Say what you will about the pros and cons of social media, but no one denies that it has overhauled the way we spread information from person to person.
At one end of the see-saw, it has helped organize otherwise disparate voices to strengthen niche communities, shine light on emerging ideas, and democratize information itself, once the sole domain of The Media. At the other, it has contributed to countless wasted hours reading, sharing, and otherwise mistaking self-serving, empty content for The News.
Still, the influence of social media is so overarching, that you’d be a fool to think you can escape it entirely. You can shut down your social profiles altogether, but unless you head out to Walden and abandon the social context in which you are embedded wholesale, you will still be plugged in, if only second-hand. You may not go on Facebook or Twitter yourself, but you’ll very likely still get the day’s news from your friends, who heard about it through social media.
These realities aside, however, my mission with these One Week Without challenges has been to root out the many things I take for granted, and cut them out. Can I escape social media entirely, and transport myself back to a time before anyone had heard of AIM? Of course not. But I can at least avoid spending time on it directly.
Can social media be a vice? Sure. Can it be a tremendously useful tool? Absolutely. But this week, for me at least, it will be neither of these.
Why I’m Quitting Social Media
1. I’m curious
If I were to quit social media for a year I would be a bit nervous, mainly because I use social media to organize the One Week Without community. But will my Facebook and Twitter profiles collapse after a week without any content? Probably not.
To be honest, I’m not sure that I use social media enough to truly consider it a vice. I schedule most of my tweets ahead of time, and when I do check Facebook it’s only ever for a minute at a time. So part of my motivation for this challenge is to gain some perspective on my habits and see whether they require permanent adjustment or not.
2. I would do about anything to get more time in the day
When I quit watching television I was overwhelmed by how much free time I had. I had an idea that I watched a good bit of TV, but I never realized how much time it took up. As above, though I’m unsure how much time I truly spend on social media, every second of time I gain is a second I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
3. I want to be able to focus
As soon as I finished writing that last sentence, I leaned back, exhaled, and moved my cursor to the Facebook bookmark at the top of my browser. No joke. I hadn’t known what point #3 would be until that moment, but sometimes the universe falls into line that way.
When working on the computer, social media provides the perfect distraction. Once I’ve completed an idea, I’ll take a quick break to see what’s going on on the web, and come back to what I was working on a minute or two later. Really though, there’s no reason why I can’t start a new paragraph without checking to see what a girl I met in middle school thinks about the latest episode of Game of Thrones.
4. Most likely, nothing important happens on my social channels
If I were walking through the streets of Cairo during the Arab Spring, Twitter would be a very useful tool. Currently finding myself sitting at a kitchen table in suburban Nashville listening to Mac DeMarco and watching the neighbors drive by in their convertibles, however, I’d say my circumstances prohibit me from using that comparison to justify the value of social media in my own life.
In reality, few things of any importance happen on any of my social networks. Therefore, much of the time I spend on them would probably be better spent on activities where importance might be more likely to sneak its way in.
So starting tomorrow, you won’t be seeing me on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit or the like for one week. I’m going to delete my bookmarks from my browser, take the icons off the front page of my phone, and log myself out in order to avoid the accidental slip up. If you’re used to hearing about these posts from one of these sources, now might be a good time to subscribe to the email list below. Otherwise, check in later this week to see how it’s going.
may we all get better together.
Start your own One Week With/out challenge! Begin here.