Today marks four weeks without social media, the March challenge for my Make or Break Habits project. The first week was nothing compared to the last week, and I've documented how it all went down below. I'll be returning to facebook and twitter on Wednesday for work reasons, technically one day early but still at the 30 day mark. I am more than ready.
Day 10: my parents left this morning and today was the first time that I actively missed social media. Not just felt listless (there's been plenty of that) and definitely not the first day I've reached for my phone mindlessly (there's been oodles of that), but the first time that I actually thought I wish I could jump on FB for a minute and "see" my friends.
After a long (but productive and happy) day, I was scrubbing the kitchen sink after dinner and my mind wandered to what I wanted to do after the kids were fully asleep. I wanted to zone out to social media. Not for the first time, I saw the correlation to drugs. I just wanted to not think, with the internet being that zone of choice. Instead, I finished a blog post, did some home reno research, and went to bed to read.
Day 11: driving by the Scientology center after therapy I see a man in a convertible BMW shaving his eyebrows with a disposable razor. If ever there was something worth tweeting...
But my phone stays securely in my bag.
Decide my moodiness has at least a little something to do with my lack of exercise over the last week while my parents were here. Try a new yoga class that is killer and frankly over my head. Shake my way through it, and am grateful when an older Australian man encourages me a bit afterwards. Briefly wish I could post something witty about it on FB, then realize I'm glad not to.
Day 12: Facebook sends me an email saying I have friend requests and notifications pending. I've missed "popular stories" by my friends and have been tagged in status updates. Get two different emails from people following up with me after they didn't hear back via social media. Decide I will allow myself to check in on my accounts at the halfway mark (Day 16), so as not to appear rude or unprofessional.
Day 15: An earthquake jolts us awake. We have friends sleeping downstairs and my thoughts immediately go to them and the kids before I can process anything else. We lie awake for a few moments wondering if there will be an aftershock. For the first time in 2 weeks I give a 30 second scroll through twitter to assess the city damage and close it as soon as I realize all is (mostly) well.
A full day of errands after a weekend of houseguests. I return something to ikea, and there's a long line. Instead of spending it scrolling through my phone (which I don't think is a bad use of time in this kind of scenario), I read about a chapter and a half of my book. I feel less irritated by the wait, and actually feel like I multi-tasked.
One of my best friends and I communicate multiple times daily. She's a blogger, we're in contact every day via text, email, voxer and Facebook. I miss her. Even though text and phone calls aren't off limits, I noticed that I am so used to "hearing" her voice in my life via her Facebook updates that even though we're still communicating, I'm not getting the whole story, which my mind must fill in subconsciously between what we both post publicly and our personal shorthand.
This makes me think of friends and family who don't use Facebook or Instagram and how it makes me feel much less connected to them than I do the friends and family who do use those platforms. I've thought this before, of course, and felt guilt or sadness over it, like I should be communicating directly with people more often instead of mass posting things. Now that I'm on the other side of it - the one not participating in mass communication - I understand the position better. But I've also alleviated the guilt I had before. It's factual, really, and not emotional. I don't expect my friends to update me with everything they've put on FB in this month I'm not there (although I have had a few friends send me "hey, you might have missed this" texts) and it doesn't hurt my feelings. We're both choosing how we engage with the world.
Day 16: I wake up and don't remember for at least a half hour that today is the day I've allowed myself to check in on my social media accounts. I'm fairly amazed that I haven't cheated even once (I'm not going to count the twitter earthquake check in as that was a faster way for me to get news), and haven't much wanted to. I decide I won't log in anywhere until after Pirate's morning swim lesson.
Mid-morning I sit down in my quiet office with a donut and open Facebook, feeling like I'm doing something illicit.
I spend about an hour checking in on the groups I'm a part of, checking and posting to the HH Facebook page, and replying to messages. I bookmark 8-10 outside links to check out later. I start to scroll through the main FB stream and stop after just a few minutes. I realize I care very little about it and don't want to spend my few minutes that way. This from a girl who adamantly wouldn't look up until she'd seen everything new in the stream.
I take a break to meet with the pool guy and fix some lunch and realize that in the time I allowed myself onto Facebook, I hadn't made any progress with this month's Secret Posts, and that had been one of my goals for the morning.
And also….it's really hard to turn it off now. I'm not sure I should have let myself back on, even for a set time limit. I'm better at cold turkey. I make a sandwich and mentally I'm sweating. I want to see just one more thing. Ask one more question. See how someone replied to something.
This was a mistake. But how does this bode for next month? If this morning is a tell, I'm going to fall right back into my time-wasting habits. I need to start thinking really clearly about my future parameters.
