What I Learned from Deactivating Facebook for One Year

What I Learned from Deactivating Facebook for One Year

14 months ago, I deactivated my Facebook account and completely deleted my professional page as well. I also deleted some other social media accounts and refused to use others. You can read about why here: Why I deactivated Facebook and how you can too, if you want to.

Now that over a year has past, I was recently inspired to rebrand my website and start creating more, but with even more intention and authenticity – newer content that can continue to serve others while simultaneously awakening my own spirit by trying new things and exuding more of my personality by way of peppering my humor into my writings and videos. So Sprout and Blossom evolved into Mary Blossoms (like cherry blossoms, get it?). ::thank you. thank you::

Copy of Mary Blossoms 2

With that said, I am so happy that I did take a 14-month hiatus from Facebook, but my decision to reactivate my account and create a new Mary Blossoms page, was primarily so I can continue to stay current in my field (I teach digital media courses) and so I can reconnect in that special superficial way (snide remarks are fun) to the people who I enjoy having in my circle. Facebook is also a great sort of rolodex for contacts and quick, local info. You know, if I want to find out the best place to get a smoothie, I know I can get 50 opinions in 50 seconds. How incredibly helpful for combating decision fatigue.

Facebook has its benefits, and it certainly has its drawbacks. But now I know I will certainly be more mindful with how I use the platform and keep in mind its utility.

So without any further ado, here it is…

WHAT I LEARNED FROM DEACTIVATING FACEBOOK FOR ONE YEAR:

  1. No one will remember your birthday.
    I have to say, it was probably the saddest birthday of my adult life. (I’m kidding.) Some people remembered my birthday, but that’s only because it happens to fall on the anniversary date of a national tragedy. Even so, my birthday was certainly a lot quieter. It was very sweet of the close family and friends who remembered, despite my Facebook absence. But a small part of me missed getting 150 notifications, half of them from people who I don’t know. Nothing says birthday bliss like reading the same generic messages from strangers over and over again. Am I right?
  2. You will not remember anyone’s birthday.
    I realized how bad I actually am at recalling important dates. My friend Ilene was like Rain Man. You could tell her any date in the past and she could actually tell you the day of the week it fell on. Me, not so much. I’m lucky if I can remember what day of the week it is. And confession: Every new year is a horror for me with the year changing. For a good month and a half, I desperately expend an absurd amount of focus and energy trying to remember to write down the correct year each day. “199 …dammit!” “2016 …son of a!” Part of me thinks this could be the reason some people contract the flu in the winter. It’s too taxing.
  3. Politics and Religion: Destroying friendships since 1999
    I had the good fortune of deactivating Facebook during a heated political election, and I’m glad I did. I ended up finding out through the grapevine that friendships were disintegrating left and right and people were unnecessarily cruel to one another. Because we all know that posting overly opinionated material online converts your opposition the majority of the time. ::cough::
  4. Facebook can be a tool or a time-suck. Pick your poison.
    There is an abundance of inaccurate information that gets circulated and regurgitated online. Some of the most ridiculous, poorly researched content I have ever read was on that platform, and I am dumber for it. And then there are the time-wasters. It’s easy to get sucked into the matrix. By the way, which Saved by the Bell character are you?
  5. Most people are drunk on narcissism.
    There’s really not too much I need to say here except that when it comes to,… wait. Hold on a sec. Can you take twenty or so pictures of me posing next to this tree? The lighting is good. Make sure to get the flowers in the background though. This will make a great post. I love photos as much as I love validation.
  6. Life goes on.
    Facebook is more convenient for people to use than cultivating and nurturing a few meaningful relationships in real life. Bear with me. Since we all know 500+ people now and since anything we could ever want to know about is on Godfather Google, our brains / attention spans have only been conditioned to handle so much. It really is information overload. With that said, when I chose to get off of Facebook, I made an effort to try to reach out to close friends more. It wasn’t always reciprocated, but the experience made me realize just how much things can be superficial. I also learned what is important to me, and what is not. Cute cat photos are not important to me. But puppy photos are.

In the end, this was a useful 14-month social experiment for me. Facebook is just a tool. A tool can be used in a multitude of ways. It’s when we let a tool control our lives that it becomes destructive. I just found/find the site mostly annoying and time-wasting, but the fault was also in how I was using it. For me now, I have unsubscribed and unfollowed just about every page and lots of individuals who I really didn’t know too. I have simplified my newsfeed and am much more mindful and intentional with the relationships in my life but also the types of content I want to take in.

The beauty of it, is you can take a break from social media as an experiment any time or you can simply clean up your account a bit and unfollow and simplify, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just tired of it. Sometimes it helps to take a step back from things to view them with fresh eyes.

And yes, I will share this article on my newly revived Facebook page. Because what would any good piece of writing be unless it’s saturated in irony.

Catch you on the flip side,
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What I Learned from Giving Up Social Media for Two Weeks

What I Learned from Giving Up Social Media for Two Weeks

It is that time of year when writing out the date feels strange. 2014. Happy New Year!

