What I Learnt From My Social Media Fast
Posted by Pete
So after 40 days… I’m back. Back on Instagram, back on Twitter, back on Foursquare, and of course, back on Facebook. Maybe it was a bit of a weak way of doing ‘Lent’. After all, giving up meat or coffee (in previous years) was way more difficult. But since this was the course of action I took, I thought I might as well do some reflecting on what staying away from social media for a month and a half taught me.
1. Power was more addictive than I thought
It’s strange to think about accessibility to social media (SM) as power, but it wasn’t until I went without that I realised just how much it had to do with power. SM gave me the power of knowing what people were up to almost all the time. When it was suddenly taken away, I realised how power-less I was compared with everyone else who was still connected. SM also gave me an extensive reach into lots of different networks: a power that could be used and harnessed for good when it comes to ministry. That too was now unavailable.
But as already noted, the power itself wasn’t the problem since it could be used for good. However the addictive lure of this power was something I was surprised with. I missed having this power, not because of the good it could achieve, but “just because”.
2. People’s approval was more addictive than I thought
Another luring and potentially addictive aspect of SM I didn’t think I was in such need of was the ego-massaging nature of SM. Put simply: I liked being able to write stuff on my Facebook wall or post a tweet or a photo and have people ‘like’ it, comment on it, and interact with it. I had no idea how much that mattered to me until I went without it.
3. I’d forgotten how important it was to focus on the ‘here and now’ and just enjoy it
I’m a notorious fidgeter and multitasker. I used to type quietly on the keyboard answering emails whilst on the phone with Karen. I’m the kind of guy who used social media wherever I was to endlessly check in, take photos, post comments etc. etc. Not being able to do that for 40 days was initially difficult, but after a while, it dawned on me how ‘nice’ it all was. It’s like when someone switches off that endless dripping tap that you’d almost forgotten was there because it became part of the background noise. But suddenly once it’s off, you begin to appreciate its absence. It’s amazing to think how SM has only been with us for a few short years and yet, I had forgotten how wonderful it is just to be where you are without caring about letting the rest of the world know where you are, who you’re with and what interesting food you’re eating.
4. My use of time became more intentional
This is a no-brainer. SM was an incredible time-waster. Seconds here, minutes there… it all adds up. Not having a default boredom-relief in SM helped me be far more intentional with my use of time. I read more, conversed more, played more music and listened to more music.
So in summary, a SM fast was a pretty good experiment. You don’t really know how much you needed something until you go without it. And it’s easy to deny you’re addicted to something when it’s always there.
So now that I’m back, I’m hoping that I can take some of what I learnt to temper my usage of SM. I know that’s easier said than done, so perhaps another time I’ll have to unplug and switch off again. Until then… see you on Facebook!