much more social in real life. I called people. I texted people. I engaged more in one-on-one relationships than in broadcast-style relationships.
We all need social engagement. That’s why social media has flourished the way it has. But removing social broadcast platforms from the equation forced me to invest my time and energy into people in a less “efficient” yet much more intimate way.
Easing Back In
Though I found this fast helpful in many ways, I’m going to get back into Facebook and Twitter. Social media platforms can be useful, especially for staying in touch with far-away people. (The grandparents need pictures of the grandkids!)
But they need limits. I’m leaving the respective social media apps off my phone (at least for now), and I’m only going to check them once or twice later in the day.
I’ll try this new “limited” approach and report back in next week.