I think one of the biggest questions of the decade is this: Is social media a necessity? Anyone born before around 1999 might remember a life without MySpace and Facebook, so obviously, social networking isn't a prerequisite for life. I guess the real question is: Does social networking make your life better?
I think I spend at least 60% of my time on my phone or laptop browsing through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and Snapchat. I am constantly online, even if there's no new content to look at and especially when I should be doing something else. There's even things like Periscope and Vine that I haven't really gotten into, but have tried. After reading this article on Wired, I decided to unplug for a week.
For this experiment, I put all of my social media apps in a separate folder on my phone (out of sight, out of mind) and I logged out of any social networking sites on my computer so I wouldn't get sucked in if I accidentally typed in the address.
Throughout the week, I noticed a few things that helped me learn how I interact with social media.
Social Media has become a reflex for me
My fear of absentmindedly typing in an address or pressing on an app button was not for nothing. Whenever I felt like I had nothing to do or was getting bored with something, I would instantly type "facebook.com" or "tumblr.com" into my browser or look for a certain app icon with a silly ghost on it. I found that even when I was doing something else, I was thinking about what new things I could find through social networking.
I am constantly thinking of things to share
When I see certain things, I had the urge to Instagram or Snapchat them. Being part of the social media culture also means sharing, whether it's a status or a picture. It's always fun to contribute content and share it with people you know, but I also know social media has been accused of taking people out of the moment. It also made me wonder how we shared life's moments with each other before social media (photo albums? conversation over a cup of coffee?).
I don't know what the news is
This was good and bad. It was good because I could focus on what was going on with me, rather than worry about other people. It felt bad because I didn't really know what was happening in the world and in my group of social media contacts (a lot of whom I consider to be friends). I also get most of my news from social media, so I felt kind of ignorant after going back online and seeing what was happening in the world.
I had so much time for activities!
I could really spend hours scrolling through my various channels. Without the time-sucker that is social media, I felt like I millions of years to pursue reading, exercising, writing, etc. I also felt like my thoughts and actions were less susceptible to influence from what I saw on social media channels (i.e. I wasn't being brainwashed to consume certain goods or services).
Some of the things I learned about myself during this experience were kind of predictable, and some were surprising.
While I know now that I have the willpower to function without social networking (and arguably do it better/with more intention and focus), I also believe that social media does enrich certain aspects of life.
It is, after all, thanks to social media that I can communicate with people who are far away. My s.o. and I are in a long distance relationship and we used to communicate exclusively through Google+ and I like the fact that I can chat with my closest friends on the Facebook Messenger app at any given time.
So, the big lesson for me was that social media is not a necessity, but it does enrich some parts of life. I want to stay connected, but I also don't want to get sucked in. I just need to find a good balance. And maybe go on a longer cleanse.
What do you think? Do you want to try a social media cleanse? Or do you think you use social media appropriately? Let me know in the comments.