Joseph and I finished another 30 day challenge: No social media for 30 days! I'm proud of us as we do enjoy our Facebook time. Personally I enjoy the blogs I follow and Pinterest; I love seeing creative ideas from other people. The first week was hard in that I was breaking a habit. There are certain empty moments during one's day that social media fills quite well; waiting for your food at a restaurant, awkward elevator rides, stop lights, etc. After about two weeks into the challenge I realized I had no clue what was going on in my family and friends' lives. Even my friends who claim they never go on Facebook; I missed their status updates too!
Joe and I watched a great TED Talk about how electronics are taking the place of actual people and it's really quite sad. Take a look at this article or check out the TED Talk I just referenced here. I learned that if we're not careful we can waste a lot time scrolling through tweets and status updates. Social media also encourages bad manners; why would I stare at my phone when I'm at a nice restaurant with my husband or friends? Now I actually talk to the people I'm in the the elevator with every morning; it's been nice.
After 30 days without, I am no more certain whether social media is a good thing or a bad, than I was before our "fast". As Jill stated, social media is a habit for many of us. I had to check myself several times a day during the first week as I nearly unconsciously reached for my smart phone. But after a few days (and especially after removing my Facebook app), that was not a problem at all. It is not a hard habit to break, once you realize that the addictive aspect of social media is the somewhat fraudulent feeling of "connectedness", and that by spending an equal amount of time in real face-to-face conversation, you develop deeper, more meaningful relationships, that are so satisfying that the Facebook friendships pale in comparison.
This, of course, does not mean that I no longer value my relationships with people on Facebook: Again, as Jill noted, it is hard these days to keep abreast of what is going on with the people in our families and social circles if you are off of Facebook. But it is far more than tidbits of information dangled in status updates, infantile "inspirational" quotes, and silly pictures of cats in compromising positions: Facebook and other forms of social media have become so ubiquitous that people tend to overlook other forms of communication when they disseminate information. I am in the middle of putting together a print exchange, involving over twenty artists, and almost all of them are best accessible through Facebook. Though I requested that they contact me with questions via my telephone or e-mail, they continued to use only Facebook, which made things difficult, especially if they concerned time-sensitive topics. I also found that most information regarding our Lodge activities is found on Facebook. Facebook has become an integral part of our communication network.
I really appreciate the ease of connection that social media provides, and the fact that I am able to have a modicum of relations with people that are far removed from me in distance and time: Old friends from school, former students, distant relations, and various colleagues. But I also lament that most of those connections hardly merit even the adjective "superficial". My time off social media didn't strengthen any connections with these people, because such things must be a two-way street, so to speak. The person with whom I grew closer was the only other person also avoiding social media; my wife.
I also became more aware of social niceties. It was not very long ago that it was considered the height of rudeness to text while having a meal with others, much less a conversation. Now texting, tweeting, and checking Facebook during all but the most intimate moments (and how long will even those remain sacrosanct, I wonder - an absurd concept to picture) have become the norm.
So while social media is hardly the spawn of the devil, and I think it is mostly a good thing, taking small breaks may be a good way for many people to become more aware of the dangers of allowing one's self to become too attached to alternate reality of social media.