Thinking about a social media break

I am a big fan of Facebook. Recently I was challenged to write 3 things I was grateful for, for 7 days. On day 4 I wrote that I was grateful for Facebook as it helped me keep in touch with so many friends near and far. It helps distant family feel close to Sam, and it helps me reconnect with friends when I see them as if we had never been apart. I am not ignorant to the fact that several amazing presents have come my way on the back of Facebook comments.

So, while I do miss actual snail mail, with the tendency to include photos and cool things (and I love my friend Frances’ idea to reinstate the writing of actual proper letter, [and she even goes so far as to get them in the mail]) I am aware of all the benefits of social media. That being said, I am also aware of a growing downside to social media for me. It’s not the classic ‘comparing my outtakes to every else’s highlights real’ (which I managed to work through and overcome that a while ago) but more, the time sink. I have realized that given 20 or so minutes to myself  (which actually is all I seem to find to myself of late) I will choose to zone out in Facebook, even if it several times a day. I wonder if I could be doing something more productive during that time – relaxing, and a hobby, but more productive? Sewing, blogging, baking, walking all jump to mind. Anything other than scrolling through my newsfeed. I have lamented the neglected state of this blog and have missed writing it, but wondered when I would find the time – then I realized all together I probably spend a couple of hours a day on Facebook, or facebook-originated click bait.

When I started to think about taking a break, I realized a second down side of social media to me – it’s kind of an information overload for me. I am a member of enough groups and media websites and that I get offered about 200 articles a day on Science, parenting, politics etc; but the thing is: most of them are terribly written. Even ifl Science has been winding me up with the inability to write accurately about a very simple Scientific concept: heritability. If ifl Science describes an 80% heritability as “80% of cases are due to genes” when actually it means that 80% of the population under study’s liability is due to genes, and thus potentially no single case could entirely due to genes, let alone 80% of cases…. I digress, if I can stop smile errors in areas of Science I know, what else is it describing inaccurately to me? Would I not be better off reading articles on PubMed? Along the same lines, do I need to read endless anti-vax articles which make me depressed or enraged depending on the time of day and amount of coffee I have had? Or more stupid, uniformed and inaccurate  comments from The Food Babe? Even more damaging for me: do I need to read parenting articles from pseudo scientists that make me defensive and insecure about a process I am actually entirely comfortable and and at ease with?

When I had a friend who left Facebook because she got depressed about other people’s lives looking so much ‘better’ than hers, I understood, but took the view that I don’t use social media in that way. I don’t use it to compare my life. I used it sensibly. But now, 2 hours + day of mindless scrolling later I wonder if I actually do? It is a great way to stay in touch with people, but perhaps I should confine it to that?

I have two stores that stick in my mind… One is of a friend who describes her birth as “my water broke at night… I went into hospital… after a couple of hours I found I didn’t have to wait for an epidural! I got mine immediately… slept through the night… woke up… waited for my OB and had a baby”. The other is of a friend who casually mentioned she was grateful for doing sleep training with their 8 week old. These stories interested me because both of these decisions: epidural and sleep training I arrived at after WEEKS of agonizing and hundreds of internet articles telling me that both would ruin my child and indicated that I was somehow less of a devoted parent. My two friends had reached these two decisions easily, and seemed oblivious to “the great debates” surrounding them. Ultimately they made the same decisions as me, but without the heartache. And ultimately, if they had made those decisions or the opposite, I am pretty sure they, their children and their families would have been just grand. It occurred to me that both these friends barely use facebook. They post the odd update, stay in touch… but are not the (dare I say) addict I am.

It really got me thinking that perhaps I needed to step away not just from the information overload, but from the uniformed information overload.

I am resolved not to break from Facebook, but to limit my time with it. Maybe a morning scroll in bed, a quick look in my lunch break. Maybe I don’t even need to be on every day?  I have toyed with taking a clean break for a while, but I would feel bad that my family would not see so many of Sam’s pictures. I am hoping that a break will still help stop me sharing everything via Facebook and gets me back to writing a few more blog posts . I am also hoping my stress from silly click bait is reduced.

What about you? Do you find social media positive or negative? Do you think it hold you back and uses up too much of your time, or have you got it where you like it?

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15 thoughts on “Thinking about a social media break

  1. gabinator

    Great read Lekki. As always I love hearing your views. I think most of us are in the same boat. Some days are better than others about ignoring FB. Of course it’s much easier if you don’t have the tab open on your browser (like I do). On the days that I am in meetings I honestly don’t miss it. I know it is a “shiny thing” distractor and each of us has to try to manage it in some way. I’ve taken the Instagram more these days because it is a visual diary of “highlights” that people (including me) want to share. Let me know if you are successful in re shaping and limiting your use of social media.

