My month without social media

A Month without social media

*peers into the gloom*

Do I still have any readers after my month off? I hope so. I’ve missed you!

Giving up Facebook and Twitter for a month was surprisingly easy, but giving up DorkyMum was hard. I’ve filled half a notebook with scribblings that need to be turned into proper posts over the next few weeks, but I thought I would start with a few reflections on the four-week social media detox.

(A few reflections, ha! You just know I’ll still be banging on 1500 words later…)

For the first few days of the detox, I was still in the mindset of wanting to share things online. I wanted to ask what other people thought of Harry Connick Jr as a judge on American Idol. I wanted to go on Pinterest and look for good vegetarian recipes for a friend who was coming to visit.  I wanted to gloat about how excitingly low our electricity bill was. (I took a screenshot of it. I am that sad.) It wasn’t actually very low at all. In fact it was jaw-droppingly expensive, but they included a graph to show that our energy consumption is what you would expect for the sole occupant of a one-bedroom house, which made me feel like all the energy efficient lightbulbs and the nagging about phone chargers has actually been worthwhile.

It didn’t take long to identify that there is a late afternoon spell every day – between about 3.30pm and 4.30pm – when I feel a little ‘meh’ and reach for my phone for company. It’s that time pre DorkySon’s dinner that always drags, when we’re both getting a bit tired at the end of the day and it’s too late to really start anything new, so under normal circumstances we’d slouch on the sofa together, him with the TV and me online. I realised early on that I’d have to make the effort to fill that witching hour with other things. It became the time of day for making gingerbread, reading a book in the kitchen, listening to music, or getting out some easy games that DorkySon and I could do together.

There were a couple of other very specific times when I missed being online. A couple of our favourite restaurants have fairly unpredictable hours that they only advertise via Twitter and Facebook, so dinner plans were scuppered on a couple of occasions when I showed up hoping to be served up a tub of pulled pork or a box of tacos and found them shut.

One day I was sitting on the sofa and looked out the window to see smoke swirling around the hills near our house. It was a hot day – 102 degrees – so I knew it would be a bush fire, I just didn’t know how near it was, or whether I should be worried. Twitter could have told me the answer to that in about thirty seconds, I would have searched #TasFire and immediately found updates from the Tasmanian Fire Brigade and numerous locals. But with no Twitter I had to hunt a little harder before I found the info and reassurance I needed.

And in general I’d say I missed the immediacy that comes with social media. The knowledge that no matter what time of day it is, you can pretty much always pop online and find someone to have a blether with. But I did have some lovely email exchanges and text conversations with far away friends, so I didn’t feel completely cut off. Poor Penny at Being Mrs C bore the brunt of my ramblings and random observations, and I am very grateful to her for humouring me!

After the first week, the whole thing became much easier. I didn’t have as much of a productivity boost as I’d hoped for – I found plenty of other ways to procrastinate – but the lack of white noise definitely freed up some space in my head just for thinking.

Oddly enough, some of that thinking was about things that were still connected to my use of social media. I reflected a lot on the nature of friendship, and how social media has changed that. I am convinced that making new friends gets harder as you get older. You know instantly whether you have a connection with someone or not, and become less patient for small talk if there isn’t one. But I also realised that blogging makes non-blogger friendships harder. There’s a level of intimacy with blogging friends – an existing knowledge you have from reading their posts – which means that when you meet in person there’s a level of comfort and intimacy that makes small talk unnecessary.

In ‘real’ life, if you blurt out the details of your difficult birth or your political views the first time you meet someone, you tend to scare them off. Blogging friends already know all those things about you. We spend most of our days oversharing the more embarrassing details of our life in the hope of getting a laugh or a few extra page views.

At a work dinner with DorkyDad a few weeks ago, I found myself several glasses of wine to the better, wondering if it would be appropriate or not to share a fairly hilarious story about a doctor’s visit a few days previous. Thankfully the gods of discretion were with me that night and I decided to err on the side of caution, but I know that had I been at a table full of bloggers that I was also meeting for the first time, I would have happily spilled it out.

