Sunday, March 22, 2015

Reflecting on My Social Media "Hiatus"

On Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015; I took a break. I announced to friends, family members, and some 3,000 other individuals who I connect with online that I would take a break from social media for an undetermined amount of time. In the end, the exact amount of time of my "break" was approximately 7 days, and 11 hours. This break was more than a break from social media. It was a break from connecting with others around the globe. It was a break from networking. It was a break from sharing. It was a break from some of my learning. It was a break from photography. It was a break from some reading. It was a break from news. It was a break from humor. It was a break from ideas. It was a break from spreading the good news of our school community at Eakin School in Nashville, TN. It was a break from so much more than what many of us view social media to be. Specifically, I took a break from twitter, instagram, facebook, Blogger, Pinterest, SnapChat, YouTube, buffer, , LinkedIn, Delicious, and more. It was a break I thought was necessary. Up until March 3rd, I had been connected and plugged in for 1,824 out of 1,825 days (in other words, for five years). It was a break that I needed to take for my health. The time had arrived for which I felt I needed a social medic, not social media.

It did not matter that my social media analytics revealed that my "digital footprint" had taken a nosedive. I thought I knew the impact of this hiatus and what it meant for my own social media presence. In fact, my social relevance took a hit by social media terms. -------->

And, to make matters even more surreal, just a few minutes after I posted that I would be taking a "break," I received an email from an online follower and fellow educator that simply stated... "quitter." The sender of that pithy and curt email and I enjoyed a series of emails exchanging questions and thoughts on my first day "off the grid." In short, his "jab" at me labeling me a quitter is exactly why I needed a break. It allowed me to take an introspective look at myself and ask this important question... "am I what the world of social media says I am? Am I my analytic value? Am I made up of more than my retweets and favorites or my likes and double taps? Am I only as valuable as my connected life?" The answer to all of those questions (and the same goes for you and for us all) is a resounding NO. We are all so much more. I am so much more.

The thing that makes social media so tricky is that we so often feel as if we NEED it. I have felt this a lot over the last five years. Nothing could be further from the truth. I do not need it. It is tricky, however, because it is such a great tool. Remember in the first paragraph above... because I gave social media a break, it also meant I took a break from connecting with others, networking, sharing, some learning, photography, some reading, some creating, some news, some humor, some ideas and more. Some people would also suggest it would be a break from "stress." The stress of feeling the need to post, type, tweet, etc. I actually received an email from a family member with an article that praises going on digital hiatus' and the following short message, "supports your digital detox." Now, don't' get me wrong... I took the break because as I mentioned before, I felt it was necessary. I probably needed a "detox," I needed a medic. However, remember... this is tricky. It is tricky because we feel like we will miss out. We feel like we cannot move on or move forward with out it. My break forced me to face this temptation head on.

Even when there are amazing things to share, I do not NEED to share them as if my life (or my career, or my social status, or my friendships, or my clout) depends on it. Again, do not get me wrong... this is tough. It is hard, at times, to decipher what is worth sharing and what is not. There was one moment during my hiatus in which one of my amazing teachers texted me this touching text (left) on day one of my break and it was so tempting to not tweet it out. You see, these temptations are the temptations nicotine, alcohol, and other dopamine driven addictions are made of. In fact, "Psychology Today" has written articles based upon the addictive nature of social media and how it actually raises dopamine levels in our brains. No joke!

It is important to note, however, that it is not social media's fault. I have to take responsibility- we all do. I had grown into an individual with an insatiable appetite for connecting with others. I understand I am wired for connecting. Heck... many experts, sociologists, social workers, and more suggest we are hard-wired for connecting with others. But, I took it way too far. In some ways, it became my idol. All of the aforementioned good things that can be gleaned from social media as a tool began to take a back seat. In short, I began to become out-of-balance... I began to see myself as a punch line to this very apropos cartoon (see image on lower right)...

All in all, my "detox" or my break lasted for a week. My "take-aways" were every bit as interesting as the emails and the texts. My first take-away is that I am responsible for my behavior online or offline. Secondly, we all have a platform... it can be even larger with social media... this is even more reason to aim for balance and health. People are watching me whether I like it or not (again... online and off). And, lastly... my first post after my break was one that I felt I needed to share: during my time off of social media, not only was able to take away inward, but I was also able to reflect on all the individuals who are so important to me and whom I am extremely proud. That tweet (see below) was what I was compelled to share upon my return. I meant it. Perhaps, it was revealing to me that my "break" showed me that I need balance and it also revealed who is so vital to my life in pursuit of this balance. So, what about you... do you need to take a break? Do you need to take a day, a week, a month and balance yourself? I would encourage it... it may even give you relief for your "text-neck." And... remember, you are not a "quitter" if you do. :)






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