What I Learned from My Social Media Fast

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So I feel like I emerged from a cave yesterday when I came out of a five day social media fast.  How do I feel?  Like the rest of the world gets around by sports car and I got handed a wagon with a broken wheel and no horse.

My rules were simple:  communicate with people voice to voice or face to face for five days.  I got rid of Facebook and Twitter, and only answered texts and emails with a return voice call, not by keyboard.

I thought it was going to be a great week – I’d be more spiritual.  More time for rich relationships.  Time to deeply reflect.  Mind you, I try to take time like that every week.  But I thought my social media fast would enhance that to the nth degree.

Uh.  No.  Not at all.   It just made everything more difficult and more complicated.  Sign of an addict?  I don’t think so.  Hope not.  Read on and make up your own mind.

Some random learnings:

  • It wasn’t that hard not to tweet or update my Facebook status.  I had the urge, but it wasn’t like the response a caffeine addict might have to no coffee.  I could easily last a month or more.
  • What I did miss is knowing what was going on in my friends’ lives.  Most of the benefit of social media for me is staying in touch and keeping up on what’s happening in other peoples lives and ministries.  It felt lonely actually, like a bunch of great people had exited my life.
  • It was incredibly inconvenient.   I could not get to inbox zero because I couldn’t effectively follow up on everything that came across my inbox or desktop.  Not only was it inconvenient for me, it was very inconvenient for our staff and other colleagues.
  • Phone communication isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  When you’re used to communicating with someone via text or direct messages, switching it up to voice mail makes is more complicated. Text based messaging gets sent at the convenience of the sender and read at the convenience of the recipient.  The phone is very intrusive compared to that.
  • Good communication rule: communicate with people the way they want to be communicated with.  I decided I would read email but ask people to respond by phone.  I had an auto-responder set up on the gmail explaining my five day fast and asked people to call me instead.  Not many did.  I could be wildly unpopular or it might just be that people pick the channel of communication they want and stick to it.  I did call a few people and we had some fun conversations, but got more voicemails than actual conversations.  Online messaging is FAR more efficient and fun.
  • I did have more time reflect and think last week…not much, but some.  But I felt my world got much smaller, and I missed the people who make it larger and richer for their presence.

Conclusions

  • I thought the fast would be liberating, clarifying and spiritually uplifting.  Instead, it was mostly inconvenient.
  • Social media can lead to narcissism for sure, but I found I wasn’t really missing updating my own status, I was missing every else.  And missing the chance to engage and interact.
  • I thought I would be asking everyone to do a media fast in our Like Me series on social media (coming up in November at Connexus).  Maybe a better bottom line is this:  some of us (narcissistic folks etc) need to use social media less, but some of us need to use it more. If you’re not texting, on Facebook or online in any meaningful way, you’re missing a huge part of the conversation.  You’re being left behind.  And people younger than you might not be talking to you at all.  This is just actually the way millions of people communicate now.  You miss it at your own peril.

That’s what I learned.  Ever done a media fast? What was your experience? If you haven’t done one, what do you think you might discover if you did one?

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Carey Nieuwhof
Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is a best-selling leadership author, speaker, podcaster, former attorney, and church planter. He hosts one of today’s most influential leadership podcasts, and his online content is accessed by leaders over 1.5 million times a month. He speaks to leaders around the world about leadership, change, and personal growth.