Somewhat related to that, I thought a lot about the need – my need, mainly – to relearn the difference between public and private writing. For the past three years everything I’ve written has gone on the blog. Obviously I’ve done some filtering – there have been things that I’ve chosen not to write about – but every time I’ve sat at my computer and typed something up, it has gone on here. I think I need to become more thoughtful about different kinds of writing. I definitely need to write some stuff just for myself, so I perhaps it’s time to start some kind of journal or diary. I know that I want to keep the blog going for the foreseeable future, with the same mixture of content – photos, rambles, memories – which it has at the moment. But I also want to start taking some of my better pieces of writing and getting them out to an audience beyond my blog. DorkySon tells people that I am ‘a mummy and a writer’, and I’d like to become enough of a writer that I don’t feel embarrassed when he says that.

Once I’d got all the navel gazing out of the way – and, believe me, I’ve spared you a lot of it – the last two weeks were spent actually getting out and DOING STUFF!

I went to the aforementioned work dinner with DorkyDad – something I’m a bit out of practice at, but really enjoyed. We had some friends to stay one weekend, and some family to stay another weekend. We went out to MONA by boat, which was amazing, and I can’t wait to go back for a longer visit soon. DorkyDad and I went out to dinner just for fun. We went to Seven Mile Beach. I’ve been running, and started doing pilates a couple of times a week. I’ve found a new acupuncturist, and a doctor, and have been eating more healthily, probably because I’ve been sitting down and paying attention to what’s on my plate, instead of scrolling through my phone with one hand and shoving a jam butty in my gob with the other. I had a lovely coffee and playdate with another Hobart mum (who also happens to be a blogger!). I read oodles of articles online about the Scottish independence referendum, so that I can now offer at least a semi-informed opinion when I’m asked about it.

So yeah.

A month offline has definitely given me a lot to think about, or it has at least given me the space to think a lot. It was easier than I thought it would be although also, somehow, less momentous than I had expected. I’m slightly disappointed that I had no epiphanies about how awesome or awful social media is – I just had moments when I missed it, and moments when I didn’t – but I’m going to take that as a good sign that my use of it is fairly healthy and reasonable.

I’m also going to try and continue some of the good habits that I picked up from being offline. I’m not reinstalling any social media apps on my phone, so that if I want to use them I need to go to the effort of turning on my laptop. Hopefully that will make my online time more intentional, and will give it more purpose.

Would I recommend a social media detox? Definitely. If a month feels like too long, then try a week. Or even say to yourself that you’ll take one day each week where you stay offline and see what happens. You’ll probably be surprised how little you miss it, and how much you gain.

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33 responses

  1. How interesting! I must admit I started blogging at new year and I am becoming a bit engrossed with it all. Taking stuff of my phone might an idea as I think the Hun gets a bit cross with me checking twitter mid family experience. Lots of things to think about xxx

  2. I think I might try and do one day a week with no social media. Having said that I totally agree about the tired, late bit of the day when I do really look forward to having a quick read and avoiding Scooby Doo….

  3. Welcome back :-)

    Glad you survived the time off-blog okay, the one day off a week sounds good. It’s so easy to get hooked on anything internet and very easy to make excuses. I tried it with Sundays, but there’s always ‘something ending on ebay’ and if I go online to check that then I ‘may as well have a quick look’ at websites x,y and z’ seeing as I’m online anyway. Before you know it – bedtime!

    Anyway, I’m successfully cutting down generally. The real motivator was a few words from Mrs Beachcomber :-)

  4. I always have a blogging detox when we go on holiday which is a bit odd for a travel blogger as I probably should be sharing experiences as they happen. But I love to just enjoy the holiday with my family, scribble in notebooks and then write it all up when we are back home.

  5. ock so I leave my phone downstairs at night. A really small thing but it’s already feeling good – no pressure to pick up the phone, just in case! Nice to have you back though x

  6. What a brilliant thing to do. Takes me ages to switch off from social media, both physically and In my head. The last time I stepped back from it was when I was on holiday where I rationed myself about an half an hour or so ever day and what a difference it made. Looking up and actually doing different things, even if they’re not earth shatteringly exciting, does make a huge difference.

  7. Lovely post, and sounds like you had a very constructive time away from social media. I couldn’t agree more about blogging friends – they know far more intimate details about me than some of my real life friends, and I like this, that it is there, in the back ground, when I meet a blogging chum – there’s no judgement, makes it easy and safe. X.

  8. Your observations about real life friends and blogger friends are so true and like Anya says, it’s the lack of judgement when you actually meet that makes it all so much nicer. I do love my social media when stuck in a hospital waiting room but it’s a distraction rather than a focus – maybe I need to work on doing more stuff rather than distracting myself x

  9. Lovely to have you back, I missed you! I have a much healthier relationship with social media these days than I did a year or so ago. Not taking my phone up to bed was a starter and I ration my daytime use rather than the constant butterfly checking I used to do. I have lost some people as a result but the people who stayed are the people I want!

