5 Lessons I Learned in 20 Days Without Social Media

Personal accounts, volunteer commitments, and client site monitoring had me feeling like I was drowning in social media apps and digital connectivity.  I had a 12-day vacation planned to breathe the crisp, calming air of the Pacific Northwest. Perfect time to unplug and observe. 8 days back at home, and I'm ready to share a bit of what I've learned. 

The rules:  No social media of any kind (Apps deleted from phone.)  Client e-mails only. No internet. Phone calls and texts allowed. 

What I learned:

1.)   The first thing I touch in the morning (and the last thing I touch at night) absolutely should not be a phone. Or any other wifi-enabled device.  It should be something (or someone) soul-nourishing.  

21 Days Ago: Wake up. Check social media. Bathroom. Check social media.  Kitchen. Check social media. Workout clothes. Check social media. Work out. Check social media. Drive home. Check social media - in driveway. Shower and dress. Check social media - in the closet. Work. Log onto social media on desktop and ipad. Periodically check social media all day- from 3 devices, simultaneously. Evening activities with phone in hand. Drive home. Check social media- in driveway. Get ready for bed. Check social media. Climb into bed. Check social media. Sleep. Repeat. 

That. is. pathetic. 

I've been home 8 days. Dog snuggle time is up about 60%.  

I've been home 8 days. Dog snuggle time is up about 60%.  

2.) My dog was being ignored.  

If you know me at all, you know that Ernie's life is enviable by any standard. (homemade food, kayaking trips).  Ignored is relative.

But my downtime at home has been primarily spent with my face in front of a glowing screen, petting hands occupied by a tiny keyboard. 

Any creature that would sacrifice their life for me without hesitation deserves better than that.

 

3.) People I care about very deeply were being ignored. 

Not so long ago,  I was the Queen of Correspondence.  I abdicate.

One of the perks of living in 4 states in the last 5 years is having roots that run both deep and wide. One of the challenges in this blessing is the reality of time management.  Nurturing newer relationships while trying not to neglect the ones already in place can get quite tricky. For me, social media began as a way to streamline communications. What it turned into was a cop out. 

I found myself annoyed with people not regularly on social media.  Like it was somehow their fault that we weren't sharing life's milestones or making plans for dinner.  As my online hours increased, so did the back-log of voicemails.  I was spending more time seeing what football game some random guy from college was live-tweeting than returning calls from friends who just gave birth. Or had cancer. Or were mourning the loss of a parent. 

Admitting this makes me feel like an asshole. Because I've been behaving like one. 

 

4.)   Less photo sharing = more authentic moments.

Instead of worrying about taking instantly post-worthy perfect images, I took just a few meaningful ones. Without filters. And got right back to enjoying the moment.

21 Days Ago: (internal dialouge) "Wow! Amazing dinner, amazing people, amazing restaurant. Check -in. Take photos of the food.  And the decor. And my friends. Apply some filters to the pics. Retake. Post pics before I forget- on 3 different apps. Tag them, add hashtags. Confirm posting. Oh, wait-someone already commented! Who? Oh, too funny. Comment back. Tweet the restaurant and chef. Shout out to the waiter! Come to think of it- Client X would love this place. Send meeting invite."

Vanity (and Dolph Lundgren hair) be damned.

On this trip,  I talked to my friends face-to-face. I thought about why the moment was meaningful enough for me to capture it.  I wrote a clever caption in my head.  And I did not care one bit how unglamorous this photo would look online.  Because I was enjoying the Puget Sound on a stunningly beautiful autumn day with one of  my closest friends.   (I kind of dig my Dolph Lundgren hair.)

 

5.) My social media love cannot go unbridled. 

So, what's getting me back online?  In the marketing and communications business, connectivity and the pulse of consumerism are pretty critical. I like paying my bills. And I like what I do for a living.  

Altruism helps me out of the bed most mornings.  I have friends with upcoming fundraisers/volunteer projects, and I value social media for things like making inquiries and generating buzz on their behalf. 

I'm still working on the details of establishing boundaries. For now, I'll be setting time limits and consistently asking myself, "Does this interaction authentically better me or someone I care about?" 

Not too shabby for 20 days. Not too shabby at all.  

 (And before you ask, the social media I missed the most was the Charlotte Area Tweet Tarts Facebook page.)

Note: Thanks to my colleague, social media guru  Jenifer Daniels of Bridge PR, for the inspiration to take a breather.