Dare To Disconnect – What I Learned From My (Anti)social Experiment.
Though I have always considered myself to be a bit rebellious, I still feel a basic need to fit in and be accepted. A few years ago, in an effort to expand beyond my own little world in search of those that shared my quirky interests, I created my very first social media account. Yup, I may be relatively new to the realm but it did not take long to get hooked. It was exciting to discover the numerous people that shared my passions, a few of which I now call friends. Thanks to social media, my life has been enriched with knowledge and beauty of the world around me.
Why then, considering all the positive attributes, have I chosen to disconnect? For me, what started as well intended interaction has become a slight obsession. The more time I spend on social media, the less time I spend in reality. My emotions have become dictated by strangers that cause me to question my own self-worth. Do ‘likes’ really even mean anything? Do my comments hold any value? Should popularity dictate happiness? Why is it that I cannot enjoy a moment without trying to capture it in a photo to share on Instagram? Photography, once a hobby I enjoyed for myself, now feels like a competition. Things have gone awry, it is time to reset.
As I sit here right now, I have no idea if my absence from social media will even be noticed. My gut instinct tells me no. The bigger question is, should I even care? For the next 3 days, I will shut off all notifications to my social media platforms (Twitter, Instagram and Facebook) and will not indulge in any type of interaction or viewing on any platform. I have informed no one of my intentions but will journal my thoughts along the way…
I’m an early riser. I relish the quiet of the morning as I savor my first cup of coffee and turn on my phone. Normally I would start scrolling through social media, but in the words of King Aragorn, “Not this day!” Today I have chosen to begin my quest. Ok, ok, I’m not heading off to the firey pits of Mount Doom to save Middle Earth but, I am trying to purge myself of one thing that seems to rule us all.
Already I feel a bit ‘off’. It occurs to me how habitual social media has become in my life and how quickly time passes while I am engrossed in my need for… for what? I actually don’t know the answer, but hopefully, I can figure that out over the next couple days. Right now I realize I have more time on my hands, and for the first time ever, I pop open my laptop and do a bit a bit of writing in these wee hours. Don’t get me wrong though, my desire to tap the little icons of addiction is real, yet I resist… so far.
I manage to get through the busy morning without ‘checking in’. Admittedly though I glanced at my phone a lot, waiting to see a blinking light I knew I had disabled. So weird. When I finally got back home I went to recharge my little friend and was stunned to see the battery power only slightly depleted. In fact, I had no need to plug it in at all today. Wow! So, I simply set it to the side and focused on more writing. I couldn’t help wonder though what I might be missing from my friends on social media. I could text them I suppose, but that seems like I would be bothering them which makes no sense. If someone is a friend, would they not be happy to hear from me directly? Hmmm, more thoughts to consider as I get ready for bed.
Woke up and turned on my cell phone. A desire to check social media still hangs over me, especially with the weekend on its way. What is everyone doing? Where are they going? Am I missing any fun? I set my phone aside, open my laptop and get caught up in my role as a writer; incredibly, the lure of Instagram and the temptation of Twitter begin to dissipate. I am determined to succeed in my mission to remain disconnected.
Writing, reading, training, managing, catching up on The Flash, texting friends, and cooking have all been great sources of distraction today. But wait, those things aren’t distractions, those things are part of life. Could I actually be enjoying life without social media? I still sit here and wonder if my absence is even noticed, yet I seem to care slightly less than I did yesterday. What I think about at this moment are my friends and how much I miss their faces.
While it still feels strange not to do a little posting perusal, the feeling of attachment is considerably less. I’ve noticed something else too, I have slept better than I have in weeks, no longer lying awake dwelling over social media interactions. Why didn’t my friend tell me they were doing that? Was the article I posted horrible? Did I offend someone by not mentioning them in a post? Do I appear arrogant? Do I sound unintelligent? Am I ugly in that photo? Wow, and those are only a few. Even I didn’t realize how many things ran through my head at night until this very moment. No wonder I have slept horribly, in fact, I am surprised I ever have the capacity to get out of bed.
With feelings of inadequacy temporarily set aside, today has been a good day filled with things I love. I absorbed the warmth of the sun while out for an exhilarating run, lost myself in a beautifully written novel, bonded with friends and hugged them hard, savored the experience of dining out and spent time thinking about my goals in life. Tomorrow, my little experiment is over and I actually feel a bit of anxiety at the idea of going social again. At least I know I will sleep well for one more night.
After successfully completing my 3 days of disconnection, I d0 not have an immediate desire to jump back in but know it is the only way to complete this process. So, with the caveat of not allowing myself to react to anything posted during my disconnected timeframe, I began scrolling my feeds. Truth be told, I felt sad. I felt sad not because I missed out on anything but because I realized all the time I’ve been wasting. There will always be an amusing tweet, photo or meme but, as I discovered recently, nothing, I mean nothing, beats sitting around with your goofy friends and laughing until it hurts. These are the people that ‘know’ me, these are the people that matter, these are the people I love. 🙂
Living your life through a screen is not living your life. I think we all need to remember that social media is a tool. While it can be used to keep you connected, enhance your business and provide entertainment, it can also be used to manipulate, deceive and create chaos. Now that I am aware of my own social weaknesses, I will proceed my use of social media with caution. Life is challenging enough and I can no longer allow the negativity and misconceptions of others to consume me, it’s exhausting. So forgive me if I miss ‘liking’ your photo or your comment, it does not mean I don’t ‘like’ you.
For me personally, this little experiment became an opportunity to self-reflect and find peace with who I am as an individual. I clearly have a long way to go. There is so much more that could be said regarding the impact of social media on our society but that is another article for another day. Do you dare to disconnect?