I know what you’re thinking: are you kidding me? I’m a blogger. Bloggers are social media addicts practically by definition; we live, sleep, eat and breathe the Internet. We use it to capture our lives and for some of us, weirdly, it is our lives. I am no exception. I had a Myspace (heavily decorated in pink and complete with emo song), I got Facebook almost as soon as I knew it existed and I loved it. I have two Twitters and an Instagram and a Snapchat (even though I can’t quite figure out how to use it), I have a Google Plus account (although I don’t know what it does) and Whatsapp (if that counts) and Spotify, Pinterest, tumblr and just about anything else you can imagine.
Facebook is actually the reason I called this whole thing into question. It has always been my crack; I remember watching my friend count tick up excitedly back in 2008; I ran to my Dad’s old computer to see if my current crush had posted anything on my ‘wall’ in 2009; I uploaded hilarious (in my opinion) statuses and counted the ‘Likes.’ I loved it, and it was cool to love it so that was OK – everyone loved it and I was 22 anyway so what did it matter how I wasted my time?
Now, though, I feel the tides shifting. Nobody of my generation really seems to upload statuses anymore, other than to announce their engagements/marriages/babies. My homepage filled with clutter – adverts, ‘hilarious’ videos from ‘LADS ON TOUR’ and ‘LOLCATS,’ - less and less meaningful interaction from my friends. And my friends, in particular, started to lose interest and drop away. I noticed that even the true Facebook addicts amongst them were uploading less and less – once a week, now once a month, now never – except me. There I stayed, uploading stubbornly – not constantly, not like those people who post 8 times a day and really need to be on Twitter, but consistently; at least once a week, I would say.
I don’t know why. Maybe Facebook reminds me of university, a simpler time, when I was younger and all I cared about was looking cool by being tagged in photos with boys. Maybe I just don’t have a lot going on in life. Or it’s habit.
But anyway, this bank holiday just passed I spent the weekend in Wales, in a caravan in the middle of nowhere. With no Wifi and no signal (it was literally as if I crossed the border and my signal disappeared). For a few minutes, I panicked. What would I do without keeping up with Facebook? Without seeing what that girl on Made in Chelsea had eaten for breakfast via Instagram? Without clicking through to a hilarious Buzzfeed article linked to me on Twitter?
Well, you know what I did? I enjoyed dinner with my friends. I read my Kindle. I drank cider in a pub garden, and went on a long walk, and went crabbing, and ate chips on the beach, and swung on a rope swing. And I did all those things without being interrupted by notifications or by an endlessly demanding flashing phone. All I could think about was how nice it was to be left in peace – and yet, I realised, nobody was ever forcing me to check my phone every 10 minutes. It was all me, my fingers endlessly pressing the Home button to illuminate the screen – have you liked my photo? Retweeted my comment? Have you validated my existence today?
Since coming home, I have checked Facebook and Instagram and I can feel it creeping back up on me and I don’t want it. I don’t think I can cut out social media altogether (for a start, my blog somewhat depends on it, and I like my blog) but here are a few rules I want to stick to – I’ll check back in, in a month, and see how I’m doing…
1. No using the phone at the table. This is a rule my Dad enforced strictly when we were younger which I should’ve stuck to, but haven’t. At all mealtimes, in restaurants, and even when having drinks in bars, my phone is going to remain in my bag or somewhere out of sight. There is never a need to check Facebook when out for dinner.
2. Turn notifications off. I check these things enough, without being prompted to check them more.
3. Unfollow accounts that do you no good (like the blogger who creates endless envy because she’s always on holiday, or the super thin girl who just makes you feel fat and sad, or the girl you knew in Year Seven who posts endless irritating statuses about her life). Why constantly subject yourself to seeing things that make you feel sad, or jealous, or irritated? I wouldn’t keep tuning into a TV show I hated. It’s stupid.
4. Contextualise your statuses. Or in other words: I want to think about why I’m writing them. Do I genuinely have a thought or opinion I want to share? Or am I showing off? Seeking validation? What? Think before you Tweet.
5. Buy an alarm clock. I don’t want my social media accounts to be the first thing I check in the morning or the last thing I see at night – but because I use my phone as an alarm clock, it’s often all too tempting just to give them a quick check. Hopefully an alarm clock might help with this!
I want to become one of those people you know who ‘likes’ a photo you uploaded of them – the day after they’ve uploaded it. Or someone who says vaguely ‘I do have a Twitter, but I hardly ever check it.’ I want to live in the real world, not the virtual world!
Have you ever had a social media break? How did you find it?