Yes, go on, I can hear the sniggers from here – I’m admitting that I’m a social media addict ON SOCIAL MEDIA… But bear with me, grab yourself some snacks, and settle in for a bit of self-reflection…
Let’s start with the concept of Mindfulness. If you google the word “mindfulness”, you will discover a wealth of information about this practice, which intersects with many schools of thought, but primarily (IMO), psychology & buddhism. It is essentially concerned with the awareness of reality as it is right now. If you are engaging in self reflective thought, you are, essentially, being mindful. You are stepping outside of your body & mind, and reflecting from afar, what it is you are thinking, and how you are feeling, why you are feeling that way, and what is going on in your world.
I engage in mindful thinking constantly. Being a woman of strong emotions, and a steady variety of impulsive behaviour, I find myself questioning my thoughts, behaviours & emotions every minute of every day. Why is it that I feel sad that ‘x’, or why am I feeling so happy right now, or why did ‘a’ motivate me to do behaviour ‘b’?
Anyway, in the midst of my questioning, and the rugby tackle of my new job, I began to question WHY I engage in so much social media. It was a hard question to pose to myself. There is no doubt that I am embedded. If you are reading this post, you can see from my contact page that I have many online presences, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ to name a few… I check all these portals of connection every day. But I know that ‘every day’ a bit of an understatement… So, I decided to conduct an experiment on myself. I had never logged how many times in a day I had ‘checked’ my social media portals, even for the briefest of moments. Nor had I ever logged how many times in a day I had broadcast a message on social media.
So I decided to measure it, and let my findings speak for itself…
To begin the experiment, I deactivated my Facebook account & my Twitter account (my two big social networks). Not only could I not look, but people could not interact with me. There was no way out of it. I was disconnected. My first impressions were that of withdrawal (seriously Jane?). Yes, withdrawal. I immediately wanted to reverse my deactivation. What were people saying? What were they doing? I want to interact!! Because I was disconnected, I wanted to be connected even MORE. If it was just there for the checking, perhaps the disconnection anxiety, and subsequent withdrawal, would’ve been non-existant. But, there it was, already signalling to me that I was somewhat addicted.
Ok – so Addiction… What is the difference between liking something a whole lot, and being addicted to it? Telltale signs of addictive behaviour include a preoccupation with ‘it’, a lack of control over how often you engage with ‘it’, continued use of ‘it’, despite any negative consequences, and a denial of an ‘addiction’ with ‘it’.
Since early Friday morning, I have had no less than 50 instances when I would’ve checked twitter or facebook. Not necessarily interacted, but checked. Not because I really needed to, but because I had a moment of spare time, picked up my phone, and that’s just what I would do. Preoccupation maybe? Hell yes. This is also a lack of control. But how about continued use of it despite negative consequences – this one is a bit trickier… The amount of social connections I have made (an overwhelming positive), versus the amount of distraction it generates for me is difficult to measure! How do we quantify social connectiveness, and the value of that social connectiveness, compared with the amount of time taken away from other, potentially more valuable activities. So how to do it? I didn’t. That’s a whole study in itself. All I know is that I have a lot of connections that are mutually beneficial, but who knows what negative consequences are happening without my awareness… It would take a good amount of ‘disconnect’ time to identify these kinds of factors. Lastly, what about a denial of addiction… Who me? Addicted? No WAY! (and there you have it…)
So, after being mindful of my addiction, and my decision to disconnect from social media for just one weekend… what did I learn?
1. I missed it
2. I busied myself with other things
3. The other things were good!
4. I wanted to record these other things by tweeting them & updating facebook….
5. But I didn’t
6. I cleaned more
7. I exercised more
8. I spoke to people ON THE PHONE
9. I read more of my book
But by the end of my three day self-imposed social media ban, the biggest thing was:
10. I felt an overwhelming, but strange sense of freedom, of disconnection, of just being. Without recording. Without connection. Without checking what others were doing. It was just me, and my family. And it was fabulous.
Now, don’t get my message wrong – I’m not suggesting for a minute that social media is an evil that we should all give up, and certainly not after such a short amount of time. I do think it is an invaluable communication tool, and gives us the opportunity to connect with so many others that we may never otherwise have connected with. What I am suggesting is that we all take a moment, an hour, a weekend, a week or a month… to be MINDFUL about our interaction with social media. Is it beneficial for you? Why do you do it? What else are you missing by focussing on it? Are you ADDICTED? If you are, maybe a bit of separation & reflection may be good for you?