Last month I took on my wife’s challenge to abstain from any social networking over the six weeks of Lent. Some thought it couldn’t be done but I endured and think I may have come through it a little wiser.
At first, it was a real mental struggle. I can remember the very first day when I almost broke out in a sweat when not checking in to my train station on Foursquare. I could sense the long road ahead and could feel all my social clout slipping away from me. This was no joke and it helped me realise just how addicted to it I was.
Fortunately, the initial day was the only real struggle. I was occasionally tempted by a few notifications slipping through on my phone but once they were all properly turned off it was surprisingly easy to leave it all behind, refreshing in fact.
Instead of posting something interesting on Twitter I actually, shock horror, told the person next to me about it! I stopped procrastinating and got a lot more done at home as well as stay more focussed at work. However, I’m slightly embarrassed to admit I did contemplate writing a list of things I would have shared.
There were quite a few events when I wished I could see the buzz of what was going on or join in the wider discussion. For example, when the Windows 8 consumer preview was released I couldn’t help but imagine what all my tweeps were discussing. Similarly, I was no longer abreast of what was going on in the lives of my family and friends and even though I made the odd phone call there wasn’t that same casual back and forth that helps you keep connected. It was also disappointing when I couldn’t crow about acheivements like my son getting a bronze medal at the national under 13s basketball championships!
Now I’m back on the scene again I feel like a bit of an outsider. I’ve forgotten how I managed to keep on top of the constant flow of “news”. Probably by using it too much! Interestingly my Twitter follower count was 343 at the beginning of Lent. It used to grow a couple of followers each week but didn’t change at all until a 5 user surge on the penultimate day of my absence (stats from twittercounter.com). My Klout score also took a nosedive (not that I really believe in Klout much). I guess that shows that you need to stay active and contribute to give people a reason to follow you. Either that, or Twitter just got better at preventing fake accounts!
So, what have i learned? Will I go back to the same old ways?
Well, I feel like my blackout did help put everything into perspective. I am definitely going to have a clear out of my friends and followers to keep my social activities that bit more focussed. I will also be checking my networks a lot less frequently, once or twice a day feels about right, if at all. I’ve even uninstalled the twitter apps from my PC so I don’t have that constant noise distracting me. I’ll also avoid signing up to all the latest crazes, unless I find a real benefit (goodbye Pinterest).
Another key change is that I’ve made up a 5 minute share rule. This means that when I go to send a tweet, or share on Facebook, I’m going to leave it for 5 minutes and see if I really want to hit return or, more likely, it was a knee-jerk response and I’ll just not post it.
I thought this whole process would give me time to be more creative. I had dreams of taking up a new hobby like drawing or writing or maybe developing an app for my phone. However, it didn’t really give me any extra time to enjoy such pursuits. Perhaps my brain just doesn’t work that way? If anything, I read a lot more newspapers and enjoyed listening to radio a bit more. My wife thinks I was a lot more bearable during this whole process as I am no longer staring at my smartphone every time she tries to talk to me
There is a lot to benefit from social networking but I guess people may have had similar experiences when Televisions became mainstream. They can easily let you escape from reality (not always a bad thing), just make sure they aren’t keeping you from what is really important in your life.
Do you think you could resist as easily? Maybe you avoid these sites like the plague? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.