OK, here goes. My name is Rachel and I am a social media addict.
I haven't ever tried to limit my exposure to or use of social media since the thing was invented ... well, rather when I jumped in (a little later than early adopters, but I joined FB in 2007 and Twitter at the start of 2009). I'd looked at myspace and not really understood it (I'm not a musician was all Rational Brain was telling me).
Oh and of course Friends Reunited - yes I joined and then realised I didn't know the names of many of my primary school classmates and whilst I found it interesting (in a voyeuristic way) to see what people were up to, I honestly didn't really want to reconnect that much.
And I'm ok anyway with who I am - I'm not really one for big reunions, or Organised Fun.
I don't have a 'group' of friends from when we were at school or uni together. I'm generally more a one-on-one or small groups kind of girl - although I do LOVE bringing people together and hosting so my recent supperclubs has been perfect for me.
But over the years - and last year (2014) in particular - I've noticed how very social-media-dependent I have become and that's absolutely FINE too! I've joined groups and communities and made new friends - friends who are now IRL friends as well as online - and I've found lots of support. Support for things I'm doing and want to do and who I want to be.
And I like to think I reciprocate - I spend time on FB groups and forums not just to 'take' but because I really want to 'give' back as my communities do to me. I want to be there with some support, or feedback, or honesty, or just 'there-ness', and I check in pretty often.
So, that's FB.
And then there's twitter - who I only grew to love a few months ago and who now takes up maybe 15 minutes in the morning and another 15 in the evening.
And instagram. And Pinterest. And ...
And I realised suddenly a couple of weeks ago that my huge enjoyment of this connection, this world, my world, social media ... wasn't quite there any more. I was feeling overwhelmed and like it was a duty. I was at all times connected with my phone, checking and checking and checking. Holding it in my hand as I walked or went anywhere, clicking through instantly to any new notification. Controlled by it. Starting also to compare myself to others. Not being productive and doing the things I love in the evenings - not creating or writing or learning or anything.
I realised just how much time I could while away on social media.
I'd been thinking about a few days or a week off for a while but I was somehow convincing myself I 'needed' to be available and 'on' every waking hour. Sometimes the sleeping ones too - if I wake in the night I reach for my phone and if I can't sleep, well, there's a whole world still awake to talk to. But I was really feeling quite overwhelmed and knowing that I have a VERY high tolerance for stress, pain plus the constitution of an ox ... well, if I was feeling overwhelmed then I really did need a break.
My diary was getting booked up - as well as a busy and enjoyable day job, I was booked for my cooking sessions three Saturdays in February and followed by presenting a Thai cooking 'masterclass' at the beginning of March. I had calls to make to move forward exciting opportunities too but I was just feeling tired.
So I checked my diary properly .... and found that the very next week was the only one I could take off. Off from social media, not off from life. I would still be at work - well, Monday-Thursday anyway as I had a long weekend away in Marrakech planned Friday- Monday. So ... I reasoned with myself, four days is really all it is, just four days!
Sunday 25 January was planned for the Switch Off, but then my gorgeous, brave and inspirational friend Ruth (and yes, I met her online, which almost made me doubt why I was going offline) posted this - and everyone decided to change their profile pics in support and to share and raise awareness. I couldn't miss that! So I negotiated with myself a later start date of lunchtime on Monday.
Monday came. I changed my profile and cover pic and suddenly walking away and switching off felt like the hardest thing …. even for a week. Here was social media doing all the very best of everything it can do! But ... it didn't need ME to continue being a force for good but I really needed me to be a force of good for me.
Around 11am I switched off. Yes, I did 'one last post' saying that I would be offline for a week, and then I switched off. But OH MAN!!! Did I want to check and see who'd liked that post and if there were any comments! I was desperate to see.
I deleted the following apps from my phone: FB, messenger, twitter, instagram, snapchat (never used it anyway) and tumblr (same). At lunchtime I went for a walk and had an almost overwhelming desire to post somewhere - anywhere - about my feelings about not being on social media. And when I got home that evening, my macbook was out and I hadn't closed FB down - I couldn't resist a peek and saw there were over 20 notifications, but I did it - I just closed the application down.
A friend sent me a request for a reference on linkedin. I leapt on this as if it were a lifeline and started chatting to her via linkedin. I don't know why. It felt better. But she knew about my week off and emailed me to say in this instance linkedin was clearly the methadone of social media and I needed to stop. This made me laugh, but I did it. I went cold turkey and also deleted my linkedin app.
I was busy Monday night so didn't notice too much the lack of pings and bings etc.
Tuesday morning - I reached automatically for my phone in the morning, looked at the social-free-screen and went back to sleep for ten minutes.
