I recently took a bit of a holiday. No, not the trip to France although that was nice and over far too soon (fabulous country, people and culture – would love to live/work there one day!). I’m talking about my social networking holiday of the past week.
Did you notice? Three people did I know…
Anyway for one reason or another I decided to take a break from all things social and online, and refocus on the things around me. It was an interesting experience and I thought that now I’m back I thought I’d share my reflections with you.
Day 1: Resolve not to look at any social media for the whole week. Realise that this is going to be easy enough in the office as I can just avoid opening Hootsuite or Facebook, but that my phone is going to keep on chirping messages to me. Search through Android’s menus and find a way to stop the apps updating. Sadly unlike the Wifi there’s no easy widget to turn it off. Spend a bit of time in the evening wondering if anything interesting has happened in the world but watch TV instead.
Day 2: The weekend. Spot something on the Beeb’s news pages that amuses me, and immediately want to share it…and realise the only person I’ve got to talk to is the Wife. This could be awkward as she’s used to me sharing all the madder bits of my interest online and not bothering her with them. Looks like she’s in for a tough few days. Also decide that I’m going to stick this out for the full week at least. Do flick onto Facebook to clear (but not read) my notifications – don’t want 50 red flags sitting there waiting for me when I come back. If I come back.
Day 3: Still the weekend. And slightly break my rules by uploading Doctor WHeasel to YouTube. Decide that this is in fact part of one of my multiple personalities doing it not me (the Weasel) and that I’m not breaching the self defined regs. Just resolve not to respond to any comments, and keep running silent. Interested that despite a quick sneaky look at twitter that no one’s DM’d or @’ed me, so clearly unmissed and unmourned. Spend a whole 7.5 minutes sulking over that and then slap myself with a wet fish and go to frolic with the chickens in the garden. Noting that since I’m not social networking that I’ve spent far less time just sat at my PC waiting for input/interaction. Also realise that this makes me akin to Johnny Five more “Input! Input! Input!” than “No disassemble grasshopper!”
Day 4: Work, well that makes it easier to turn off and tune out the social world; working as I do in an environment that doesn’t exactly encourage but doesn’t forbit social networking. Come home having spent the whole day twitching slightly and wondering what’s going on in the online world, but forbidding myself to even glance at twitter or Facebook for the whole livelong day to make up for the weekend’s YouTubeing. Discover glancing at Facebook that the first person has asked where I am (since they can see the Wife’s around). Drop them an email telling ’em about my holiday.
Day 5: One of my team asks me to tweet a question they need some insight on. Eeep. Bit of a quandary, can’t really tell ’em I’ve gone offline for a week but at the same time don’t want to slow their work down as it really is a genuine question. Decide in the end to drop a line to contact in the field Manchester way for their ideas. That’s not social, right? Come home to find for the first time that I’ve not really been missing the online back and forth at all. For a moment remember what it’s like to be outside the world (and how my family must feel when I tell them of the world of social networking). Not quite an outside view, but it’s a new sensation. Not since I before joined twitter in Feb 2008 can I remember feeling that way.
Day 6: Midway through the working week and I’ve already settled into a new rhythm of not worrying about the social networking back and forth. I guess if I had a few more local friends to chat to in the flesh I might worry less about social media as a whole, but since my nearest good friends all live at least 30 minutes away (and most a couple of hours) social networking’s been a real life line. Tomorrow’s the 7th day and I’m already debating extending the holiday. Someone else has noticed I’m offline and sent me a DM (which copies to my email) so I tell them about my experiment.
Day 7: Last day in the office (off to speak at a conference in London on Friday) and while I’m looking forward to coming back online, in others I’m less concerned. Debate making a “DID YOU MISS ME?!” splash, and then decide that would be far too egotistical. If they missed me they missed me, if they didn’t. Frak ’em. Scan Facebook in the evening to see what people are up to and find the compulsion to comment is quite weak. Hope I’ve not lost my social voice in a week’s deliberate absence!
Day 8: Heading to London on the train and a 3rd person DMs me to say where have I go. 8 days and just three people have noticed I’m gone from the social interwebs. Doesn’t say much for social networking as a way to keep an eye on vulnerable people – I could have been locked in my basement for days before anyone even opined where I was, much less anyone develop the conversation. Conclusion – don’t rely on twitter to tell you grannie’s OK. Reach conference and within 20 minutes am on the Wifi and have popped my born-again social networking cherry on Facebook and twitter.
Almost feels like I’ve never been away.
So what did I learn?
- It only takes a few days to lose the social networking twitch.
- I miss the social aspect more than the professional discussions.
- Stepping back from the social networks deliberately is well worth trying – if only for a little while – to reevaluate what you use them for and get out of them.
- Don’t expect family to notice (though I did speak to them through other means, so I guess that’s no shocker). Unless you’ve thousands of followers or a celeb, don’t expect anyone to much miss you.
- My Christmas card list this year will have just three people on it Ash, MC and Rach!
- And finally, I’d do it again and probably will sometime next year. The extra head-space it gave me from not worrying about the next witty tweet, or if someone would take a tongue in cheek sarcy comment as literal truth was refreshing in the extreme.
And if you don’t believe me – just try it – unannounced. I’d be interested in how it finds you!