Monday, January 13, 2014

Digital Detox: Restoring Balance to My Social Media System

The new year is here and as we all know, it's the perfect time to make changes. For me, one of the changes I intend to make involves jumping on the detox bandwagon. Now, my detox won't involve denying myself certain foods or liquor (like that would ever happen). I'm detoxing from social media.
The challenge is that this kind of detox is a funny thing for a person whose job and extracurricular activities involve social media. My job in communications for a health care association has a social media component, and for two years I've managed social media responsibilities for my church. Previously, I served as s social media consultant for a D.C. nonprofit. I am out in these social media streets, but I think I need to come in before the street lights come on. 

Why a detox? Obviously there's significant value in connecting via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Vine, etc., as a way to share, connect, build community and affect positive change. However, as with most things, there's a danger to indulging in too much of what should be a great thing.

To my horror, I've become one of those people. You know the ones I'm talking about: the people that check their multiple profiles multiple times a day. The people that check and post from their phone at dinner, in church, while hanging out with friends, you name it. The people who check their posts constantly to see which ones have been liked, how many times and by whom. Half of my 45-minute train ride to work involves scrolling through Instagram and Twitter.

I didn't mean to become a social media junkie. It just kind of happened....said every junkie ever. After all, I need to know what's going on in the world, and Twitter is great for that. I need to check my church's Facebook and Twitter profiles to see what folks are saying about the church and if what I crafted in HootSuite posted correctly. Looking at pics on Instagram is no big deal, right? I mean it will only take a few minutes to scroll through the pics and videos, and some of the posts are really inspirational! A friend or acquaintance is celebrating a birthday today, so I have to add a "Happy Birthday!" wall post. Not doing so would just be rude. This is the way people communicate now, so it's totally fine, right?

I don't know about you, but these seemingly innocent activities often lead me into visual social media quicksand. I've wasted more time on my smartphone and my laptop scrolling through all things scrollable than I care to admit. I missed a train stop once because I was engrossed in something that I saw on Twitter or Instagram that I now can't remember. I've missed TV shows or bits and pieces of shows that I really wanted to watch because I was too busy tweeting or clicking on hashtags about the show I'm supposed to be watching. And while I read articles I find on social media, I'm constantly haunted by the fact that I could have and should have read a book and instead of burying my face in my phone. Oh the shame of it all.  

It's now gotten to the point where my check-ins are borderline automatic. Consequently, I feel sucked in and bored by what I find because I see so much of the same thing. Oh, and did I mention the general information overload? Lawd! Then I feel bad about myself for wasting so much time looking at what other people are saying and doing instead of actually reading that book, learning to cook steak, cleaning out my closet, figuring out what the heck a "read option" is, SOMETHING!

Social media is supposed to be fun and engaging, but my overconsumption is having the opposite effect, and that my dear friends is why a detox is in order.

Now, don't get me wrong. Obviously, social media can be great. I've been introduced to brilliant minds and enlightening conversations. I've read some thought-provoking pieces that I otherwise wouldn't have known about had it not been for a tweet or a share on Facebook. I've also laughed at some of the most ratchet shenanigans thanks to Black Twitter.

Buttttttt, I'm tired of feeling bad. I'm tired of feeling unproductive and typical. I'm tired of missing out on what's real rather than the carefully curated images and ramblings of people people who can create new identifies and personalities simply to talk loud without saying anything of substance.  

Now when I say detox, I don't mean walking away from the Internet entirely. That's just not realistic for me. Most activities involve some sort of online engagement, and I have a job and a blog (shameless plug!). What is realistic for me is letting go of the need to be plugged in and in the know all the dang time via social media.

I'm going to detox for two weeks and during that time I'm going to focus on finding an online balance by asking the following questions:  How can I be productive on social media? How can I connect without missing what's right in front of me? What are realistic time limits for my social media engagement? How can I effectively use social media without turning a quick check-in into a complete time suck?

If you're like me, might I suggest a digital detox? Your eyes, friends and local bookstore will thank you.

Stay random,


  1. I think that’s a great idea. It’s human nature to want to share our experiences and be positively validated for it. Social networking sites have effectively capitalized on that desire to the point where we just have to share every point of our lives. When you’re the one doing it, it’s fun and it allows you to release certain emotions, though I realize it is annoying to some people especially if you abuse it. Certainly, a temporary “detox” is necessary not just to allow you to reevaluate how you’re utilizing social media, but also to keep your contacts from unfriending or unfollowing you.

    Sean Spear

  2. “… there's a danger to indulging in too much of what should be a great thing.” — You have a good point on this one, Jay. Too much exposure over something is not healthy. It can take away the surprise and excitement the news usually brings. Same with ourselves. It can be a little tiring to tell everyone about your daily routine, not only for you but to the people who read it as well. I also think that this can also take away your privacy.

    Aligned Right