I gave up social media for Lent.

I’ll admit, when I decided to give up social media for Lent, I had forgotten how long Lent is.  I knew it was 40 days, but somehow that didn’t compute into a month and a half.  No matter.  I’m here now and I’m going to stick it out and see what happens.  Part of my little break experiment of playing around and trying to find my spark.  I had started easing off of Social Media in November.  I’d go a couple of days without it, then check in for one reason or another, then a couple more days.  My niece underwent heart surgery and the updates were being posted on Facebook and then Dean and I went on vacation shortly after that, so for a few weeks we were back to all in social media use.  On the days when I was ‘off’ I would find some reason or another that I “Needed” to check in the following day.  I did notice, however, that on the days when I was social media free, I felt less tense.  There was a period of time where I was posting but not really scrolling, but even then I didn’t feel as happy as the days when I didn’t even touch it.  

The night of Mardi Gras, I looked over at Dean and said, “I might give up social media for lent.”  “Okay,” he said.  “Can you check in on my birthday party invite for me in case people have questions during that time?”  “Sure.”  And that was it.  I woke up the next morning and decided to see it through.  I probably won’t post the full blog until this experience is through, but I’ve decided to add to this document roughly every week to put down my observations.

Week One:  I have to admit that beyond the first day, week one wasn’t that rough.  A few times, I’d have some down time, reflexively grab my phone and open it up and once my finger even automatically opened my browser to Facebook before I realized what it was doing and shut the whole thing down.  The most difficult part was getting emails from Facebook notifying me of people who had tagged me in photos or posted something on my page.  I worried that they would think I was ignoring them because I wasn’t returning the interaction.  And yet, contacting them via email to let them know that I had given up Facebook for Lent seemed… Kinda dumb.  Other than that, I’m more productive.  I actually read those informative newsletters that are emailed to me before I delete them.  I’ve been writing more, obviously, and I’ve found other ways to procrastinate if I really need to.  :-)

I miss Instagram more than Facebook right now, honestly.  I miss messing with my pictures and looking at other people’s pictures.  I do miss the Facebook memories.  Especially since I know that last year I was in St. Lucia at this time and it would be fun to look back on that trip.  Dean every now and then tells me of some news that I’m missing.  A friend of mine was apparently harassed by an asshole and a theatre company that I worked with shut down.  Those are kind of bummers.  I’m sure I’ve missed wishing some people happy birthday and I know I’ll miss reading my birthday wishes but I’ll get to read those on Easter, which will be fun.  So far, so good!

Week Two:  To be honest, this week flew by.  I hardly even noticed it.  I did briefly consider maybe giving myself a ‘day off’ to check my birthday notifications next week, but decided that wasn’t really in the spirit of things.  I decided that I would just ask Dean to post something on the day letting people know that I really appreciated the wishes and couldn’t wait to read them on Easter.  Other than that, I think there were a few times when I thought about asking the hive mind something and realized that I couldn’t and just looked it up myself.  I’ve been getting out of the house easier in the morning because I’m not distracted by scanning through my phone while i’m waiting for water to boil or something.  It’s amazing.  I can just wait for water to boil and not have to be looking at something.  It is difficult to have a show coming up and not be inviting people to it.  I’ve told Dean to make posts about it, but it’s not the same thing.  So, hopefully some of our friends will come see the Storytelling Fest.  We’re only on two of the nights which is kind of a hard sell anyway.

Week Three:  This week was weirdly difficult because of odd circumstances.  Aside from it being my birthday week, one of our friends involved in the Storytelling Fest died on Sunday after the show.  It was really shocking because I had no idea he was struggling.  Several times I wanted to check his Facebook page to see if anyone had put up information about services or just … More information.  I realized I was kind of searching for a ‘why’.  Facebook wouldn’t have the why.  Dean wasn’t Facebook friends with him, but was able to show me some of the things friends put on his wall.  I looked at them for a while and was just … Still empty after. After Easter I will probably go and look at his page.  Memories will be there always I suppose.  But there’s not going to be a why.  Adding my comments or condolences won’t help his friends or family at all.  It won’t bring him back.  I tried to write more about this in a separate blog because I’ve obviously thought about it a lot, but I don't think I'll ever post any of those thoughts.

Week Four:  This week almost passed by without notice.  I did miss Instagram a lot during my birthday party.  I also REALLY wanted to check my birthday wishes.  Dean sent me a screenshot of some of them.  I asked him at the end of the day to please post something thanking everyone for the wishes and letting them know I would respond to them all on Easter.  On the upside, a few people, now realizing that I was not on Facebook, took the time to send me text messages saying happy birthday.  Because of that I was able to extend the invitation to my party to a few more people who either missed the invite in the clutter of Facebook invites or who I had forgotten to put on in the month prior, thinking I’d have plenty of time to edit later.

I really wanted to post a few pictures during my party, but, knowing I wasn't able to, more of my friends took pictures and posted them.  I can’t wait to see them.  Also, it was nice to just chill out and not worry about documenting the occasion.  I’m usually always ‘the picture taker’ with the result that I don’t get a lot of pictures of me unless I’m handing the camera to someone and posing.  So, this was a nice change!

