“I bet you a hundred dollars you can’t go a week without that.” my Uncle Cas said, rather smugly I might say, as we sat in the living room after Thanksgiving dinner.
By that he meant the internet. Never one to back down from a bet, I accepted his challenge.
And I failed, I failed miserably. Cyber Monday, need I say more? But after I had clicked order on my children’s final Christmas presents I decided I would not completely give up. I had gone three days already without social media of any kind (no Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or even YouTube) and although I would not be celebrating Christmas with another Ben Franklin hanging out in my pocket I figured I could at least see if I could keep part of my commitment.
I’m not going to lie and say it was easy, in fact it was really, really hard. I, like many in my generation, have become dependent on the the constant connection that social media gives me. The constant constant entertainment and feeling of connection without zero effort. But I did it, I pulled through, and I even learned some valuable lessons during the process.
Lessons such as:
I do not have to be constantly plugged in to maintain connections.
My generation are the pioneers of social media. Yahoo chat, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter; we’ve had it all at our fingertips since keeping up with our friends outside of homeroom became necessary. It is so easy to send a quick Facebook message or DM someone on Instagram that it becomes a go-to form of communication.
But during my week without social media I found that these methods of communication were not necessary for me to maintain communications, instead I found that I still connected with the people most important to me, and in even more meaningful ways. A call to my grandmother or best friend left me feeling a lot more fulfilled than a chat message. That’s because during the call, however brief it was, both parties were fully engaged in the conversation, it wasn’t given in little snippets broken up by chores, work, or other daily activities.
Social media costs.
This one was a big one. We hear people often talk about how much time is wasted on social media. We look at our phones so frequently they become another appendage, so much so that I don’t think we can fully fathom just how dependent we are on them until they are taken away. By taking myself away from social media, I took away my need to look at my phone. Believe me, the first few days it felt like I had lost an appendage, like my left leg had suddenly walked away on it’s own and I was left me wobbly and uneven.
And while I felt unsteady without my phone, like I had lost something or was missing something, I soon realized how much I had gained by giving it up. I had gained time with my children, moments that had once been lost while staring at a screen. I had lost the effort and motivation to take care of my home and family, and the relationships I would should have been building with them.
It’s a lot more enjoyable to experience the moments instead of worrying about posting them online.
By day three without social media, I started to feel a little more steady. I started to breath, and to see my surroundings clearer. When I played with my kids I was seeing them through my own eyes, and not through the eyes of my iPhone camera. I experienced moments with them fully engaged instead of planning out how I would put it into a Facebook status.
I started really living these moments with my family, and I enjoyed every minute of it.
I’m not the only one with this problem.
This one seems very obvious, and maybe I am silly for even thinking that it is something worth noting. But I really was taken aback that once I unattached myself from social media for a little while, and coincidentally unattached myself from my phone simultaneously, I noticed how many there were out there like me. Not just moms and dads, and contrary to popular belief definitely not just millennials. No, this problem is one is felt by seemingly all generations, races, and religions. It does not discriminate; and whether that is a good or bad thing I do not know.
After my seven days were done and over I would be a liar to say that I was not happy to have social media back once my little experiment was over. In fact, the first thing I did was check my Facebook feed. But while I have not fully given up on social media altogether, my experiment did give me a sense of the freedom that I can have without it. Although I still use it to connect to my friends and family, my days are no longer wasted away on the screen of my phone. And I really, really like it.