Wondering what six weeks off of social media feels like? Fan-freaking-tastic, that’s what.
If you happened to have noticed that I’ve been pretty quiet and absent for the last bit, that’s also why- I’ve been on a very satisfying social media sabbatical.
Every year, I’m in the practice of giving up something for Lent, and this year, it was going to be my habit of being judgy. While that’s a noble idea, and I could probably benefit from some variation, a few days before the season began, I started feeling like my judgy-ness is actually handy and useful for me in some ways right now.
At the same time, I started noticing that my tendency to check social media was feeling habitual and rarely if ever leaving me feeling happier or more productive.
One day, I’d popped on Facebook for “just a minute” as I was getting ready, and whoopsie- TWENTY SIX MINUTES LATER I noticed the time! I had to rush like a madwoman and found myself needing right about a half hour more time to do what I actually needed to do, but I had unfortunately wasted it on Facebook.
And it wasn’t even the least bit satisfying.
In fact, it was mostly annoying as I there was so much stuff that really didn’t matter to me in the least bit, yet I’d been somehow sucked in.
That was frustrating for sure, but then came the creepiness.
I was up late one night talking to someone about some relationship issues they were having. THE NEXT DAY, there was an ad in my Facebook feed about a program to help with relationship issues.
Hmmmm...I hadn’t done any searches on the topic, nor was I actually using my phone or laptop during the conversation, so this seemed a little weird, but I figured it could also have been coincidental.
Most people have relationship problems at some point or another, so it’s not like the topic was all that specific towards me. It felt “off” but I didn’t want to go all full force conspiracy theory about it.
A few weeks later though, I’m in the bath, and my SweetHeart brings me a glass of wine, and we chit chat a bit. He tells me about a really unusual medical condition affecting a kid we know. This isn’t your everyday run of the mill condition, but one I’ve never actually known anyone in my 47 years on the planet to have. I’ve only read about it in a novel once, And, my phone was IN THE NEXT ROOM.
So, the next morning, I’m scrolling through Instagram and bam, there’s an ad “Does your child have “Fill in the blank with the exact freaking unusual condition we had been talking about the night before?””
Coincidence? No freaking way. It was way too specific, and also way too creepy.
So, without even realizing it was the day before Lent began and without really telling anyone aside from a few close friends, I deleted the social media apps off my phone.
And so began my six-week sabbatical from social media.
I realized quickly that almost everyone I know over the age of 25 seems to have some sort of love/hate relationship with social media. Sometimes, it’s more of a hate/hate relationship, yet still, most of us still use it.
For the younger ones, many don’t even know a time without that dopamine hit of seeing who liked your selfie and some aren’t even the least bit creeped out by being listened to.
The first part makes me sad and concerned about what that does to the brain, communication skills, and relationships.
The second makes me wonder if they’ve never read or watched any futuristic sci-fi books or movies and how they could possibly NOT think this handy technology can and likely will be used against us?
This makes me want to yell “Resistance is NOT futile!!!!!” and to force a mass binge watching of the kind of movies that will activate the paranoid parts of their brains.
But, since that’s probably illegal, and makes me sound crazy, I’m focusing on my own relationship with technology first before I go freaking out on everyone else.
I am, however, immensely grateful that my kids grew up on the cusp of the smartphone era and got to be little kids and play with toys and run around and have a childhood of their own before the world came at them on a tiny screen in their teen years. It’s whole different world for younger kids and my hat’s off to the parents navigating how to use the technology wisely.
What I noticed myself right away in my time off social media was how often I would unconsciously pick up my phone on autopilot in the first few days and look for those little icons. But they were gone. My twitchy fingers and ping pong brain had to find something else to do. I was actually a little shocked and how much I distracted myself.
Standing in line, I was forced to just wait, or I could text a friend, or get out a notebook and make a random list or if I was really bored, I could talk to strangers. Eventually, I quit picking up my phone so often.
It reminded me of something my Girl Child observed on her gap year in Ecuador. Her iPhone was stolen fairly shortly into the trip and she didn’t have an international data plan anyway, so she was left to use a flip phone for emergencies. This forced her to go old school on her hour-long bus rides and just stare out the window. She commented more than once on how nice it was to just zone out AND how rarely that happened back in the US.
For me, having more time with my own thoughts rather than the random ramblings of everyone else was like an exhale. I felt less anxious and less rushed. Even though my responsibilities and routine hadn’t been reduced at all, I felt more peaceful.
Freeing up my brain space to focus on what I was actually wanting to accomplish was like some flashback to an earlier time, and I really liked it.
During the time, I took 3 coastal trips, and read books and wrote at night. I stared at the ocean and big trees rather than my phone. I did a lot of thinking, started a couple of new projects and did a whole lotta work on others. I also communicated directly with people a lot.
The downside was that also during the time, I was coordinating an event and 2 workshops leading up to it- you know....the kind of things that get promoted on social media. I did pop in 2 times to post a link and sent some messages to people I thought might be interested, but otherwise, I just left it up to others involved to get the word out.
That felt a bit weird and detached, but since my exodus wasn’t really planned out in advance, it was the best I could do. And in the end, it was enough. The show went on and was a success.
I did keep the messenger app as it’s the primary way I communicate with a few people, so the creepy mic listening has probably continued, but at least I wasn’t seeing ads targeted towards my conversations.
The evening of Easter came and went and even though Lent was over and so was my sabbatical, I found that I wasn’t really feeling that interested in social media. I opened Facebook and scrolled for about a minute, and found, for the most part, I just didn’t care.
Yes, it was nice to see a few faces I hadn’t seen in a while and to smile at their happy pictures and cute kids and vacations. Other things, like what people were having for lunch was still as uninteresting as it had been before and the bombarding of ads had a new feeling to it. Less frustration, and more, no thanks. I don’t need to scroll through all that. I don’t want to spend my life there.
I’m not under any illusion that I’ll be off social media for life because I do miss the sharing and connecting possibilities that can come through it. I’ll just be finding my way to get what I want and leave the rest behind so that I’m using the technology rather than it using me. I’m not sure what that means exactly, but I do know I like the feel of my own thoughts.
How about you? How do you feel about your relationship with social media? Do you love it? Hate it? And how do you navigate it with your kids? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
If you liked this essay, please share it using the very social media that I just took a break from! Ha!
And in whatever capacity works for you, I’d encourage more time in real life and less on screens.
Enjoy the day!
Writer, Artist, Empowered Living Advocate, Wanna-be Organic Gardening Foodie, Travel Loving Life Explorer, FunSchooling Facilitator / Former Goat-Herding HeadMistress for our Mostly Happy Homeschool, Semi-Crazy Chicken Lady and Mamacita Extraordinaire to a couple of Cage Free Kids.