For a little while now the idea has been growing that I need to rethink my social media habits. I did a life logging experiment a little while ago recording how I spend my time throughout each day (My week in numbers). I was a bit surprised how much time I spent on social media. Especially when I compared this to how little I slept!
Missing the moment
A couple of things happened recently that made me start to question my use of social media. I was watching the Olympics diving on TV. I noticed as one of the divers was about to take off a guy in the audience looking at his phone. Because of where he was seated the same guy was in the background of a lot of the take off shots – he barely seemed to glance at the divers performances. It felt like he bought prime tickets to a sporting event and then missed it.
I went to see a musical recently (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). Half way through the first act a little glow from the row in front caught my attention – it was the woman in front of me posting pictures from outside the theatre to Instagram.
I’m totally guilty of this type of behaviour as well. I can think of plenty of times when I’ve been posting/tweeting about an experience rather than being totally in the experience.
Did you see this picture that went viral on social media recently – I want to be this woman taking in the moment!
Reach for your phone
I was on the train a couple of days ago with my kids. We were waiting in the station and a train on the platform next to ours pulled out. My boys waved at each carriage as it went past, trying to get someone to wave back to them. It was a really long train and there was lots of people on it. Not one person looked our way. Leo (age 3) asked me “Why is everybody on the train looking downwards?” I know the answer because I do it myself – as soon as I get on the train I get my phone out.
This really got me thinking what am I missing out on when my attention is on the screen and not the world around me. I’m always using my phone while watching TV, cooking dinner, eating my breakfast or (the worst) while I’m talking to people. It means that I’m only half paying attention to what I’m doing. I catch myself having to rewind my favourite TV shows because I’ve missed half the programme.
I’ve also noticed that I reach for my phone more frequently when I’m feeling stressed. It is a quick way of distracting myself and having a little escape when things get a bit chaotic.
Everybody does it, don’t they?
I’m sure my habits are not uncommon. A recent Ofcom survey (polling over 2000 adults and 500 teenagers) found that the typical adult spends 25 hours per week on the internet. The same survey reported that 40% of people felt that they were being regularly ignored by a friend or relative because they were too engrossed in their smart phone.
Time for a detox?
I did consider having a social media detox. Stopping using any social media for a month. I didn’t use any social media when I went camping for 4 days recently (although this was more to do with the crap WiFi than a conscious effort to tune out). But I’ve decided a social media detox too much like a crash diet. I’d happily go on an internet binge straight afterwards and wouldn’t alter my habits long term.
What I’m trying to figure out instead is how to get my social media use in a balance. I love a funny tweet and status update as much as anyone. I love how interactive Facebook and Twitter can be and how pretty my Instagram feed is. I just want to make sure it is not taking priority over other parts of my life.
As a start I’ve decided to turn down the volume on my social media feeds. I’ve switched off all of the notifications that appear on my phone screen. As soon as I get a notification I want to check it so it feels like these alerts are constantly interrupting me.
I’ve had a little cull of the Facebook groups that I belong to and the pages that I follow (don’t worry I still follow your blogs!). Out went the selling sites for second hand camping equipment and posts from super expensive brands that I have liked to enter a competition.
Social media ground rules
I’m also working on establishing some social media ground rules for myself. So far I’m thinking of:
• No checking social media when I’m in bed (I’m always sneaking a look at my phone when I go to bed or when I wake up). Time to move my phone from under my pillow – I guess I’ll just need to buy an alarm clock.
• I’m going to try really hard not to be scrolling through my news feed when people are talking to me – especially my kids and my husband. I think they will appreciate having my full attention, who wants to compete with a funny cat video!
• I’m going to try out putting my phone in another room when I don’t want to be distracted. Literally putting temptation out of reach. I’m going to do this during my favourite TV show or when I’m working on my blog.
• I think I also need to find some alternative ways to deal with stress and boredom – this is a bit of a vague idea at the moment. I can’t quite think of any concrete actions that will help just yet.
I think these ideas are a step in the right direction. Look I’ve written this whole post without checking Facebook once! Now if you will excuse me I’m off to watch funny cat videos!
Do you have any good tricks for enjoying social media in moderation? Or do you think an internet detox is the way to go?