After the (Social Media) Unplug
By Meghan Sullivan
I’m back!! A few weeks ago, I told you all about my intentions to unplug (from social media) for the holidays. You may be wondering how it went and whether I succeeded in refreshing my soul and gathering moments of inspiration. The short answer is “yes and no.” But I also realized several other things. Let me tell you a little bit about what happened.
The day before I was set to unplug I was starting to feel increasingly anxious about my decision. Would I really be able to do it? Would I lose followers? Would it matter if I did?
The night before I was set to unplug, I posted messages on my various profiles and contacted people who expected to hear from me via those social channels (everyone was supportive), but in hindsight I probably should have posted the messages earlier (not right before I went to bed) so that I could actually respond to any questions, comments, and the like before I unplugged.
I should also note that I didn’t alter my phone notification settings at all, so I did keep seeing those little red numbers on all of my apps – that was frustrating. As my two weeks went on I really did stop caring about those numbers, even if they did steadily increase.
Over the first few days, I realized how strange my mindset had become. Certain random thoughts would come to me and I’d want to post them. I had to stop and mentally remind myself that I couldn’t do that. It was kind of eye-opening to consider the thoughts I had thought were worthy of broadcasting. I’m sure there’s some psychological study out there somewhere about what we choose to share with the world and what it says about your personality. It was certainly interesting to me. By the end of my two weeks I wasn’t constantly thinking about posting my thoughts. The same thing happened with geeky news tidbits and exciting personal news that I really wanted to share and talk about. At first I kept track of it all, but after a while I stopped doing that too.
There was a slight hiccup around day three of my unplug. I know my mom tends to pay attention to my online activity but I didn’t realize the extent. Turns out, my mother stalks me on Facebook to make sure I’m alive. We had gone to a movie together in the morning and for obvious reasons I put my phone on silent. I inadvertently forgot to turn the sound back on after the movie and because I wasn’t using social media I didn’t have the compulsion to constantly check my phone. After several text messages and phone calls went unreturned over the course of several hours, my mom decided to come to my home to check on me. She has an overactive imagination and had begun to worry that I had injured myself somewhere on the trails during my run. Needless to say, she is a big proponent of my online social activity because it proves to her I’m alright. I still can’t help but laugh at the whole thing (though I do feel bad I freaked her out).
Speaking of Facebook – they are not too happy when you decide not to log in. Around day four, I started getting emails from them telling me I hadn’t logged in and was missing stuff. From that point on I seemed to get emails every other day that provided me with the number of notifications I had pending. And that’s not the worst of it! Despite the fact that I never had banner notifications turned on for Facebook, I started getting them (even for other people’s status updates). It was their way to try to entice me back, but really it just pissed me off! I also think it’s telling that over my two weeks, I did find that I missed Instagram and Twitter, but I didm not miss Facebook.
After about the first week, when I had stopped constantly thinking about what I wanted to be posting or what I was missing, I did start to notice more around me. I overheard snippets of conversation that made me smile and laugh while out walking, or sitting in a coffee shop. I stopped and really looked at things in much more detail because I wasn’t just taking a picture to post and look at later. I also noticed that I tended to fill more of my time with gaming, (guess who finally made it to Draenor in World of Warcraft and cracked open her Dragon Age game finally), and reading blogs. This wasn’t technically against the rules I set for myself, but it did kind of feel like cheating. I really should have been out in the world more, to catch those real life moments I talked about, instead I was still at home looking at screens.
Overall, it was a great experience and one that I would happily try again ( maybe with more restrictions next time). I feel like I gained some new perspectives and inspirations. That said, I was super excited to return to social media and am very happy to be communicating with my friends around the globe again (which will be even more important in the coming weeks as the DC TV shows return and some of my Geek Girl Pen Pal blogging duties step up again). These first few days that I’ve been back on social media I’ve noticed that my habits have changed a bit as a result of my unplug. It remains to be seen whether whether or not these new habits will stick. Stay tuned…