Third Time’s The Charm?


As of this writing (January 1, 2018) I’m a little more than 12 hours removed from my weeklong social media sabbatical and I’m still processing—and implementing—the takeaways from this most recent experience. This was my third time going on such a break and it may end up being the most impactful. Time will tell, of course.

Before I went to bed on Christmas Eve, I logged out of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook on my laptop and removed the remaining apps from my phone (I took Facebook off a while ago). For the next two days, I would reach for my phone multiple times an hour (usually when I was idle or in transit somewhere) and unlock the home screen only to realize that the usual primary destinations—Twitter and Instagram—weren’t there. I’d experienced these brief moments of uneasiness in previous social media sabbaticals but never with this level of awareness. It wasn’t exactly a good feeling! I did keep Strava on my phone and may have mindlessly scrolled through the activity feed once or twice (and even gave a few “kudos,” whoops!), which showed the power that the mere presence of an app can have on your desire to click on it.

I checked my email twice a day on average—once in the morning on my phone and again on my laptop later in the day—but otherwise wasn’t tempted to see if there was anything new in my inbox. This was a relatively minor victory.

By midweek, I was reaching for my phone fewer times throughout the day, and I felt noticeably less distracted and harried. I had uninterrupted time to think and ideate. I caught up with people I hadn’t talked to in a while, had some of the best conversations I’ve had in recent memory, and was more present in my various day-to-day interactions (which were more than usual, being a vacation week). Also, my morning and evening routines got a lot more efficient since I wasn’t held wasting time scrolling through feeds on my phone. This was all very eye-opening and also validating. It confirmed to me that my normal social media habits were overdue for an overhaul. (Apparently I wasn’t alone.)

What am I going to do about it? For starters, I’m going to keep some of the apps, like Twitter and Facebook, off my phone completely. I’ve also decided to block off 30 minutes a day to log-in to both Twitter and Instagram (via the web) so I can scroll the feeds, reply to comments and schedule Tweets. That should be more than enough time to do everything I need to do on these platforms. Then I’ll log out until the next day and hopefully gain back a few hours of my life in the process. I’ll keep the Instagram app on my phone but stay logged out of it until I have something to post, and likely follow a similar protocol with Strava. Facebook is more or less a moot point for me these days. I hardly ever use it.

So why use any of these social networks or apps at all? The short answer is: they’re useful to me for various reasons. Twitter is my main source of news (for better or worse) and has provided me a platform to share my work as well as inspire, inform, interact, connect, and collaborate with other people, such as many of you. Instagram allows me to see what many of my friends are up to, it’s inspired me athletically, artistically, and professionally, and has allowed me to do the same for others. And Strava is fun, quite honestly, and has kept me virtually connected to former and current teammates/training partners whose workouts get me out the door some days.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for now. Stay tuned to see how this sabbatical continues to shake out or simply reply to this email if you’ve got any questions.

What did it do for readers of the morning shakeout? Here’s what some of you had to say:

Boredom is dead! Okay, maybe Nietzsche’s statement is more dramatic and sounds better. But this week I came to realize that boredom (at least in my own life) has been killed by social media and the constant availability of it through our ever-present mobile phones. By going on this sabbatical, I recaptured seconds previously lost to social media and had more time to do nothing. I didn’t know I missed doing nothing! Suddenly I had more time to read and write, things I miss doing more of when I’m at school and being forced to read curriculum and write less creatively. —Stian D.  

I decided to give it a try, and I’ve really enjoyed it! I’m a junior at Amherst College, and I’ve been taking Mondays off from social media this semester and really liked that, so this week long sabbatical was great. I’m continuing the Mondays off so I’m still on sabbatical, but I’m curious to see how the various social media platforms will welcome me back. On Friday I got an email from Instagram inviting me to “see what’s been happening on Instagram” so they’ve definitely noticed I’ve been gone. —Veronica R. 

My key takeaways were:

  1. I rely on Facebook a lot for event information of things I’m committed to and found myself using a Facebook proxy since I was abstaining. 
  2. I don’t think I want to have Facebook on my phone anymore and will just make sure to add events to my calendar.
  3. Strava was the hardest one to avoid. I told myself it was because I needed to know my mileage for the year and make sure the right shoes were associated with the right runs, but really I think it’s the one I’m most addicted to.
  4. Instagram stories are something I really enjoy, but I didn’t miss them at all. I spend too much time watching them and I intend to limit instagram browsing. — Joel W.

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