What I learned from my social media fast

This past week I logged out of Facebook, Twitter, and Medium as part of my 60 Weeks to 60 project. Here is what I found:

  1. The first 24 hours were quite hard. I wasn’t shaking with withdrawal pangs, but I realized how many times a day I reflexively visited social media sites for a short “hit” of social stimulation.
  2. Cheating was easy… Although I was signed out of Medium, I could go to the site and see it through the public’s eyes. Even though I couldn’t write or edit an article, I could see how many people “liked” and commented on my posts. Therefore, the first day I did cheat a few times as I tested the limits of my access. After the first day, I didn’t do this any more.
  3. I was reminded that social media sites have embedded themselves deeply in our lives. For example, I couldn’t respond to messages from other sites unless I logged in with Facebook. I didn’t do it.
  4. At first, I felt anti-social. By being off of Facebook, I wasn’t able to respond to my friend’s experiences. I didn’t know what was going on, and therefore couldn’t react as I normally would. I felt as though I was ignoring others.
  5. I missed the opportunity to participate in community-based events, such as the Warriors highs and lows, the book launch for a friend, and the Global Entrepreneurship Summit at Stanford. These are things I would normally share, and watch for others’ responses.
  6. On the flip side, I was much less distracted by social media while participating in the above mentioned events. I was much more present with the people in the room, as opposed to those who were watching from afar.
  7. As the week wore on, I realized that I was free from measurements of how people responded to my posts. As a result, I wasn’t thinking about what other people thought about me.
  8. When I was tempted to go to social media sites, I looked at the news. Spending a few minutes getting an update on what is happening in the world was a useful substitute. Also, since the news changes much more slowly than social media updates, I was able to wean myself from checking the news as frequently as I used to check social media sites.
  9. In general, I felt more calm. I wasn’t being over-stimulated by an endless stream of information from people I don’t interact with on a daily basis.
  10. Finally, I was reminded that social media provides access to information that is a mile wide and a few millimeters deep. There are times when this is just what we want as we take the pulse of our community, and add ours to the mix. However, a healthy diet must be balanced with a heavy dose of interactions that go deep.

When I started this fast, I wanted to answer the following questions:

  • Will I long to share things on social media?
  • Will I be hungry for updates on friends and followers?
  • Will I gorge myself after this fast?

In short, no… I realized that for me social media should be consumed like chocolate. I love chocolate, but I’m not going to eat it all day long.

Therefore, I plan to stay logged out of social media unless I actively choose to visit a site. I will have to make an active choice to log in to read and post. I won’t deny myself the pleasure to keeping up with others, and sharing important events but, like chocolate, I will save it for dessert.

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Here is the first post in my 60 Weeks to 60 project… I will be posting next week’s challenge soon.

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