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A week without social media

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

By Adam Earnheardt

Editor’s note: Today’s column is the second of two parts.

Last week, I shared a snapshot of my social media fast.

Maybe it was the holiday break. Maybe it was the ease with which I deleted my social media apps, but the first days felt fairly painless.

Then it got weird.

The following are journal excerpts of days 4 through 7:

Day 4, 6:30 a.m.: Checking email is a challenge. I get daily updates from Facebook and other platforms about new activity. If I’m tagged in new posts, getting friend requests or new followers, Facebook and Twitter tell me, albeit via email.

I’ve avoided social media, but it feels like they’ve come looking for me.

In a strange game of social media hide-and-seek, I’m hiding while Facebook and Twitter are searching.

Not sure who is winning.

Day 5, 4:15 p.m.: A friend has been in the hospital for a few days. She was providing updates on Facebook, but now I can’t look for updates. I don’t know if she’s out of the hospital yet, and I don’t have her cellphone number.

I could ask my wife to check Facebook, but that feels like cheating.

Am I a bad friend?

Day 6, 10 a.m.: Hanging with my family for New Year’s, and my brother-in-law says (in a very accusatory tone), “I thought you were off social media. But then you posted a picture the day after Christmas. You didn’t last very long.”

I’m freaking out. Did someone hack my account?

He digs a little and finds that the picture was actually posted a few days before my fast. As is common on Facebook, when someone comments, the post is suddenly reignited, moving it to the top of some news feeds.

Whew.

Day 7, noon: I’m back on social media today and, to be honest, I really feel like I could go another week or two. The lack of drama has been good for me, both psychologically and socially.

As I wade back into social media waters (dipping my toe into Facebook first), what did I learn?

  1. Didn’t feel disconnected: Other than my friend who was in the hospital (she’s completely fine, and laughed when I told her about this), I didn’t feel like I disconnected from anyone or anything. In fact, I feel better connected to those closest to me.
  2. No one missed me: No one sent out a social media search party. No one said, “Hey, Adam hasn’t posted in a while. We should check on him.”
  3. Food for thought: I imagine what life would be like if I quit social media. But then I remember that I’d have to give up this column. I enjoy researching and writing about social media too much to stop now.

Are you thinking about taking a break from social media? Share your experience with me at acearnheardt@ysu.edu.

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