My friend Simon and I have given up interacting on social media for Lent. You can read our first post about it here.
Before I went to bed last night, I put a status on my personal page, and the page for this blog, explaining what I was doing and inviting people to stay in contact with me in other ways. I also changed my Twitter profile for a similar message.
It felt quite sad to be honest, as if I was removing myself from society. The last time I withdrew from Facebook in this way was when I had a breakdown and couldn't cope with the interaction. I am a little worried that, by withdrawing myself from contact with friends, acquaintances, support, I might cause something like that to happen again.
Having been a single parent from practically day 1, social media has filled a gap for me in terms of sharing S's special moments. There was nobody here to care that she'd smiled in an extra cute way, or that she'd learned to sit up, to crawl, to walk. No one person wants to be inundated with the sort of texts I would have sent her father if he were around (even my family don't seem particularly interested, if I'm honest) so Facebook and Twitter (and Instagram) became the places I would share these things. Don't ask me why I felt I needed to share with someone; probably just to stop me from feeling quite so alone in my parenting journey.
On the plus side, I have had lovely comments and messages since deciding to do this, many from people I would not have expected to hear from. People have sent me emails and private messages, and I've exchanged phone numbers with several people. Facebook seems to have become this way for us all to convince ourselves we're being sociable and keeping in touch with friends and family. Sometimes though, we are all guilty of using it as a way of saying we're in touch when we've actually not bothered to get out of the house and visit each other for months.
Part of me likes the idea of withdrawing from the distraction and inconsequential nonsense of social media; I'm looking forward to having more time available for doing things that could feasibly pass as constructive, rather than time wasting. Facebook and Twitter do in some cases seem to be the background noise of life these days, and I've been reading in Chopra about how beneficial silence can be for the mind. I would include online silence in that also.
On the other hand, I already feel quite isolated. And I seem to have forgotten what I ever used the internet for before Facebook or Twitter! In fact, now that I stop and think about it, before I had Facebook or Twitter, I had a blog on LiveJournal and a close community of friends there with whom I would waste time online all day and night. And before that... AOL chat I suppose. Same thing. With none of it available, I'll be forced to (*gasp!*) make actual conversation and be sociable with real life people. I logged out of the Facebook and Twitter apps on my phone last night... now I feel like I'm stuck in the "noughties," using my mobile just for texts and calls!
Today I texted at least two people I would normally probably have just Facebooked. I even had an actual telephone conversation, with words and anecdotes and giggling and all sorts. I'm hopeful of more of this.
Also, one really important point is that quite often, shamed though I am to admit it, S would lose my attention for minutes at a time during our days together. I would be so busy updating Facebook or Twitter or Instagram about some clever thing we'd just done together, I would miss several more clever things she was doing while I was typing. Without Facebook to distract me, we had a lot more time where we were actually together today.
|Since I wasn't so distracted by Facebook, we made cakes instead.|
So how is Simon getting on?
I don't think I thought this through properly.
Day one of giving up social media for lent has provoked mixed reactions from friends and acquaintances.
The first person to mention it was Russell at a business networking meeting. He had obviously heard me talk about it on air and was highly amused. Then I had a text from my mate Terry to say that he and his other half had decided they were going to do it too. He is a mature student studying psychology and thinks it will be interesting to see how life changes for him as a light user and me as a heavier one.
There are also those who are quite happy to ridicule. Apparently my friend Michelle has written a post on my wall so funny that it made my boss laugh out loud on a packed train. I ended up asking him to go into my settings and make changes to prevent future abuse. I can't wait to admire her work in 40 days though - I know it will be hilarious.
And then there are a few who clearly couldn't give up social media if their lives depended on it, and view my motives with suspicion. "I'm happy and I've great friends - why would I give them up" came one response in an email conversation about this. Nobody is asking you to.
I'm happy and I've still got great friends too. I'm just not spending as much time with them and I think this might make me appreciate my time with some of them a bit more. I spoke to my friend Andy for the first time in years today. We had drifted apart since I moved South and he had heard about my abstinence and wondered if I wanted to discuss it on a talk show he was producing. I sent him Vicky’s way and we caught up on the changes to his life over the last 8 years. Chatting to him was the best 10 minutes of my day - and we would never have bothered if I hadn’t stopped using Facebook.
Another potential benefit I can see that I will be spending less time thinking about work in the coming 40 days. Or at least, I will be restricting work to specified hours of the day.
I tend to fit "work" in here and there. If I found myself with 60 seconds to kill I would have a quick look at my timeline and take a screenshot of stuff I might like to use for content at some point. No apps on my phone equals no temptation to "graze" for information. So I will need to set aside time to concentrate on it.
What else have I learnt on the first day?
I obviously didn’t things through properly.
With friends like mine, I should have thought about locking my wall before I logged off!
The world still appears to be turning. Or at least I think it is.
If it isn’t I will just have to find out about it via the TV news or the internet.
How very 20th century!
Find out how we got on at the end of Week 1 here.
Find out how we got on at the end of Week 1 here.