For me, the past two weeks have been experimental… and fulfilling and freeing and so much more. My husband and I took a road trip; we visited the South Carolina shore line. And during that time, I decided to partake in somewhat of a digital detox. It is sort of funny, sort of ironic – me, the public relations and social media professor and a person who has two small businesses that require these communication channels – deciding to give up most digital media.  But maybe that is why it felt even more necessary to test these waters, especially during the holidays.

I read something recently that made a lot of sense to me: “Those of us who are social media-savvy suffer from a burgeoning problem that constantly threatens our ingenuity. If we fail to acknowledge and solve this problem, our brilliant ideas may never see the light of day.”
-Scott Belsky

This really resonated with me. How many hours are wasted getting sucked into mindlessly scanning news feeds? How much of our time is really spent being productive, bettering ourselves, having fun, and being in balance in all areas of our lives?

According to a study by eMarketer, U.S. adults spend an average of five hours and nine minutes a day consuming digital media. That includes online, mobile (non-voice), and other. This does not include other forms of media such as television and radio.

I approached this experiment practically based on what I thought would work for me. I tried to pare down email use (tried being the operative term). I also did not use any social media for two weeks. That is, no: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, WordPress, Etsy, Youtube, etc. etc. The first two days felt as though I was really in withdrawal. I did not get the sweats and shakes, but it was close.

Why did I do this technology detox? Honestly, my soul was crying out for help. I just wanted to let go of the constant cell phone use and checking, checking, checking, and that reactive communication. Because God forbid that someone has to wait a day for an email reply. And what about all those notifications on Facebook I would ‘miss out on’. The thought of that gave me anxiety! It is sad, but true, and I know many people who are in the same boat.

According to the Pew Research Center, “Six in ten cell owners between the ages of 18 and 34 say that they have slept next to their phone so as not to miss any calls, texts, or other updates during the night; and three quarters of cell owners in this age group say that they check their phone for messages even though they did not hear it ring (indeed, 25% of young cell owners say that they do this ‘frequently’).”

Have we all lost our minds? That study was shared in 2012, so it is definitely worse now. Are we zombies or lunatics?

What I Learned from Letting Go of Social Media for Two Weeks was not something I expected. I learned that I am happier without social media and limiting technology use. Yes, happier. Does this mean that I am going to throw my hands up in the air and run away to the wilderness to live with wolves? No. But what I do know is that I am really learning what is virtual clutter for me verses what is necessary, enlightening, and enriching.

I know how many people are completely attached to the internet and their smartphones. (Me too, by the way.) But for our health and happiness, it is essential that we take a step back and figure out what is cluttering up our lives and what is worth investing our time on. For me, I know that blogging and writing are two areas I would like to focus on more, because I see value there.

Some other important discoveries thus far:

1. Life goes on. If it takes me 24 hours to reply to an email instead of 15 minutes, the world keeps moving. It is not a big deal.

2. Social media affects our emotions. There are many studies pointing out this truth, but I did not realize how much social media affects my own emotions until I tried this experiment. I suppose the abundance of low-context content – often which is repetitive, annoying, or useless – can easily affect our thoughts and feelings.

3. Board games, the 1950s-60s version of The Twilight Zone, reading books made from paper, crafts, spending distraction-free time with family, writing, and being outside are all worth doing.

4. With limited distractions, I can be extremely productive, and this is an amazing feeling. My house has never looked better.

5. I want to keep experimenting. My next phase: no iPhone for two weeks. Let’s see what happens. My eyes are already twitching.

Overall, my social media, internet, and technology usage is going to be much more utilitarian and productive. This will allow me more time to explore the areas I love about social media and teaching the subject, while setting healthy boundaries and really living life to the fullest.

I highly recommend unplugging every now and then. I think everyone should do this more often. We should create new norms.

Three Tips to Simplify Your Virtual Life Now:

1. Unsubscribe from email newsletters, coupons, and mail lists that no longer serve you. How do you know if it serves you? If you delete or never open the email repetitively once received in your inbox, you are not using it. It is clutter. Another alternative is to set up a ‘junk’ email account for maybe-someday coupons, alerts, and newsletters. This is not for me, but other people might find this to be a great option.

2. Organize emails into folders. Only keep emails that you really love or absolutely need (i.e. an email from a close friend that warmed your heart, donation receipts for your taxes, etc.). I got my email accounts to where there is nothing in my inbox. When something is in my inbox, that means I still need to get to it. Otherwise, everything is sorted into labeled folders. By using this method, checking my email has gotten to be more refreshing than daunting.

3. Only follow media that brings you joy, inspires you, or educates you. I also like to limit too much repetition. For example, following 50 nutrition-related accounts got to be too much for me, and most of it was regurgitated content anyway. This is something to really think about. The internet can be a stressful and negative place, or it can be informative and fun. The choice is ours. I choose to only follow and subscribe to my favorite blogs, pages, and companies online. This has helped me filter out a lot of nonsense.

Regarding my getaway overall, it was magical hearing the ocean crashing on the shore, and the wind whispering, and the birds cawing. The fresh air and the sunshine did me so much good. But my favorite part was the sand beneath my feet and between my toes. That and the fact that I did not feel the need to take pictures and post them online as I was experiencing them. Each minute was my own. I lived in the moment and I loved every bit of it.

Mary Signature

ZeusandMarySouthCarolina