The Social Media Challenge: Revisited

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Warning: This post contains recurring themes of whinging and social media – continue at your own risk.

So just five days ago, I promised that I would partake in a Social Media Challenge – in which I would increasingly restrict my social media usage – and needless to say, it was harder than expected.

But did the experience provide me with new insight into my use of social media, or just make me a lot happier? There’s only one way to find out.

Friday: No LinkedIn or Instagram

For a year now, I’ve been trying to develop a professional profile on LinkedIn (I’d highly recommend any other students within Creative Industries doing the same) and it’s while it’s become a bit of a hobby recently, the professional aspect of the site means that I don’t spend every waking hour on it.

And although my updates on Instagram were more regular when I was travelling, it’s also a platform that I can easily take or leave depending on my mood.

By restricting these accounts on my first day, I felt eased into the process and not worried by it in the slightest. Piece of cake.

Saturday: No Twitter (additional)

I’m admittedly a serial scroller. There have been occasions where I’ve spent up to an hour aimlessly navigating through social media, not really looking for anything at all.

So to delete my Twitter app – which is as good as deleting my account – on day 2 was a pretty big deal. I felt slightly anxious. Was there anything I’d miss from not participating online?

For the first couple of hours, I kept checking my phone for an app that wasn’t there and it was slightly frustrating. But while I still had Facebook at the end of my thumb, it wasn’t a big concern for me. Tomorrow is starting to look pretty grim.

Sunday: No Facebook (additional)

‘If you didn’t post it on Facebook – it didn’t really happen, right?’

Facebook has been part of my life since I was 13 and over the following 8 years, I’ve documented countless statuses and shared important chapters in my life with family and friends. It’s probably my favourite platform. But I can admit that my usage of it has probably become excessive. Scouring profiles for hours in search of stories and conversation is inhibiting just that – and it’s hard to give up.

Before this challenge, I’d never realised how prevalent social media is in ‘real life’ conversation. Phrases like ‘Have you seen this video’ or ‘What is going on with …?’ are commonplace in modern day society and form the basis of most conversations. It’s almost as if the virtual now connects seamlessly with reality.

I spent a day with my family on Sunday and  – despite a Facebook light bulb flickering in my head every now and then – thoroughly enjoyed the entirety of it. Would I have been as perceptive of the things my Mum was saying or the monkey clambering over our car at Longleat if Facebook was in the car with us? Probably not. 

It was hard not to share updates throughout the day and show everyone how much we’re enjoying the weekend. It’d liken oversharing to an addiction really. But it’s also a relief to forget the ‘pressure’ about what my status is going to be or which pictures to upload. Strange.

Monday: Life in the dark ages

To go completely off the radar seemed quite alien to me. I mean we’ve all had a strop and deleted our Facebook profiles, haven’t we? But to cut off access to all of my social media accounts was new territory.

Not long into Monday morning, a search party came looking for proof that I was still breathing. And while the concern was appreciated, I was surprised at how little time had elapsed for my friends to think there was something wrong. My habits have to change.

And the weirdest thing kept happening. At random points throughout the day I’d subconsciously go on my phone and try to find something to look at or scroll. Of course, with all of my social media apps deleted, I aimlessly stared at the handset for a few seconds before retracting it back into my pocket – half through confusion, half embarrassment.

All in all though, I think the day went well. I was more productive and felt more in control of any tasks ahead of me. Also, I didn’t miss having tired eyes or the recurring feeling that awaking from a scrolling session brings (you know the one, like a cloud of confusion).

Oh, and guess what? By cutting myself off from virtual conversations, I spent my day engaging in twice as many real ones.

That brings us to our conclusion, otherwise known as Tuesday:

I’m not going to lie, I’m glad this ban is over.

And while I certainly won’t be imposing another one for a very long time, I’m going to continue restricting my social media usage. If the past 4 days have taught me anything, it’s that we’re becoming increasingly reliant on social media to function in everyday life.

And I’m not too keen on that feeling.

During the early 00’s, social media was a product in its infancy that people used occasionally to reconnect with family and friends. Nowadays however, the connection never stops and social media is an integral part of our lives. Maybe we’ve just gone too far.

While I suggested last week that social media could have a life-span, my findings over the past few days have led me to believe that this is unlikely. And while that’s great news for PR and other communication services, I think the industry should still be cautious. As younger generations continue to speedily migrate across social platforms and leave at their own will, the task of pinning them down won’t be an easy one.

I’d never suggest deleting social media – because it just wouldn’t work for me. But restricting my usage has changed my perspective on how we interact with one another and spend our free-time. There’s just so much more to life than scrolling, isn’t there?

I’d love to know if any of you have tried or succeeded in giving up social media so feel free to send me a message or leave a comment below. But for now, I’m going to let today’s message be this:

Sometimes, having a conversation over a cuppa is much better than a computer.

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