Back in January, Austin and I decided to go on a 3-week “fast” from social media, something we had done last year in January as well, but only for 1 week instead of 3. I’ve heard and read in many places that it takes 21 days to establish any new habit, so 3 weeks seemed a reasonable period for this experiment. We each have our own personal pitfalls when it comes to social media (mine are Instagram and Facebook), and we both know that social media can hamper productivity all too easily if we don’t maintain constant vigilance against it. So Austin changed settings on our router to literally block all our chosen social media outlets (no opportunities to cheat!), and together we stuck to our goal of 3 weeks “dark” in the social media world.
Surprisingly enough, for me, the break this year was not nearly as painful as I found it to be last year. After the first day or so, I found myself almost relieved to not be checking Instagram or Facebook or Pinterest at any point during the day. I read more. I wrote more. I slept better. And not only did my productivity skyrocket–which I fully expected–but I learned several other lessons as well.
First, I was more fully “present” to daily situations. Ironically, the very first day of the 3 weeks, I had an unexpected day in San Francisco with my dear friend Kate, and I desperately wanted to Instagram for most of the day. I had not set foot in The City for awhile, and I do love visiting for the day (although I can’t really imagine living there full-time as Kate has for the past 3 years!), and I do usually post photos when I remember to take them. However, despite my twitching fingers that kept reaching for my phone all day, I instead felt myself more present to Kate and to our surroundings and conversations throughout the day, which I had to admit was infinitely superior to sharing photos with my virtual world.
I find it fairly easy to be “fully present” in larger social settings, such as after church on Sunday mornings, but more often than I’d like to admit, I have found myself on the reclining leather couch at my in-laws’ browsing Facebook instead of being present to family fellowship and activities. I have known for a long while that I want to avoid this sort of situation, and this is one of the reasons why (even 10+ weeks later) I still have not reinstalled the Facebook app on my phone. It’s all too easy, when silence descends in a social setting, to whip out my phone and pull up Facebook instead of actively engaging in conversation with the “real life people” who sit beside me.
Second, I found myself communicating more directly during the 3 weeks. Instead of posting an update to Facebook or a photo to Instagram, which would (admittedly) have been seen by a far larger audience, I would instead send a text message (or better yet, make an actual phone call) directly to the person to whom I knew the update would be the most relevant. I cannot say that I have not updated my Facebook status messages since the 3 weeks ended, but I have (when I am paying attention, at least!) tried to be a bit more discerning and not post updates that would be better suited to be sent directly to the person(s) I truly want to have the information.
Third, I found it easier to go to bed earlier without Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter on my phone at night. Instead of browsing social media “one last time” before bedtime (as if anything there is truly urgent!), it was easier to power down and go to bed at a more reasonable hour–and it’s also easier to get out of bed more quickly when I don’t have social media to browse before my feet even hit the ground. This is another large part of the reason why I still no longer have Facebook on my phone. I want to dedicate my early mornings and late evenings to pursuits more significant than obsessing over who Instagram’ed what they ate for dinner or what vague (but always mysteriously significant) song lyrics someone posted as their Facebook status.
In short, I fully admit that social media has a place and a time, and I will even still admit that I enjoy it, probably more than I should. However, I never want to allow social media of any variety to take over my life, and I know that my natural tendencies, unfortunately, could allow that to happen much more easily than I might like to admit. An annual “cold turkey fast” seems like a good idea, therefore, and I have to admit… A part of me already looks forward to next year’s 3-week break.