Like many of you, especially students, I devote waaay to much time to perusing social media sites. So for the last month I have been on a self-enforced period of abstinence from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pintrest, Tumblr, Instagram, and yes, even WordPress. (Ummm, yeah, there is a reason that I needed to detox, OK? Gosh.) It helped that I was on a trip to China, where you need a VPN to access these sites anyways. I skipped the VPN and made it actually impossible to log-on.
No great epiphanies about the meaning of life came out of this experiment. But I did complete all of my graduate school essays well before the deadlines and so was then able to go on a small holiday instead of stressing out at the eleventh hour.
Here are a few things that I noticed about my month away from my social media networks:
1. I used my email more to communicate with people I know, including friends, classmates, and family.
Lesson: Seems that the Facebook message feature has replaced a lot of my daily email usage.
2. During the month all four of my parents asked me in Skype conversations if I’d seen a particular thing on Facebook.
Lesson: Social Media is not just for stalking people you used to know to see if they got fat/married/promoted/etc. It can actually help you keep in touch with the people that matter.
3. I read a lot of blogs that were new to me and learned about a variety of things I had never heard of before. Turns out I am interested in traditional foods, coconut oil, and making my own Gatorade. Who knew?
Lesson: By cutting-off access to my regular sites and feeds I was forced to explore some new ideas.
4. I cooked a lot more frequently, and everything from scratch since many ordinary western ingredients, like canned tomatoes or beans, are not available in the average Chinese grocery store.
Lesson: Less time being a passive spectator of other people’s hobbies leaves more time to pursue my own.
5. I was pretty much off the grid social-wise. I logged back on yesterday and saw that I was invited to a friend’s birthday party later that night that I previously had no idea about.
Lesson: Although social media can’t replace human interaction it can be a great tool for facilitating it.
6. Travelling was different, especially my photography, since I wasn’t thinking about how to best share all my experiences on social media. I was also surprised that for the first few days I was thinking in status updates/headlines. Example: “Just saw a kid pee in the sink at the shopping mall ladies room. In the SINK.”
Lesson: Social Media over-usage has resulting in my being a curator of moments from my own life to display on the internet. Why is this?
As I said, none of these lessons are going to drastically change my life, at least not right now. But I figured I would share about my experience since most of you might not have the time to hide out in China and personally do a social media detox.
What about you? Have you ever done a social media detox? Do you think sharing every moment of our lives on the internet has changed the way we live them?