This past lent I decided to spend 40 days (and nights) disconnecting from all media (social and otherwise). I spent a good amount of time agonizing about avoiding my computer, the TV, my phone(s) and the other internet-connected-electronic devices. It was an exercise in willpower and watching myself constantly fail.
I understood that it was going to be a challenge when I made the public commitment. There were times during the media fast where backing out seemed simpler and easier. I didn’t, but (spoiler alert) I don’t feel I succeeded either.
The first few days were rough and resulted in continuous conversations that went like this:
10 minutes later…
Brain: How about Instagram?
1. It’s really hard. Media is everywhere! I don’t logically care about the person who posts their awesome dinner at some fancy restaurant on Instagram. But in some ways, I do care. I also care about what drinks they’re drinking and their funny and witty hashtags. I also care that they are either doing yoga, or lifting weights at the gym or eating really decadent food. I don’t understand, when do these people work? And when do they eat McDonalds chicken nuggets like regular people?
2. You get a good understanding of how much you open your phone or browser to check Twitter / Facebook. Try this: Log out of all your social media sites on every single device. Now, get a Sharpie marker and draw a line on your arm every time you unconsciously open a social media site and presented with the login prompt. At the end of the day, my arm looked like one of those magic eye posters that cause seizures when you look at it with a strobe light.
3. You probably watch a lot of bad TV. Ok, look. My regular TV watching schedule is arguably not so bad. I like The Blacklist, Sleepy Hollow, Elementary and Suits. It’s that small amount of shows that you tend to catch from the corner of your eye when your wife is decompressing from a long day at work. It all adds up which brings me to my next point.
4. Your family probably watches a lot of bad TV. You can’t control what your family watches and you really shouldn’t attempt to. Just because you made the incredibly stupid decision to go on a media diet; doesn’t mean they need to be subjected it. But man, considering I’m not a regular of Grey’s Anatomy (where every season finale Shonda Rhimes kills everyone off), Vampire Diaries, or The Originals (spoiler alert: Vampire Diaries and The Originals are the same show); I’m pretty caught up.
5. Not all media is bad, but its hard to find the good ones. Trying to curate the media I consumed was very challenging and I spent a lot of time managing it: Trimming the Twitter list, the Facebook friends, uninstalling applications and the RSS reader feeds. I got it down to a manageable list, but keeping it lean and trimmed was a lot of work.
6. You’re going to fail. Disconnecting from (social) media is hard. It’s everywhere, companies know how to make it a part of your everyday conversation and hourly interactions. If I’m pissed at a product, my first instinct these days is not to address the issue 1 to 1 with a phone rep; it’s to publicly humiliate them on twitter (and hope to god that they acknowledge my tweet). It is just everywhere and your willpower can’t hold up to a 24/7 barrage of Pinterest pins, Twitter Retweets, Facebook rants and Youtuber jump cuts. But when you do fail, just pick yourself up, turn it off and try again.
How about you? Have you ever attempted a media disconnect? What was your inner-dialog?
Photo credit to Joe Shlabotnick.