What I Learned About Social Media After a 53 Day Fast

I went off of social media for 53 days. Here is what I learned about social media during that time...

1. The first thing I noticed when I got off of social media is how much easier it is to concentrate on day to day tasks. And spending time with other people or going to events like concerts became much more rich. This is because you're 100% enveloped in the experience rather than documenting it.

2. I started to realize how much social media controls our motives and behaviors. Like, why do I show you 10 videos of the swimming pool I am spending my Saturday at? Is it because I want you to feel like you were there or am I trying to show you how cool I am? Realizing this paradox made me feel dirty.

3. Then I realized how big of a role social media plays in everyday life. Not only how people spend idle time. Activities that happen on social media are woven into every day life. One of these examples: The "In My Feelings" challenge that was everywhere. Karen had to explain what that was to me. Like everyone else, I heard the song on the radio and knew about Drake releasing "Scorpion". Unlike everyone else, I had no idea that this was something everyone had clung onto and turned into a meme. Even my pastor made a reference to it during a message one Sunday. But I missed this completely because the context of social media was absent. Can I say I was worse off for having this slip by me? In hindsight, it's doubtful.

4. The behavior of waking up and checking social media notifications goes away quick. The first few days of my social media fast was particularly hard, because I had withdrawal. But like getting used to a diet, you get used to not spending a lot of time on your phone when you wake up or in an idle moment. Scratch that, you still get on your phone almost as much. Instead, you consume other things like articles and email instead of social media. So an interesting follow up to this experiment: replace a smart phone with a dumb phone for a month.

5. It is insanely easy to catch what I call "contact social media". Meaning... you don't intend to look through Instagram Stories from friends. But the person beside you so happens to be doing that. Even more tempting when you have mutual friends with said person. At first, I would force myself look away. I didn't want to cheat on this experiment. And then I realized this was pretty much a futile task. Social media is everywhere even when you don't want it to be. You notice social media more when you are off of it. And trust me, it is everywhere.

6. There is a lot of meaningless clutter on social media. Like, A LOT. This is the first thing I noticed today when I logged onto Facebook. At it's best, the clutter is information overload that is neutral in tone. You don't need the information but it's there for daily filler content if you want to put off another task. For example, I used to think I cared about what Zeke from 12 years ago was up to on a daily basis. But the truth of the matter is, who the hell is Zeke and why are we friends on Facebook? At its worst, social media brings out the worst in a lot of people. It's like a punching bag in a gym that people use after a bad day. The truth about that is while I care what the punching bag does for me, should I care what it does for you? And roles reversed, I bet you feel the same way. All in all a ton of negative and passive aggressive energy aired in public for all to see. This is super clear within the first few minutes of scrolling through news feed. I started to realize many people showcase negative energy on SM. And sadly for some, this is all they want to showcase.

So what does this mean? When I first joined Facebook, it was in 2005; the year I graduated high school. Back then, it was TheFacebook.com, available only to college students. The day I got my uncc.edu email I signed up. Back then, there was no news feed. There were no notifications. If you wanted to get in touch with someone, you had to type in their name and cyberstalk them. But my favorite part about Facebook in the days of old? It supplemented outside interaction with family and friends rather than replaced it. People actually used events. The focus was on how can we coordinate meeting in person rather than communicating from afar. Friends uploaded photo albums on Sunday night after an awesome weekend, not in the moment. A lot of us, myself included, are using social media to replace outside interaction and living. I find that the smart phone and its ability to make social media portably accessible is the culprit. When we attach social media to our hip at all times, it is difficult to limit it. This is what we need to realize. Do realize that this thing is a drug. The dopamine rushes are real. Do realize that it is impairing your ability to drive, concentrate on tasks, and live an everyday life.

Now do I plan on judging you for using Facebook on the go? Of course not. I assert, like with everything else, we need to have some checks and balances when it comes to consumption. Like we used to do with TVs, we should enact a governor on the amount of it that we do on the go. We should be proactive, doing more social media fasts to balance and reground. I find this is more important now than ever. Social Media is still a new thing. And it will continue to evolve and become more and more evasive in everyday life as time progresses. I wonder if one day social media will live in our eye. We won't have phone batteries dying and we will have 24/7 access to it.

After saying all of the above, this is what I think you should try...

1. Get off of social media for at least a month. See how it makes you feel. Notice how driven on social media society has become.

2. Try to understand your motivations behind what you post. Whether that be a status message, an "instastory" post, or similar contribution. Are you doing this for yourself or for other people? The former isn't bad, but be aware that too much of this is likely unhealthy.

3. Get rid of apps and social media functions that force you to take yourself out of the moment. An example of this is Snapchat. If you can't upload the photo or video later, get rid of it. It's not cool to brush off your friend at the restaurant so you can finish posting your photos of lunch. As ridiculous as it sounds, you know this kind of thing is common.