Today I’ve started using social media again after a month-long hiatus. It wasn’t a January detox thing, more just that I got busy writing a book, realised I’d been absent from Twitter, Instagram et al for a while and decided to round it up to a month and see what the effect on my personal, social, professional lives were.
1. I got lots of stuff done
The obvious outcome, but it was having lots to do that caused my hiatus in the first place. Having to burn through stuff every day meant everything else became deprioritised, and having social media pages open soon felt counter-productive.
2. But I still found ways to procrastinate
When researching stuff it’s so hard not to get lost down rabbit holes of fascinating yet useless information. Clicking through news articles, Wikipedia and Google Books can wipe an hour out before you know it. These are ultimately good rabbit holes though, rich with knowledge. For instance, when researching cognac (all will become clear why soon!) I read all about the phylloxera epidemic. Did you know that almost all European vineyards were wiped out in the late nineteenth century by an accidentally imported aphid from America? The only solution was grafting resistant American vine roots onto European ones and consequently there are almost no genuinely ‘Old World’ wines. Pretty useless info but one of many interesting passages in recent history which I lost hours to whilst researching this book.
3. I felt less connected to people
Much as I loved being left alone to get on with stuff, I started to feel further from people. I realised that I have several acquaintances (ex workmates and the like) who I rarely, if ever see face-to-face. But because we like and comment on each other’s online stuff, it feels just as real a friendship as if we regularly bumped into each other. Some people are really curmudgeonly about this aspect of social media. But what the “if I want to speak to someone I pick up the phone” brigade forget is that I would never pick up the phone to these acquaintances, and sadly, without social media we would fade into each other’s past.
4. I ended up switching off all notifications
To really switch off from social media you have to switch off notifications on your computer and phone. And once you’ve silenced social you may as well stop that iPhone game from telling you when new levels are available and all the other useless distractions we’re subject to, including email. Whether having a coffee with a friend or trying to write so many hundred words before dinner, just doing one thing without distraction felt so good and calm. Try it, it’s pretty liberating to be allowed to forget it all.
5. How much I had to talk about with friends didn’t change
I’ve heard a lot of social media skeptics say that the newsfeed robs you of conversation when you meet friends because you know all about their life already. I think that’s totally untrue and in fact the opposite is more likely. Seeing a few photos from your Italy trip is more likely to spark a conversation rather than negate the need for one.
6. No-one missed me
I know, believe it or not, not one single person messaged me to see if I was still alive, or alright. Obviously I’d seen and talked to the people I know best, but it puts your contribution to the wider world in perspective when you realise that tweets about your everyday life aren’t particularly important. I’ve always been pretty keen on giving value in my content, like useful links and pretty images, but the last month has hopefully made me step up my game!
7. Overall, I still think social media is a great thing
We knew that anyway, but standing back for a second makes us realise that just as the power of books can’t be dismissed by quoting the existence of dross like – How to Poo on a Date: The Lovers Guide to Toilet ,Etiquette, the power of the open internet cannot simply be brushed off with a mention of the pointlessness of Buzzfeed and lolcats. It has opened up previously unthinkable channels for discovering art, connecting with almost half the world’s population, giving a voice to us all and hopefully one day facilitating the prevail of reason and peace.
So yeah, good to be back 🙂