5 Things I Learned After a Seven-Day Social Media Fast

On September 29, after I spent the morning refreshing the same blog three times (the blog I know only updates once a day), checking Facebook and Instagram every ten minutes, and clicking on Every. Single. Link. I found halfway interesting on Twitter, I realized I needed a break from social media.

So I decided that for the next four weeks, I would:

  • Check Facebook only once per week (to check event invites and church news, but NOT scroll the news feed)
  • Check Pinterest never
  • Use Instagram only on October 22 to upload my daughter’s 4-month pictures
  • Only use Twitter from other websites (i.e., promoting my giveaway and blog posts, sharing important blog posts from others, etc.)
  • Only watch Vlogbrothers videos on YouTube (no gymnastics or recommended videos, as both are notorious time suckers for me)
  • Check my blogroll only once per day
  • No forum participation, including passive reading (outside answering PMs)

So far, I’ve done okay. I did end up on my Twitter feed for a bit today after posting about my giveaway (JK Rowling posted an anagram about her movies… I couldn’t resist), and I end up looking at a lot of different blogs (never the same blog twice, just a lot of blogs…), but on the whole, for once, I’m succeeding. and here’s what I’ve learned:

1. I think in Facebook status updates

My daughter spent nearly an entire day yelling instead of squeaking or crying. I thought about how I would word my Facebook status. I spent time with old friends, and immediately crafted a mental status about how important it is to maintain relationships in real life and not just digitally (the irony wasn’t lost on me). I took a few pictures at a good friend’s wedding and thought about the caption I would include. Cuddle-naps with the kiddo? Thought about Facebook. An adorable outfit of hers (or mine)? Wanted to post it to Instagram.

I wasn’t sure when I started my fast if I would make it the whole month. When I realized I crafted an image of my life based on how I would present it to the world of Facebook, I knew I needed to continue.

2. I have a lot of free time

I work 40 hours a week, and I’m on pickup duty from daycare. My total route (home to work, work to daycare, daycare to home) is about 30 miles, and since daycare is at my Mom’s house, I usually stay for a bit to chat. And yet… I have a lot of free time. Lunch hours, the hours between 7:30 (when my daughter goes to bed) and whenever I go to bed… They add up quickly and are a lot easier to see when I’m not constantly on the lookout for what’s happening in my news feeds.

3. I am extremely resourceful… at finding ways to waste my free time

Without blogs to check or YouTube videos to watch in the evenings, I could still find ways to avoid working and curating meaningful relationships. Bejeweled 3 was free on Origin (it might still be, if you need a time-waster). I re-discovered my love for 2048. I caught up on my friends’ fanfiction stories (although that, thankfully, was on The Weekly List). I watched a few episodes of Friends with my husband (but everyone knows watching Friends is time well spent).

I did not clean my house. I’m still only 10% through reading Les Miserables. I did not become a meditative hermit.

4. I was still the most productive I’ve been in a while

I’ve written more than 3,000 words for a story I practically abandoned in May. I’ve been brainstorming the heck out of my next novel, including re-reading a book on how to marry structure and theme. I was proactive about laundry and making dinner. I got stuff done.

5. I am in need of connections to people, and fulfilling that need with real people is far more satisfying than scrolling a news feed

More than anything, I was proactive in my pursuit of other people. IRL. (that’s “in real life” for those who don’t think in acronyms) Without the false sense of connection that social media was providing me, I was in desperate need of relationship. At the wedding I attended, I was present. I interacted with the bride and groom and with old friends. I danced with my husband and daughter. I hardly looked at my phone.

That evening, I spent three hours talking with my husband. The next day, I reached out to a friend I hadn’t seen since my baby shower–a friend whose house I drive by almost every day–and we spent two hours together. She got to meet my baby. We lost track of time. Hours later, I was with three of the 14-year-old girls I mentor at Starbucks. We got kicked out because it closed.

All in all, I am actually excited to keep this up. I’ve been writing. I’ve been editing. I’ve been going to bed (mostly) on time. I initiated texts. My Facebook-status mentality for categorizing my life is slowly starting to disappear (and morph into blog post ideas, but shhh…). I hope I do make it to a month. Who knows? Maybe my need for Facebook in particular will disappear, the way my month-long fast from Tumblr turned into an indefinite fast.

Have any of you taken a social media fast? What did you learn?

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