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My fast from social media

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

By Adam Earnheardt

Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part column that will conclude next week.

I took a break from social media for seven days over the holidays.

I originally planned to stop using social media for four days, but instead started late Christmas Day and rejoined the online social world after New Year’s Day.

Following recent columns in which we explored the notion of “quitting” social media, I heard from readers and friends who were contemplating life without social media – “like giving up smoking,” one friend wrote.

Like them, I craved a brief respite from daily posting.

So, in order to give advice about “what to expect” during a social media fast, I started my own break, not knowing for sure what would happen.

It’s important to know what I did (and did not do):

  1. I did not give up technology. I still used email, surfed the web, but avoided references to social media platforms as best I could. It wasn’t easy.

  2. I deleted social apps from my phone to remove any temptation. This included deleting Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social apps.

  3. I started in the early evening on Dec. 25 and rejoined Jan. 2. I chose these dates because I thought for sure the lure of sharing holiday pictures would be overwhelming.

Alas, I survived.

Here are a few excerpts from my journal:

Day 1, 6 p.m.: I deleted Twitter 30 seconds ago. It was the last app to go.

What have I done? I’m not sure I can do this.

It was pretty easy to dump Snapchat and Instagram because, well, I’m not a daily user. I look at other people’s posts, but I only post my own images a few times a month.

LinkedIn didn’t hurt because I don’t plan to work much over break, and LinkedIn feels like my social media “work” app. Facebook and Messenger kind of hurt.

Already thinking this was a bad idea and feeling withdrawal symptoms.

Day 2, 7 a.m.: I took a few pictures on Christmas Eve and Christmas day. Surprisingly, I didn’t take as many as I usually do, probably because I knew I was doing this fast and wouldn’t be posting images.

Also, I’ve had a few random thoughts about the football games I’m watching and sports in general that I would usually post. Does this mean my thoughts are inconsequential, or that I’ll forget I had those thoughts?

This is so weird.

Day 3, 8:30 p.m.: I’ve been distracted by my wife and kids all day. I use the word “distracted” because I wonder if they’re helping me to forget about social media. As expected, I feel more connected to the people around me when I’m not lured away by my smartphone.

Next week, I’ll share journal excerpts for the rest of the week and what happened when I revisited my social media accounts.

Adam Earnheardt is chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University. Follow him on Twitter at @adamearn. Have a column idea? Email him at acearnheardt@gmail.com.