It felt peaceful knowing that I COULDN'T go on there.
On getting up again the dog did something funny - oh I dunno, I can't remember it now - but it was funny enough that I held a discussion with myself as to whether it 'counted' if I posted as Rocco on FB or instagram. (Ummmm, YES. I do also run accounts for my chihuhua).
Common sense won, thank goodness, although I started thinking I might have to blog about this experience and started a note on Evernote to record these thoughts.
By the time I walked home from work on Tuesday evening I realised that I didn't have to have my phone in my hand at all times. It also felt very quiet somehow - I felt I had more time and was much more relaxed. Less frenetic. It definitely wasn't (to me) 'wasted' time on social but it WAS making me feel too hectic and 'on' all the time.
Time was going slower.
I did some work on my new website, I emailed my sisters. I also answered a few work emails at 11pm just for the interaction.
Realised I had to stop craving interaction. Switched off my work email.
So ... Wednesday.
I actually didn't notice a lack of social at all - except that at lunchtime I automatically nearly switched on FB. In the evening I felt already in a quieter routine. It feels calm.
I can't actually believe this but by Thursday I didn't notice the lack any more and it felt good not to be constantly checking in. I also won at poker that night at home. I normally lose. I normally also check my phone fairly often for FB notifications.
Draw your own conclusions as it's not exactly a scientific experiement :)
Although I DID take note of my FB page (not personal profile) likes (303) and twitter followers (652) so I could see any differences at the end of this (very short and non-scientific) experiment.
Anyway, I digress. Friday- Monday. I LOVED my long weekend away in Marrakech and I was pretty much there, there in every moment. Yes, I took pictures, but I didn't post them or talk about everything I was doing. I actually started feeling nervous about reconnecting with social and wondering how I could make sure I could keep the positives but also keep doing so much that has been brilliant for me to reconnect with this week 'off'.
So here's some of the things I did during my week away from the online world.
1. Had two phone conversations about pretty big potential opportunities with The Tiniest Thai
2. CANCELLED meeting up/speaking with three friends - after the first day I just really really wanted time for myself and being honest with my friends about it, they understood
3. Read over half a book I've been wanting to read for ages 'A Kingdom in Crisis (Andrew MacGregor Marshall) ... instead of only reading self development and biz books and blogs
4. Created over half the content for my new website - no it's not perfect, but it's better than the blog site I had previously, and I'm proud to have learnt how to do this myself
5. Watched most of a series of Grey's Anatomy (not the first one, no, I started on the second, which was hard for me and my OCD, but I did it!)
6. Had two good ideas for things I'm going to create when I'm 'back' next week
7. FELT AT PEACE and felt CREATIVE too. This is good
And here's some of the things I'm going to change about how I use - instead of sometimes feeling used by - social media.
1. This is the big one for me. I'm NOT putting the apps back on my phone. Well, insta I will as it only works like that. Tumblr and Snapchat for me are not coming back at all (at the moment). And FB and twitter I will only access from desktop or laptop. They're not yet back onto my iPad either. I don't need to be that 'on' all the time. I'll be checking in probably lunchtimes and at points during the evening
2. I LIKE reading books and watching box sets. I LIKE meeting up with friends and chatting with my family. With real life friends and family I often don't answer if I'm busy or doing something - so why online do I feel I have to be there ALL THE TIME?
3. Be in the moment. I've been very guilty of 'multi-tasking' or 'not being fully there' and I'm not doing it - as much - any more. I like to really BE there, in the moment
4. I'm gonna go at my pace. I wasn't connecting right or being good to myself. I had comparisonitis. I also have a very fun, very good, very full-on full-time job and I just can't create and do at the speed of others for whom their business IS their full time job. Mine is a fun hobby and it had almost stopped being fun. I've remembered it's ALL up to me - it's mine, my hobbies, my passions, my things I love to do. I was starting making it feel like another thing on the 'to do' list and I have to keep myself in check about this and keep aware that I'm doing things for FUN and because I love them!
So ... was this week a success?
For me, YES, a massive success.
I've accomplished more and felt more at peace - and I'm going to make sure I continue both those things. I'm VERY happy to be back connecting with friends but I have thoroughly enjoyed going offline for a short while and intend to take more of these breaks.
Oh, and in my non-scientific experiment, what were the ACTUAL results?
My FB page increased from 303 likes to 310, and my twitter followers decreased from 652 to 650. Pffffff! I can't read anything at all into this and I don't need to.
But what do YOU think?
What are your ways of connecting and using social?
Do you take time off?
Are you organised about how you engage with it?
Would love to know your thoughts.