Friday, November 1, 2013

What it's like to quit social media...

"Hi, my name is [your name] and I've gone a week without using social media."  Take note of your reaction to the previous sentence.  Did you experience shock, disgust, disbelief, or even humor?  Do you ever find yourself "needing" rather than "wanting" social media?  In other words, do you ever feel that social media has crossed that psychological line from casual entertainment to an all-encompassing life crutch?  If you answered "yes" you're not alone.

"I quit social media.  Here's what I learned..." is the title of a recent article published by Jessi Hempel on CNNMoney.  Jessi writes of her experience taking a break from social media. "Ultimately" Jessi states, "my month-long social media diet allowed me to catalogue my own bad habits -- to observe the behavior I hoped to change." She observed the following:
I've leaned on social media to remove myself from offline social situations I find uncomfortable. When I landed at a barbecue where I didn't know anyone, I found myself reaching for my phone as a way to hide under the guise of doing something "more important." And I also turned to social media whenever I wanted to avoid really thinking about something. A great example: For the last hour, instead of actually writing this story, I've been checking Twitter and Facebook compulsively for updates. I use it to zone out -- the same way I might have flipped through bad cable channels back when I paid for cable TV.
She does give a balanced view, however, toting both the pros and cons of the technology.  For example, her article opens by highlighting the great power to mobilize groups in times of need. Her friends house burned down and her friends organized fundraising events through Facebook which raised $2,400 for help.  
However, the psychological toll of social media may outweigh it's benefits.  This "toll" is paid in the form of difficulty in removing oneself from constant stimulation or simply a difficulty in just relaxing and "doing nothing" for a few minutes.  She notes:
I often found myself without a lot to do. This was uncomfortable in a brutal and mundane human kind of way. I might sit on the subway for five to seven minutes, looking at my hands. I might pass the time waiting for a friend at a restaurant by doing, well, nothing. And then, inevitably, my mind would wander and sometimes I'd feel uncomfortable.
A quick Google search will reveal that many people across the Internet have talked about their experiences "quitting" social media -- as if social media was psychologically functioning in the manner of an addictive drug that is out of control.  The phrase "social media addiction" is, unfortunately, becoming more common every day. 


3 comments:

  1. I find myself wondering about this less than others who were born into the age of technology. It is still an issue though--being constantly engaged (or seeking to be).

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  2. It's part of the way our culture has evolved and I'd like to say that I can see both sides of the argument (between social media and "real life", so to speak). It's important to understand that social media should just be a supplement to your real life. REAL things happen in REAL life--people should just look to social media as a way to share. When it is time to deal with a real life scenario, you have to rely people to help you out in real life (not just post on facebook, twitter, etc. with encouraging comments or reinforcement, etc.) Great post, Todd!

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