30 days of going social media free

4 Feb

It was the first week of 2013 during Happy Hour at our local watering hole here in Portland a couple of my friends thought it would be great to take a social media hiatus. That evening we all decided that we would go cold turkey off Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others for 30 days “just because”. The next morning, via text, everybody confirmed they were going off social media and had disabled/deactivated their accounts. What followed was a fascinating month of learning what it meant to engage and connect with people outside of the world of social media.

Originally I thought about posting a status update telling people that I was doing it but I realized they wouldn’t see it unless they saw it RIGHT when I posted. I didn’t want to be one of THOSE people that had to tell the world that I was going off the social media. C’mon. So on January 9th I deactivated my Facebook account.

Deactivating is a funny thing. Turns out you use Facebook to login to EVERYTHING. In the first 24-48 hours I had pretty much figured that out and thankfully you can get an email-based account on just about every relevant service out there. What was more interesting is what happened over the first week or so.

I was IM’ing with my ex-wife and she apologized that her sharing on Facebook was too much and she was bummed that I had blocked her. “Whoa”, I said. Yeah no. “I am just on social media hiatus.” It dawned on me that this was a curious side-effect of all of this but I wasn’t going to be deterred. Over the course of the next few weeks I had people calling, texting or emailing me asking why I had blocked them. Where was I? Was everything okay? Well I’m just fine of course but now I’m trying to figure out why everybody thinks I’m a blocker. Fascinating.

About 2 weeks in I was just fine not participating in social media. I’d deleted the apps and had stopped the reflex of typing “F-A” into my browser. Turns out I tuned into Facebook a lot. In between meetings, while in line getting coffee, in the elevator, etc. Pretty much any spare time I had I’d just tune-in and see what was going on. I also realized that “sharing” things like photos, funny thoughts and making fun of your friends via pithy comments is actually kind of enjoyable and I did miss that. In fact, I only took about 10 photos on my phone when normally I take at least twice that in a given month.

From a work perspective I actually got much more productive. The start of the year is always busy at Urban Airship but this time we had a board meeting, Sales Kickoff, exec off-site, open house for our Palo Alto office and a variety of other time consuming things. Not only was I able to be much more focused I felt like I could get things done and still have time for my 1-on-1s and strategic discussions with the team.

I think the most interesting side-effect (and granted this is hard to quantify) is that I actually felt happier over the past 30 days. I happened to notice some research on the effects of Facebook and something called “Facebook Envy”. While I don’t think I was feeling that I do know you tune into your Facebook feed and see people that are more likely acquaintances having the time of their life. Its rare people post bad news (unless you’re Merrick of course).

With my job I’m out there all the time meeting new people, sharing interesting articles and news about our company. Its hard to separate that professional and private life when its so intertwined in your Facebook feed. Over the next 30 days I’m going to go in the other direction and engage even more than I had been before the hiatus and see what comes of it.