Archive for June, 2013

Love it, but Leave It: We yearn to disconnect

June 19, 2013

As you know, dear readers, I recently completed a self-imposed social media sabbatical. I only lasted about 10 days of no little social media usage. Staying off Twitter and Facebook were the biggest victories. Apparently, I’m not alone in the desire to disconnect. As much as I and others love social media, unplugging and doing without for a while is not only a healthy practice, I would argue a necessary one. I don’t want to wax philosophical about how absence makes the heart grow fonder, that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone or any other cliched pop culture reference. I’ve already written about what a short sabbatical did for me and the lessons learned.
This post is about how social media sabbaticals and disconnecting from a hyperconnected world are suddenly becoming all the rage. This week alone, I’ve seen several posts about this very subject (yes, I learned about these articles through social media). Not everyone has to go to the South China Sea, where there is no wifi, no cellphone signal and “most alarmingly, there would be no Twitter,” to escape the daily social grind as travel writer Jillian Keenan did.
“I Google, Facebook, email and tweet in the same insatiable way that I drink water and breathe air,” the 26-year-old writes in the Post piece. Keenan concluded that she “needed a technological detox,” which came in the form of a rugged, but beautiful island and sea adventure.
But we don’t all have to GO away in order to GET away from the deluge of messages we’re bombarded with in our everyday daily lives.
Younger Millennials are starting to figure this out, according to a new study by MTV. Younger Millennials are starting to unplug and mono-task to de-stress. According to the MTV study, younger Millennials “are also consciously taking time to self-soothe, disconnect, de-stress, de-stimulate and control inputs. They increasingly “mono-task” and focus on immersive hands-on activities like baking, sewing or crafting. Some claim their dependence on social media is overrated: one girl says ‘My parents Facebook more than I do.'”
The report found that 8 in 10 young Millennials agree that “Sometimes I just need to unplug and enjoy the simple things” and that 82% of young Millennials agree “when I’m stressed or overwhelmed, I like to stop and just do one thing at a time,” with more than half (57%) of young Millennials like to take a break from technology to make things with their hands.
Of course you don’t have to be a “tech homesteader” or young Millennial to disconnect and disengage from the social world. While my social media sabbatical was a mere week and a half, author Neil Gaiman announced a planned 6-month social media sabbatical.
“Gaiman announced that he would take a break from updating his 1.8m followers on Twitter, his 500,000 Facebook friends and maybe even posting for the 1.5m readers of his blog,” The Guardian reported.
Of course, when you are actively engaged, telling others that you’re deliberating trying to go without seems strange. The peers in your social network may react with disbelief. And saying you’re going offline and actually doing it are two different things.
Baratunde Thurston offers advice on how to successfully #unplug. After a year filled with 1,518 Facebook posts (4 per day), 3,702 SMS threads (10 per day), 4,845 Photos taken (13 per day), 11,541 Tweets (32 per day), and 59,409 Gmail conversations (163 per day), Thurston decided a digital detox was in store.
“I didn’t want to be alone,” Thurston writes. “I just wanted to be free of obligations, most of which asserted themselves digitally.”
So for 25 days, Thurston disappeared from the digital world. His excellent Fast Company post offers a 9-point digital detox list offering “how to disappear.” I highly recommend checking it out.
While there are definite advantages to taking a sabbatical, going to an island in the South Seas, or temporarily detoxing digital from your life, there’s also a price to pay. For me, my Klout score dropped about 15 points because I wasn’t constantly tweeting, Facebooking (is that even a verb?), checking-in, or linking in. I don’t regret it one bit. You won’t either.
When it comes to Social Media, not only should you love it, but leave it. Just make sure you #return.

Lessons from a Self-Imposed Social Media Sabbatical

June 10, 2013

Confession: I love social media. I use social media (I tweet a lot). I teach social media. I study social media. I consult about social media. I strategize social media. I am working on innovating social media. Despite all of this (or perhaps because of), I decided to walk away from social media. For a week. A WHOLE week. As a mini-social experiment of sorts, I decided to go on a self-imposed Social Media Sabbatical. My planned weeklong sabbatical actually turned into a 10-day one. From May 24th to June 3rd, I used very little social media. I decided to share the takeaways of what I learned about my social media usage (and non-usage). Here they are:

*Habitual: My social media usage is habitual. Every morning, I check Twitter primarily as a news feed to read articles from numerous outlets. My morning Twitter read is usually followed by email and Facebook checks. Just as my parents are accustomed to watching the evening news at a set time and channel (“appointment viewing”), my habit has become a routine of “social media-as-news-first thing in the morning.”

*Instinctive: The opposite of habit, but my social media usage is just as instinctive as it is habitual. While I have a ritual of checking social media at a certain time, I also noticed that during “down moments,” my instinct was to grab my iPhone or tablet and check Twitter or Facebook, almost without even thinking about it.

*FOMO Engagement:
With social media there’s always the “FOMO,” or Fear Of Missing Out. Naturally, a social media sabbatical brings the fear of missing out. Facebook has the most daily engagement and it plays up the FOMO angle. Since I had the audacity to not log onto Facebook for days, and thus not be engaged with the platform, Facebook sent me emails telling me what all I was missing. So and so commented about such and such. This person posted pics on Topic Y. I also found that FOMO works two ways. When engaged with social media, there’s also the FOMO of what’s happening right in front of you, or missing out in IRL. Comedian Louis C.K. has a funny bit about this.

*Addicting: Yes, Social Media is indeed addicting. Much like an addict slowly weans himself off of a drug, quitting cold turkey was difficult. I did not succeed. I was able to avoid logging onto Facebook and Twitter for 10 days. But I confess I still had an occasional Foursquare check-in, and looked at LinkedIn from time to time. And like most addictions, you replace one addiction with another. I turned to eating Bojangles. Lots and lots of Bojangles.

*Prevalent: Social media is everywhere. While you can avoid logging onto and actively participating in social media you can’t avoid its reach. During my sabbatical, others were using social media and sharing it with me in the real world. My aunt showed me the Facebook page created for her insurance agency. Others pulled up pictures to show me. Of course, television shows promoted hashtags and tempted me. I filled my social media void by turning to old-fashioned books, about among other topics, you guessed it- social media. Yes, I spent a weekend at the beach disconnecting from social media while reading Shel Israel’s Twitterville.

*Useful and entertaining: The bottom line is that social media is useful and entertaining. That’s why it can be addicting. That’s why we I use it. It’s far easier to come across news from at least a dozen outlets in one place (Twitter) than to individually seek out the websites of The New York Times, News & Observer, Hartford Courant, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, The Guardian and so on and so forth. I found the process of actively seeking out news articles far more laborious. I also missed using social media for recommendations on places to eat (Yelp, Urbanspoon), and what to eat (Foursquare, Yelp). I missed using social media for sports updates (how were my Braves doing). And I missed the entertaining “second screen” experience of Twitter during television. When UNC’s baseball team was competing in an epic 18-inning ACC tourney game with rival N.C. State, I found myself wondering what Inside Carolina reporter Dijana Kunovac was tweeting about.

*Connective: Social media is social afterall. It connects us, and (for better or worse) keeps us informed with what is going on in each other’s lives. I definitely felt less connected and less informed to friends and colleagues in my social networks during my sabbatical.