There have been a few times where something funny has happened or there’s been a picture I wanted to share, or a thought.  I’ve found myself just group texting friends who I think might enjoy it.  Or just sending a text or picture to one person.  It’s kind of fun.  It’s still electronic communication, but it’s more direct.  At my birthday a few friends realized they had stories to tell me that I didn’t know about because I hadn’t seen the posts on Facebook, so it was kind of fun to have big retellings and a lot to catch up on.

Week Five:  By the way, I’ll just mention here that there’s not really a neat set of weeks that fits into a forty day time span.  So my ‘weeks’ are kind of just general time periods, not necessarily exact seven day spans.  

I’ll be honest in that most of the time I don’t even miss Facebook anymore.  I still occasionally miss Instagram and I have a bunch of photos saved that I’m probably going to try and play with on Easter.  I am finding out that I’m missing some ‘events’ and happenings, but I am also eventually finding out about them later as I run into people.  So I’m not aware if I’m actually ‘missing’ anything yet.  Most of my friends that I regularly interact with know by now that I’ve taken a break or have noticed that I haven’t been on ‘the book’ for a while. So they’re letting me know if there’s something they need to tell me.

Another side effect to taking this time off of social media at the same time as my little break from theatre is that I have a lot of time to think about actual things while my brain is not distracted.  It also probably makes a difference that it has been very rainy the past few weeks so I’ve had more time on the train than normal.  Not only have I been reading magazines and email newsletters more than I normally would because I don’t end up scrolling through Facebook and Instagram for my forty five minute commute, I’ve also been considering things about life in general.  Things I want to do, things I want to accomplish, things I want to change.  Sometimes I’ll sit and brainstorm about those things.  I make lists, I’ve been keeping up really well with my Bullet Journal and even started a detailed training log for the Soldier Field 10 mile that includes meals.  (My stomach has gotten more delicate as I’ve aged and I want to see which things affect both my digestion and my training runs.)

One thing I’m wondering at this point is how I will integrate social media into my life again without using it as prolifically as I was before.  I do think that social media has value.  I don’t think I need to be as glued to it as I was.  Even when I was ‘backing off’ during the holidays, I was still at least scrolling through quite a bit.  I do miss the memories.  And I think I would like to check those daily.  I’m considering trying to find a specified time to check in.  Maybe at the end of the day.  I don’t want to get to structured with it, but I also don’t want to be glancing at it every spare minute and getting sucked in.

Week Six:  I still feel occasionally like I’m missing events or things, but not too often.  Occasionally I almost wish I was one of those people who never started Facebook.  I really resisted it for a long time.  Until a website I was doing some writing for insisted we promote our articles on Facebook and/or Twitter.  I figured Facebook was the lesser of two evils.  

I do miss the occasionally crowd-ask.  Like if I have a general question about something, just throwing it up on Facebook was kind of easy.  Now I actually have to research the damn thing myself or text individual people.  Which I have been doing.

At first I thought maybe I was having more ‘close, individual interactions’ with people because I was texting friends directly or in groups rather than just posting stuff on Facebook, but I’m not sure that’s the case.  I still have texts that get ignored for no reason and I’m not sure if the electronic communication is all that different.

I don’t think the break has been bad for me at all, but I’m honestly not sure what I’ve learned, if anything.  Maybe it will be more clear when I pop back on at the end of the week?  At the very least,I haven’t felt as stressed out about politics and vitriol as I remember being.  But it’s kind of strange, after being gone for so long, I almost don’t remember what it felt like…

Day Before Easter:  I’m looking forward to seeing my birthday wishes and pictures!  I’m looking forward to seeing what people have been up to!  So, my final thoughts as I go into the evening of my final social media-less day.

Things I miss:

  • Instagram photos.  Both the ones I want to post and finding ones that I had posted previously.
  • The crowd ask.  “Hey, anyone available to drive me to the vet with Jake later?”  I didn’t have to feel like I was putting individual people on the spot and I still got answers or at least suggestions on how I could get a cat to the vet in a torrential downpour by myself.
  • The memories.  I really like “On This Day.”  If it’s a good memory, it’s fun to look back on.  If it’s not so good, it shows me how my circumstances have improved.  Or shows me that I’m still in them, and I need to change them.
  • The occasionally funny share.

Things I don’t miss:

  • Politics and news.  I am able to get all of that through other means.  And I don’t have to feel personally attacked (even if I’m not being personally attacked) for not posting an opinion or jumping in on a bandwagon on either side.
  • The invites to everything from people I don’t even really know.
  • Looking at my phone all the time.  I didn’t think I was, but now I really think I was.
  • Posting something dumb when I was inebriated and looking back and thinking it was vapid or uninteresting the next day.
  • The decreased battery life.
  • Cluttered inboxes and unread magazines.
  • Facebook messages.  Just. Email. Me.

So we’ll see what happens tomorrow!  I may write a follow up when I remember how it feels being ‘connected’ again.  

Meredith LyonsComment