Every December, my wife takes a break from Facebook, Instagram, et al. This political season has been so brutal and so disappointing that I decided that I would try the same thing as well. I was mostly being supportive in joining her; I really didn’t expect to gain so much or to understand how much social media is woven into my life in negative ways.
The first couple hours were odd. I felt disconnected from the world and a little bit information-starved. I got my news from Facebook and even more so from Twitter. However, upon further inspection, it wasn’t the information that I was missing, but the emotional reaction to the news. Like so many others, I lived in an echo chamber of like-minded folks and was, quite literally, waiting with bated breath for the next racist or obtuse comment from a public figure or Facebook friend. The anger and indignation is addicting.
As the hours turned into days and days into weeks, patterns and habits presented themselves in places that were quite surprising. I didn’t realize how much of my daily routine is bookended by interactions with social media: checking twitter first thing in the morning, feeling the need to “catch up” with my timeline during events – especially during basketball games, getting off a call at work and instinctively checking social media to see what happened during the last hour. I was spackling over every spare moment with social media.
I started to write more. A lot more. I created workflows to allow me to quickly post pictures to my blog. I journaled in Day One, I created a new project dedicated to my favorite building in Greenville.
Beyond the writing, I was also experiencing things differently. I still take way too many pictures and videos of the kids, but gone was the perceived pressure to edit, crop and think up a witty caption so I could post on Instagram. I would just take the picture and move on. I was spending more time in the moment and more time off my phone. Now, I’m not one of those parents that thinks that my kids need my constant attention. In fact, kids learn the most on their own when they can’t depend on a parent to rescue them. But, they certainly don’t need to see my nose in my iPhone as much as I have been.
There were downsides as well. I missed events that I would have liked to attend because they were only posted on social media. I missed things that my friends posted. There was an awkward moment when a friend asked if I saw something they posted and I had to say no. I felt like people thought that was weird. Also, my wife and I interact quite a bit online through posts and comments. I like using social media as a public place to compliment my wife and I found that I really missed that.
So, when January 1st rolled around and the social media fast of December was over and I had learned all these things, I didn’t know what to do, so I just didn’t go back. I think for me, right now, the negatives outweigh the positives of social media. That’s not to say that I think I know what anybody else should do, but today, for me, staying off and focusing on writing on my blog seems to fit nicely. But who knows, tomorrow might be different.