- How much time do you spend on social media every day?
- Is social media enhancing your productivity (that’s unlikely) or is it preventing you from getting work done?
- Is social media improving your professional and personal relationships (that’s unlikely too) or does it sometimes make you question how much you’ve really got in common with the people you’ve ‘LinkedIn’ or ‘Friended’?
- Has access to social media improved the quality of your life or has it just added more stress and frustration?
Back in January 2017, the Journal of Applied Social Psychology published an article about how ‘Internet and Facebook-related images affect the perception of time’, suggesting that we spend much more time on social media than we think we do and that “Internet and Facebook-related stimuli can distort time perception due to attention and arousal related mechanisms.” In other words, we just can’t stop ourselves from checking out other people’s ‘likes’ and comments because we’re afraid of missing out on the latest political conspiracy theory, tap-dancing kitten video, or Donald Trump dressed up as the Elf on the Shelf meme. And god forbid if you don’t smiley face that news story about ‘The General Election was masterminded by an underground race of reptilians’ before everybody else does (and then regularly check-in to find out who else has smiley-faced it too.)
According to an October 2016 TeamLease World of Work Report, most of us spend an average of 2.35 hours a day accessing our social media in the workplace resulting in a 13 per cent loss of total productivity. Our addiction to social media also has an acknowledged detrimental effect on our physical and mental health. A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology assessed 5,208 subjects and found that, overall, regular use of Facebook had a negative impact on an individual’s wellbeing. Meanwhile, researchers from the University of Melbourne’s National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health have warned that prolonged social media use is connected to a range of conditions including depression, anxiety and sleep problems.
Those are just some of the many reasons why, back in the summer, I decided to take a detox from social media. I was only gone for two months, just to test the waters and find out what effect it might have on my business and my life, but now that I’m back – albeit in a limited capacity – I thought I’d spend my next couple of blogs talking about the experience and what I discovered. Hopefully what I’m going to share with you might encourage you to rethink your social media habits too.
Making the decision
I won’t lie, making the decision to leave social media was a difficult one. I’d put more than three years of heavy investment into my social media presence including hundreds of conversations and sharing some really powerful content with the people who interact with me, so just stopping it ‘cold turkey’ (although that’s a very apt phrase considering the time of year) was a fairly nerve-wracking experience. Would people instantly forget all about me? Would they interpret my absence as some kind of failure, and assume something had cataclysmically gone wrong with me and my business? Would they think I was being snotty and anti-social? Would I suddenly find myself out of the loop, with no way to get back in if I ever returned?
None of that happened. Yes, I had some amused reactions from people who thought I was just being contrary and bet that I’d be back online before the end of the first week, but those were pretty few and far between and when they realised I was serious they never mentioned it again. Beyond that, life ticked on as usual.
How it felt
In a word – wonderful. I had a period of two whole months when I wasn’t bombarded with pointless messages and ridiculous posts or inundated with other people’s negativity. I especially noticed how good it felt staying away from LinkedIn and Instagram, two platforms that I personally feel have really declined in value since I first joined them. I didn’t have to read inane rants and toxic comments, unfollow hate-spewing trolls or scroll through acres of clickbait. I didn’t have to field meaningless questions from people with too much time on their hands. In fact, I found it really, really interesting just how much I didn’t miss any of it. I immediately felt better. My focus was sharper. I had the mental bandwidth to completely concentrate on what I was thinking and doing, without the annoying white-noise chatter of all those unwanted words and voices.
I’d recommend a social media detox to anybody, but there are a few rules I’d recommend considering. For example, before I left I made it clear on all my profiles that I was taking a break from social media and wouldn’t be engaging: sharing things, liking things, commenting or responding to comments on my feed. However, I did log in once or twice a week to check messages that could be useful or important to my business and, on one occasion, when somebody direct-messaged me on LinkedIn I did respond because I thought their enquiry might be worth checking out. (LinkedIn’s actually a really good example of how nonsensical social media can be. During the two months I was away I received a number of messages from people saying they’d read my profile and ‘really’ wanted to connect. The odd thing is, if they’d genuinely read my profile they would have known (from the first two lines of my profile) that I was no longer engaging on that platform. I thought that was quite funny and highlighted how many times we’re targeted by chancers and timewasters.)
So why did I decide to return to social media, what’s my social media strategy going to be now that I’m back, and what could we all do to use social media more effectively and gain optimal benefits from our online presence?
I’ll be covering that in my next blog. See you there!