I’ve spent the last four full days fasting from traditional social media use.
Previously, my longest social media fast in the last decade lasted around 48 hours. For context, I was among the first groups of individuals who adopted Facebook back in 2004 (back when it was www.thefacebook.com, and you had to have an .edu email address to join). I am completely imbedded.
If you’re connected to me socially, you probably didn’t even notice my absence. I still logged in to make needed posts and check notifications. I didn’t feel like it was sensible for me to disengage completely; too many people count on Facebook and Instagram as a primary form of communication these days to completely log out.
My parameters: I could check notifications and make critical posts — I posted to our church’s Facebook page, and shared a blog post I was able to finish. I could respond to comments. But no posting of funny quips, quotes, or photos. I denied myself any scrolling on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. If I happened to like a post, it was only because it was at the top of my newsfeed. No non-essential comments.
Facebook Messenger wasn’t included in the ban, nor my email.
This is my last week before classes start for my final semester of seminary, and it felt timely to prioritize my focus, streamline my responsibilities, and reduce my screen time. I needed a detox from the daily distractions that come with absentmindedly tapping on icons and waiting for status updates. To be honest, I’ve had a lot of stuff to accomplish this week, including scheduled rest, and I didn’t need anything competing for productivity or amping up my anxiety.
I needed a timeout.
Here’s what I learned:
I’ve missed you. Truly. Several of my social media contacts I don’t have cell phone numbers for, have never hung out with on a face-to-face level for more than introductory times, but I find I still have relationships with you. To me at least, they’re meaningful in a very non-traditional way. I found that I am OK with that. I love seeing photos of your kids, your new job, that new haircut, the book you’re reading. And I want to grieve with you in times of sadness. If you ever want to get together for smoothies or a walk in the park, we can do that. In the meantime, I’ll keep clicking “like” and “love.”
I think in terms of status updates. I can’t tell you how many times in the span of four days I’ve come up with a funny or snarky status update for Facebook, only to realize I wouldn’t be posting it. In the past two years, I’ve learned that I am a verbal processor, and Facebook/Instagram/Twitter help me process so many of my life encounters.
A few items that would have made their way onto Facebook, had I been posting this week:
- Beatrix corned the skink in my bedroom. MY BEDROOM. I was able to extract him, although his poor tail got lopped off in the process.
- Overheard an elderly fella wooing a potential mate over speakerphone in the library. Because the conversation was so entertainingly awful, my coworker and I allowed it to go on too long. We’re not sorry.
- My best friend gave me the gift of canceled plans Tuesday night so I could heal from two-plus weeks of extrovertedness. The salve included a can of Vienna sausages, white rice, and finishing the book Where the Crawdads Sing (wow!) by Delia Owens.
My driving is safer. Too often, I would pick up my phone at red lights and scroll for status updates. It was a release to be able to know that my phone was off limits for the most part while in the car.
I love music. One side effect of not having social media to occupy my time is that there were periods of time in my life where I need to sit and rest, but not sit idle. So I organized my music on my phone app, and hit play a lot more these past few days. Music is nice. We need more of it.
I got things done. Instead of scrolling for 30 minutes, I read books. I finally cleaned my kitchen. I hung up a piece of art. I wrote creatively. I finished an assignment from my summer class. I started work and reading for my assignments for next week. I made significant progress on a craft project. I needed this productivity in order to send me into my semester with sanity.
I actually read my emails. Because I was starved for words and communication, I found myself deeply reading emails that I had previously skimmed over. And I replied more promptly.
I like, appreciate, and need social media. I’m not sure, this side of a major apocalypse, that we’ll ever truly be able to function without the connectedness of social media. And I’m OK with that. I just need to continue to make my use more moderate, more intentional, and less addictive.
Have you gone on a social media fast? What did you miss? Did you learn anything?