  10. Welcome back *huggles* I had a week off social media over Christmas and it was fab, once I got over the initial ‘I am going to miss everything that goes on!’ bit.
    Totally relate to what Chris commented – I find dedicated times to dip in rather than notifications and a constant checking a great thing – same with my inbox!

  11. Oh Ruth, this is such a fabulous read. I can’t wait to chat to you more about it. And I’m delighted we finally met. Looking forward to Friday! J x

  12. Hello and welcome back! You’re so good, I could never go a month as I know I’m a bit (a lot) of a social media addict. I reckon (maybe) that I could do a week though if I really tried. Glad to see you back.

  13. Welcome back. I love the odd couple of days away from the internet but not sure if I could manage a month – well done you x

  14. We missed you!!!!

    i honestly don’t know how you did it, I had a day last week when my computer was broken and it drove me bonkers.

    Mind you, I did manage to clean the house and do some baking so not all bad!

  15. i can’t even imagine life without internet at the moment. it replaces my husband and without it i couldn’t talk to him anyway. great post lovely!

    i think at least one day a week we should forget about tv and internet.

  16. I have missed you popping into my inbox but I really applaud what you have done. I try and leave social media and blogging at the weekends as I really value that family time and I find myself on my phone and I miss out on time with the children and also set them a terrible example. Like with most things, it is so important to find a balance but it is good to remember that real life is more important as online life.

  17. Welcome back! I keep thinking I should do a detox, I fritter away so much time then complain I don’t have time to do other, more satisfying things. Interesting what you say about blogging friends and intimacy, I met my husband through blogging, we first met in person after I’d been blogging for about 18 months and got together a few weeks later, moving in together after a couple of months. We already knew loads of stuff, good and bad about each other from our blogs and I think it made the early days of our relationship more enjoyable and refreshing, no worrying about ‘what will he think if he finds out x about me?’ because he probably had already read about it.

  18. Wow, a whole month? I’m impressed! And yet still your blog has so many comments. A good sign you’ve been missed. I’d be too scared to leave mine that long. As a newbie, I’m still in that tweet every two seconds stage! You’re an inspiration!

  19. When you left I commented that I just couldn’t do it. But in the last month things have changed for me and I crave more time offline. I’m failing on my current “one week away” because I didn’t set myself rules, but I think I will try a proper week another time. It’s funny the little things you miss. Well done for keeping it up, it’s inspirational. Thank-you xx

  20. Glad you decided to come back after a month. I’m not that brave but did turn off my notifications on my phone (doesn’t seem nearly as brave in comparison at all), but it was a huge step for me and meant I wasn’t always available to the World! I think from what you have said I may ban social media for those hours between home from school and bed in the hopes that I will fill it with more quality family time.

  21. I’m a bit disappointed too that you didn’t get more out of the experience as you expected.I think the internet, especially is so much part of our lives that we forget how much we depend on it now.I have done 24 hours before and I did get lots done.I’m a big squanderer of time online and rarely get anything done productively and that’s something I need to readdress I think.

  22. Great to read this and your thoughts on your experiences. When my blog was hacked a few years ago, I had a similar experience even if not by choice. I wasn’t really into Facebook then and because I was so grumpy about my blog I also went off Twitter for a while. After a couple of weeks of string annoyance I realised I felt quite liberated. I didn’t do everything in relation to how I could blog about it. The exoperience changed how I process the rough drafts in my head and how I filtered anything for social media. No I think I am much more in charge of my social media experiences.

    Oh, and welcome back!! We’ve missed you xox

  23. How very interesting. It’s funny what you say about sharing things online and off. I find myself sharing things on instagram or my blog I might even think twice about sharing with my ‘real life’ friends. Is a weird one indeed.

  24. I don’t know if I could do it for that long especially now when it is my lifeline giving me sanity in the middle of the night when I’m night feeding. I should try more though I don’t want it to get to the point when I’m writing about doing something rather than actually doing the said something! Well done for managing that long though and welcome back. X

  25. Welcome back! I can really see how the detox could be good. A 12-step program would probably help me a lot. Yet I need to be on for work and, while there, it is too hard not to look at the fun stuff. I laud you for this. And I missed you, so I’m glad you are back!

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