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  2. Chic in Academia

    I do tend to stay off Facebook during the day almost entirely now. I will quickly scroll through in the evenings or weekends, but don’t frequent it as often as I used to. Now, during the day, I am as focused on work as my mind will allow, and then allow myself to catch up on friends’ lives and news updates during off-peak hours. I think that, like with most things in life, moderation is key. 🙂

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  3. Me Post author

    Thanks Gabe! I have had trouble writing recently, because I feel no one wants to read what I have to say, so that was really nice to hear. I agree with you – when I have had really busy days, I really have not missed it at all (but on ‘not busy’ days, I also constantly have the tab open!). I like Instagram too, but rarely use it… maybe I will move to that more. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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  4. Me Post author

    I think that is a good idea B – staying off during the day. Is it ‘work smarter not longer’ that people say? I would like to feel more focussed at work – it is easy when I am super busy or have an imminent deadline, but in between it is easy for my mind to drift and then I get stressed when all my deadlines pile up at once. I’ll try to be inspired by you and keep it for evenings and weekends only 🙂

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  5. Chic in Academia

    Well, I cannot take all the credit for that tactic. My mentor advised that I have laser-sharp focus once I transitioned into academia, so one of the things I “gave up” was FB. So far so good though! I don’t know that I could ever give it up entirely. It’s the only way I stay in touch with old friends and family!

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  6. francesandrew

    Totally with you. I keep trying to give it up but it keeps creeping back in. The more tired I get the more fb I do. While a clean break isn’t possible for social reasons (it would be like turning off email) finding the strength to limit it is important.

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  7. Me Post author

    Exactly! And that laser-sharp focus rings true. I am now in a position where I love what I do, so suddenly I want to strive for the very best. That has increased my focus, but has made me realize I want to be even more focused – laser-sharp is exactly it! It was weird waking up this morning, getting my tea and not logging into Facebook though. This is going to take some adjusting to!

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  8. Me Post author

    Yes, I think tiredness has a big part to play in it for me. Long days in the office, some hard sport, then lots of playtime with Sam. Suddenly the thought of actually writing a post seems too exhausting and Facebook is an easy option. I’d rather read some of my favorite blogs, or a craft magazine (or – gasp – an actual Book!) though. But who knows – maybe this is one battle I won’t win, and I’ll slide back to my old ways. I had actually thought that a one month break would be best – break the habit completely, and then work it back in. But I also felt that socially it would be too difficult.

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  9. Parag Mahale

    Social media has its ‘good’ side and an ‘evil’ side. I must say that getting hooked on to twitter has been a really educating experience. I follow the twitter accounts of scientific journals and societies, and some of the ‘celebrities’ of my field of work and get the latest updates on research, point of views, and relevant retweets. I have decreased my FB time by removing the FB app on the phone. If you have the app, you get constant updates which tempts you to go on the website and gets you hooked for a long time. I keep in touch with my friends through whatsapp as well. I have created a group with my close friend circle, where we share updates regarding what’s going on in our lives. It is more personal and (hopefully) more private.

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  10. Me Post author

    I love these ideas! I am so glad other people see the ‘bad’ as well as the ‘good’ – I had wondered if it was just me. Removing it from my phone is a good idea – also not even opening a fb tab at work might help too, I think…

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  11. runwright

    I added the Facebook app on my phone and deleted it after about 3 days because I hated the constant alerts. I check FB maybe once a day and that’s fine for me. I do check Instagram multiple times but that’s a little less invasive.

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  12. Me Post author

    I am impressed with your willpower – just once a day? I am more like 20 – seriously. I think it is an addictive cycle though – you do more and more things on Facebook and then you feel you have more and more things to respond to!! I hope to break this cycle though…

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  13. Heather

    Long ago I unfollowed lots of people that I don’t particularly care to follow (but don’t want to unfriend). More recently, I took the drastic step of unpinning the facebook tab in my browser. I’m trying to limit facebook access to from my phone (ie during my bus wait/commute). This is keeping me from falling into facebook as I switch to a browser to look something up. But it is 2am and I got here via facebook. On my computer.

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  14. Me Post author

    2 am doesn’t count! It’s allowed 🙂 So, now I am easing into this ‘less Facebook’ thing, I have also thought of making my feed more positive. I had thought of unfriending people I don’t care so much about, but had not wanted to take such a drastic step. Tbh, I didn’t even know ‘unfollowing’ was an option. I might try that. Can I do it with groups too? I have some that have come very negative, and I am sick of seeing their angry posts on my wall – but again, I don’t feel read to leave.

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