In December, I went on a “social media hiatus.” It was originally intended to be a break from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram distractions for the good of my finals week productivity, but about a week in, I decided to extend it for the entire month. I chose to journal every so often here to keep track of how I was feeling, and I made a surprising discovery in the process. Not only did I get an A in every class, but I improved my relationship in ways I didn’t think possible.
Day 1: I don’t feel quite deprived yet, since it took me almost an hour yesterday to turn off all the notifications on my phone from various apps, reorganize my folders so only the most important, work-relevant things were on my home page, and…create an adorable “unplugged” profile picture for Facebook and Instagram with my Phonto app. Oops.
Day 3: I’ve been pretty good about not checking any social media. But I am realizing how often the urge hits…and how ridiculous some of the things are that I want to Tweet about. For example, I had string cheese for the first time in several months, and felt the need to send a Tweet announcing this to the world (in less than 140 characters, of course). I realized that in the online world, we make a MUCH bigger deal out of things than they actually are.
Day 5: Aaaand, I relapsed. I logged onto Facebook to ask my friends for massage therapist recommendations because I twisted my back again (I trust people I know a lot more than random Yelp reviewers). The recommendation status wasn’t the problem…it’s the 20 minutes I spent on my newsfeed after I got an answer. But I’ve got a big paper rough draft due tomorrow, so I think I’ll be able to avoid it for the rest of the night.
Day 9: Finals are upon me, and I hardly have time for social media as it is. I’ve got three large final papers due in the next week, and a couple of presentations to boot. In past years, I’ve blocked social media to make it through finals week, but I don’t even need to block the sites to stay away these days. No time!
Day 13: Taking time off from homework tonight–it’s been a long week. I noticed this week how much my time off from social media has improved my communication with Nate. Not that we communicated poorly before, but in a long distance relationship, sometimes the frequency of contact is a point of contention. Now, if I have a unique encounter, see a funny internet picture, or read a thought-provoking article, I send it to Nate instead of posting it online. When it comes around to our evening phone call, we’ve got even more to talk about than usual.
Day 19: One paper down, and then computer problems. Had to write a paper in the car on the 16 hour drive from Kansas to Georgia. While I wish I wasn’t finishing finals while I’m trying to visit my family, I feel very focused. I haven’t been tempted to post photos online of our travels or my (adorable) nieces–but of course, I’ve been taking pictures! I figure I’ll gather them all up and post them in a lump after the trip. It’s kind of nice knowing I have that option and not feeling pressured to post immediately.
Day 23: Before bed, I usually check my social media sites and catch up on my phone games. These days…I’m chatting with Nate as I fall asleep. I love hearing his version of what we did that day and hearing him describe moments I didn’t notice. I’m loving all the time I’m getting with him this holiday break, and I think we’re both loving how much we’re connecting with each other, instead of social media.
Day 31: Guess what? On Day 24, Nate proposed! It was an absolute joy keeping the secret to ourselves until today. I almost didn’t want to post online about the engagement at all–it feels like suddenly, the whole world is invited into our relationship (which up until now, wasn’t even “Facebook official”). But, I have a healthy respect for how easy it is to quickly disseminate information to far-away friends via social media, and as long as it’s used responsibly. I loved reading the reactions of our friends who hadn’t heard the news over the phone, and I screen-shot the congratulatory wall-posts. There are ways to make this temporary form of communication more permanent, and I’m going to take advantage of them.
This month made me feel free. I stopped experiencing the overwhelming pressure to share that I did early in the month, and I started feeling the excitement of getting to share my day with Nate. Before the hiatus, our evening conversations would occasionally fall flat, and I couldn’t figure out why. I now realize it was because I had already shared my day online, and I wasn’t interested in retelling things to him. Now, he’s my go-to text message or phone call. That distance doesn’t seem as long when we connect more often throughout the day. I thought we had great communication before, but increasing the frequency of communication brought us even closer and taught us more about one another. I would absolutely encourage anyone (single or attached) to go on a social media break–and hold yourself to it! It’s challenging at first, but you might start to connect with your friends, family, or partner in a new, special way.