I know this idea isn’t new. I wrote about this sort of thing a couple months ago. I guess it’s because it continues to intrigue me!
Inspired by this article on Lifehacker, one of my Twitter buddies proclaimed “Goodbye July“: he’s signing off of Twitter and Facebook for a month, in an effort to revitalize his creativity and reclaim his ability to focus, saying “social media has warped my attention span to the point where it has become harder for me to read longer pieces of writing.” I can sure relate to that. He also wants to spend more time playing with his kids and lying in the back yard (in Winnipeg’s fleeting summer season, you have to seize every chance you get for that!).
I wish Ben well in his one-month social media sign-off. I know the rewards will be great but that it will require a certain amount of discipline.
I wonder if I could do the same thing? For me, it always comes back to connectivity; it’s not necessarily social media that’s the problem (I’m not on Facebook, so there’s half the battle), it’s that I hate to see the unread posts count in my feed reader climb ever higher. It’s emails piling up, and feeling guilty for not immediately reading them. It’s the temptation to just see “what’s going on”… as if there isn’t stuff happening in real life!
Since I don’t have a laptop or smartphone, it used to be that when I left home on holidays, I’d go for days without looking at my email or going online. It was no big deal – it felt like a refreshing, deliberate break. In the evenings, I’d sit and watch TV, and do nothing else – just watch TV (how novel!).
Nowadays I have to consciously choose not to be tethered. I find myself watching TV, idly surfing the net on the iPad, and instinctively wanting to have two apps open at the same time on the screen (impossible, yet probably for the best). There is this weird connectivity creep; an ever-increasing unease with unitasking, a low-grade fear of missing out. And I’m not even a particularly active online participant, I am much more a consumer. I think the solution for me would be to totally disconnect.
In my working life, it’s not an option to disconnect. I telecommute, and our business is the web! But I do feel as though in my personal life, I could stop using web-enabled technology for a month. Email would be tricky. I couldn’t just ignore emails for that long, but I guess I could make a note in my autoresponder asking people to call me if it’s urgent. Banking – believe it or not – could be done in person or by phone (although time spent on baking websites isn’t really problematic). I could still use the computer to write, or go back to my paper journal roots. It could be done. What a first world problem, to find this such a difficult proposition!
These are tricky times we work in, where keeping professional and personal identities separate has become such a deliberate, careful process. It would require a lot of discipline to not just keep an eye on my personal email while at work, to hide my personal Tweetdeck columns, to ignore my Google account entirely. I think I could do it – but time will tell whether I think I should.
What do you think – could you walk away from social media – or the internet in general – for a month?