The first project for my Social Media Marketing course was to go without any form of social media for 24 hours. I groaned when I read the assignment, thinking about everything I’d miss out on by not checking my Facebook or Twitter. Thoughout the day we were supposed to keep a log describing if and when we were faced with the temptation to use social media and how we reacted. Our professor said that it was okay if we cheated, but we had to log why we did and what we felt. Of course, being the professor-pleaser that I am, I vowed to go cold-turkey – that lasted about 3 mintues.
I began at 10 am by sending out warnings to my Facebook friends and Twitter followers that I was going on a 24-hour hiatus – as if the world would stop without me. Immediately, I found the need to access facebook on my iPhone to locate the phone number of a person I was supposed to be meeting to work on a project. It blew my mind that it took only that long to realize how much I depended on social media for day-to-day activities. Then, I felt compelled to tweet about my inability to locate my partner’s contact info and the insecurity I felt waiting outside the cafeteria alone (I overcame that desire). During the day, I faced similar situations: the desire to tweet about the fact I was fasting, the guilt of leaving my words with friends opponents hanging, the frustration of hardly being to check my phone without an alert from Mashable popping up.
I’m ashamed to say that the first half of my day was consumed with thoughts of the social interactions I was missing by giving up social media. At one point my sister even shoved her phone in my face saying “did you see this tweet?” and I had to remind her that no, I had not.
Then something happened. I got bored. Normally when I get bored I’ll surf the internet and check my various social media outlets. But that day I decided to hunker down and finish reading that book I’d been meaning to. And that’s when I discovered the value of this fast – I wasn’t distracted. There wasn’t the pesky thought in the back of my brain urging me to constantly connect or the need to check to see if anyone had reached out to me, waiting for messages and notifications and distant interactions, because, well, I couldn’t. It was just me and my book. I was alone. I finally realized the simply truth about the impact of social media on my generation: we are never alone.
Although I have gone back to using all my social media outlets, I have definitely gained an understanding of how social media alone has and will continue to change our world. It makes a small world even smaller and yet distances us from eachother in a way that no other medium has. We can connect with anyone, anywhere, at anytime, all from the safety of seclusion. We may be surrounded by connections, but we have disconnected ourselves from what really matters.
Social media shouldn’t constitute the entirety of our social experiences. It should act as a tool to engage, not the only means of doing so.