Is it possible to feel socially overwhelmed when you’re being socially distant? Have you ever felt the need to disconnect for a period of time from all your feeds and, if so, what was that like for you? I’m fresh from a self-proclaimed 72-hour social media blackout and am happy to share my recent experience. (You can catch some background here.)
My timeout began Thursday at 9:00 pm and officially ended Sunday night at the same time. I say “officially” because by the time Sunday night rolled around, the last thing I wanted was the stimulation of being faced with a feed or two or three that had been ignored for 3 days. I didn’t access any of my socials until Monday morning and I’ve thus far only looked at notifications, not feeds.
The funny thing is, I don’t think I even want to look.
How did I get here?
For three days I didn’t expose myself to, or engage with, online media beyond a couple of newspapers and travel sites. There were no virtual arguments, no sharing of my life in photos, no debates with people I don’t really even know. I did not invite conflict into my home or head.
The first day was the hardest because, just like when you quit smoking, you’re looking for something to do with your hands. It’s a habit, a mannerism, another mindless invitation to occupy your attention. I found myself picking up my phone to look at the weather, or to check a package delivery status, and my fingers went to the social media icons immediately. It was a constant fight between me and my index finger, easiest won by simply leaving the phone at a distance.
I took walks without a phone, but with a camera, making a different connection instead between what’s happening and me, just for me. I plated my food prettily just for myself. There were cut flowers in four rooms of my house. My eyes appreciated all of it.
Not sharing the captured images didn’t make them any less valid.
Avoiding the crush of opinions and incendiary articles on Facebook and Twitter was calming for me. The quiet during my waking hours resulted in more restful sleep at night. While I still woke once, maybe twice a night, to use the bathroom, I resisted picking up my phone from the bedside table, and was able to fall right back to sleep. I was more relaxed.
Conversations in real life (IRL) were more satisfying. I found myself increasingly interested in talking to friends, even making phone calls despite my usual lack of enthusiasm for speaking on the phone. The back and forth and opportunity to expand one’s thoughts, and even potentially compromise on a divisive topic, felt both new and familiar from another time. That kind of exchange isn’t seen a lot on Facebook or Twitter, at least not in my feeds.
Virtual distancing while be socially distant IRL might just be where it’s at – at least for me, right now.
By the second day, I noticed a relaxing of my refresh reflex. There were hours when I didn’t think once about people I “stalk” on Facebook or Twitter. My life felt more like my own without the influence of a constant barrage of media. I was more mellow and less inclined to cry, something I had been doing with odd for me frequency in recent weeks.
As the hours remaining of my blackout counted down, the number began to feel too small, instead of too large as it had a mere two days previously. I thought about the number of hours I typically spend reading posted articles and viewing recommended YouTube videos and realized I don’t want that to be my social media relationship moving forward.
I’m realizing I don’t need to keep up with 1,000 friends and what they’re reading or doing. At least not at the expense of having the time to be thoughtful and selective about what I want to read or do. Speaking of what I want, I reflected upon my Amazon Prime membership renewal and considered the cost and benefits vs. the way Amazon as a company operates, and decided I no longer need to support a business which does not value their employees.
Later, Jeff Bezos.
I don’t like feeling manipulated by bots and trolls and I know that’s happening and will only escalate as we draw closer to Election Day. My need for personal privacy is fairly nonexistent, but that doesn’t mean my information should be fodder for scam artists or those seeking to assert influence over my thoughts or impressions. I’m not digging it.
Plus, Mark Zuckerberg basically sucks.
I’m beginning to understand why people deactivate their Facebook pages. I’m not quite there yet, but I’m leaning hard in the direction of minimizing my participation on the platform. Maybe a check in twice a week, early in the day preferably to avoid negatively affecting my sleep, might be a good way to interact moving forward. Twitter has long been my site for current events and news but, there’s so much venom that, minimizing my time spent Tweeting might result in a maximization of my internal peace. IG is the one I’m missing, though, and the one I’m considering engaging with the most moving forward.*
But, today, I have other things to do. Social media isn’t going anywhere, but that doesn’t mean I can’t.
*I think because many of the images just make me happy.