Day 21: Home from the airport after depositing round 3 of this month's houseguests, I'm tired and want nothing more than to zone out to someone else's life. Reality tv doesn't cut it. It's not quite real enough.
I feel out of the loop with friends and just want to quiet my mind by seeing what everyone else is up to. This is the closest I've come to cheating, but I don't. But I want to. Really want to.
Day 22: This morning I posted on the blog about our toddler's sleep issues and after our first night of sleep training, I'm really wishing I could further the conversation on social media, give an update without writing a separate blog post.
I go to Target in literally sweatpants and no bra. I do not even care. I can't write a jokey tweet about it. Somehow I feel less accountable to the world.
Day 23: In the morning a friend texts the news about World Vision and their amended marriage policy, which apparently blew up all over the place despite their position not to take a position. I know nothing about this, and am truly relieved not to be on twitter or Facebook, as this sort of non-scandal makes me see anger red.
In the afternoon, another friend texts me the Conscious Uncoupling news that Gwyneth Paltrow was separating from her husband, yet another twitter storm that I'm glad to be missing.
Even though I'm glad not to let social media outrage or maliciousness get the best of my emotions, I'm really missing the internet in general. I'm out of the loop and disconnected from the people I like being connected to, from the news I like watching break.
I feel like Encino Man.
Suuuuuuper over it.
Day 24: I spend two hours tinkering with some design elements of the blog. I'm realizing that if you're a time waster then you'll find a way. Sure, social media aids my procrastinating tendencies, but now I know that it's not the apps' fault. When I don't want to write (or cook dinner, or clean out the garage), I double check my blog stats or play twenty games of solitaire. Or worse, online shop.
I haven't found the holy grail of extra hours in my day by giving up twitter. I still waste a good chunk of time before I sit down and Do the Work. Like with January's No Shopping challenge, if I'm using these things to fill a void, I still fill that void with something equally ridiculous. You don't substitute your cookies for broccoli for more than a few days.
It's about habits, I guess. I genuinely thought I would blog more and write much more when I wasn't clicking around on Facebook. I don't keep exact count, but I've kept my writing at almost exactly the same pace. I did spend most of the month entertaining people in my home, so that took up a lot of time, too, but honestly if I really want to write 30 minutes more a day, I think I should start by adding that time in, not taking away something and assuming it will magically happen.
If I really wanted to, I could find 30 extra minutes to write and still throw up an Instagram.
Day 25: Now I'm just annoyed. I'm hoping this last week will reveal some meaningful lesson, but I highly doubt it. A friend sent me an article titled The Pointlessness of Unplugging and man am I there.
I never realized how much I crowdsource. I ask social media a question and am spoiled by the instant answers EVERY DAY. What shampoo do you use? What's the score on the game? Can I download or only stream netflix?
Yesterday I wanted to go to my World Vision Facebook group and discuss the week's disastrous events. This morning I needed to pop into another specific group and ask a pertinent question. I didn't do either, even though I probably could have justified to myself reasons that it was okay. But I haven't cheated and don't want to cheat now.
I know this is why they call it a challenge. But, unlike the previous challenges, I feel like I've hit my head on the growth here. For certain things it's actually a hindrance. I'll see this thing through, but color me irritated.
Day 29: Final takeaways: I didn't achieve the zen or time boon that I had expected. For people who only use social media for fun, or who find themselves in unhealthy emotional states because of them, a break like this would be the most beneficial. For people like me, who use social media daily to find work, promote work, or connect with people during a day that would be otherwise adult-free, such a drastic unplugging could hurt as much as help.
Two things that I think were good about my month away from the noise: I rarely had my phone in my hand around my family and I read more books. I already knew that I should probably put my phone down more often, and now I'm assured of it. I work best with concrete boundaries, so I'll need to establish those, like keep the phone in my purse during our family time in the afternoon and evenings.
Also, reading more on my kindle made me so happy. Social media has its fun and its uses, but mindless scrolling when I could be doing something else is what makes me feel like crap.
I've decided that the March challenge wasn't pointless, but (for me) was excessive. I didn't think through the fact that some of the work I do is primarily a product of social media. So I've missed some important communications aside from my own personal discipline. Two weeks was a solid time for me to reflect and adjust, four (plus) weeks starts to feel irresponsible.
I am a little concerned that I'll fall back into a terrible time trap, or let social media rule my emotions in a way that I was glad to step away from. But I'm coming back in more mindful, more aware, I hope. And that's the most I could ask.
*top photo by Jason Howie via flickr