7 Lessons I Learned On My 7 Day Fast From Social Media

I’ve never been one to take breaks from anything. I value discipline and consistency in just about all areas of life.

I read everyday. I run 3x a week. I go to bed and wake up at almost the same time everyday. When I pack myself a lunch it usually has the same things I always pack inside.

Ask anyone who knows me, I’m intentionally consistent in the way I live day by day. But I decided to change it up last week. With Spring Break coming to the Portland area schools I wanted to create some extra margin in my life to do nothing. I’ve taken a week off from blogging here or there, but I’ve never quit my use of all social media for more than a day or two.

Last week I didn’t blog, tweet, or Facebook from sundown Sunday March 25th until this post which goes up early Monday morning, April 2nd. I find that, especially for me, changing up my routine lends new perspectives and last week was no different. Here’s 7 things I learned during my 7 day hiatus from social media. I hope you can learn something too.

  1. Social media is as much a news source for me as it is a place to connect with people. Even though I didn’t engage on Twitter I did check several accounts when I needed to know about specific pieces of information I could only get on these accounts. Rather than going to a bunch of different websites to get quick information, I follow people and organizations who distribute the information in 140 character pieces, which I much prefer.
  2. Social media makes me lazy with friendships. I have little to no idea what has gone on with so many of my friends over the past week. Most of them, along with myself, use social media to distribute information about themselves rather than taking the extra time to individually select the people who need/want to know. Too often I resort to the mass blast approach to social media with friendships rather than reaching out to individual people. I don’t see this as much of a good thing.
  3. Running my life through the lens of social media isn’t healthy. When I read an article, or take a picture, or finish a blog post, I immediately start thinking of how I can “package” this on Twitter or Facebook so people will take notice. When going through life becomes about showcasing everything into creative 140 character bits, we limit ourselves from the deeper level of thinking and processing that is often needed. We also tend to value things that only others will value too. Not everything needs to be shared or needs to be valued by others.
  4. I’ve built genuine friendships that I genuinely missed. I used to be wary of using the word “friends” when it came to referring to people I know only through the social media world. But I’m far beyond that now. I can name plenty of people, though having never been with them face to face, genuinely missed hearing about their life and their thoughts over the past week. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with them.
  5. Getting back into a habit is not easy to do. Toward the end of last week I thought I’d starting writing on a few ideas I had. While working on my manuscript I had gotten used to writing pages and pages everyday, but for several days I did not write anything. Jumping back into that habit of writing was not easy. My thoughts weren’t flowing easily. Every sentence was taking twice as long to form. This is one of the big reasons I have for not taking a break from something that has value.
  6. I spend far too much energy manicuring the online perception of who I am. I’m a 27 year-old guy who is about to become an author and I spend so much time trying to show people why I deserve to become one. I know perception matters, but I don’t think all the time I spend trying to create a strong perception of who I am is healthy.
  7. I should have done this a long time ago. There’s no substitute for taking a break from something to understand how deeply entrenched into it you are. While I do take a break from social networks on most Sundays, the week long break was the extended time I needed. It’s one thing to understand the pros and cons of using social media, it’s another to experience them fully by fasting from using all things social media.

Those of you who have taken an extended break from social media, what have you learned?