Almost a year ago, I made the decision to opt out of social media. A lot of people have asked about my experience being off of social media, while others just look at me like I’m crazy and don’t ask.
In a nutshell, the experience has been both liberating and frustrating.
The feeling of liberation was probably strongest when I first shut down my social media accounts. I enjoyed not checking in and scrolling through timelines. My mind was much clearer, and I believe that I became more focused — at work as well as when I was out with family and friends. My attention, and my eyes, stayed on the person in that was in front of me or on the phone. I have read more books in the last year that I have in the previous 10. I started a practice of supplementing my online notes with hand-written notes in small pocket notebooks. I reconnected with the daily habit of reading the paper. I have become much more deliberate, or thoughtful?, about what, and with whom, I share specifics about my life. I didn’t have to worry about selecting a filter, circle, or group.
The frustrating part of being off of social media is the rather precipitous, and immediate, drop in my knowledge of what’s happening with my friends and family. For better or worse, a lot of people use social media like a phone, email, or letter. It is the default means of communication and sharing for a significant number of people that I care about. Another source of frustration is the incredible level that social media is integrated into just about everything on the web and physical day-to-day life. Want more information about a restaurant or food truck? That info is only available on Twitter or Facebook. Want to comment on an interesting article or blog piece? A number of sites and blogs are adopting Facebook’s commenting system. (I have only notice a handful of sites that have started to use Google’s burgeoning commenting system.) Though not a social media service, the struggle to be social media free is analogous to my fight to use Springpad as my go-to online memory site/app/service. As much as I love the features built into Springpad, Evernote is everywhere, and more people use it. An ever-increasing number of websites and apps are offering Evernote integration.
So…does the ubiquity of social media mean that I can’t function? Quite to contrary. I have had a wonderful year off of social media, and I would be happy to talk to, and encourage, anyone contemplating pulling that proverbial plug. Just as I said in my piece a year ago, as well as my blog pieces on cable (mental note: I need to write an update about that.), disconnecting is not for everyone, and I think that you need to think about the pros and cons of “disappearing.” To hear some of my friends talk, you would think that I was relocated to a distant moon of Jupiter.
The free mental space created by my social media hiatus has [mostly] clarified, as I discussed previously, that social media was not the problem. The issues started and end with me. Social media certainly can play a role in one becoming distracted and disconnected, ironically, from genuine engagement with others. Some become so obsessed with sharing that they aren’t truly in the moment they sharing with others. I never fell into that camp, but I think the fear of becoming that person scared me off.
Over the last couple of weeks, I have started to think about my decision to opt out of social media, as well as cutting the cord (cable), and some other rather absolute stances on a variety of issues. I have slowly come to realization that I have a history, going back to my teenage years, of being a pretty stark, all-or-nothing person about certain things. Ok…a number of things. I’ve been all-or-nothing with people. I’ve been all-or-nothing with pursuit of personal and professional interests. A lot of these all-in, or all-out decisions have not played out well in the long run. I can’t say that there’s been anything all that dramatic, but I suspect that I have sold some potential, meaningful friendships short because I didn’t have patience for the bullshit of the moment. That’s an issue that I continue to work on.
I think balance is the key word. I have worked on learning how to piddle around with the things that interest me, but also summon and maintaining sufficient focus while at work, with family or friend, and the times in between. It is very important, to me, to be more present, and not constantly drifting off into the “what’s next?”
With that said, and you some of you may have picked up on the inertia of this piece, I am opting back into social media.
I am sure that there will be an initial splash of activity, but it is my hope that this time around I can approach social media without an all-or-nothing stance. We’ll see.
This is a blog about many things. My thoughts and interests vary and the non sequitur posts will bare that out. You will likely see a number of posts about technology, music and contemporary cultural issues. I welcome your feedback. To leave a comment, click on the title of any post and scroll down to the comment section. If you come across something you really like on the blog, please consider sharing it by using one of the sharing or bookmarking options at the bottom of each post.