Two years ago I wrote a web-exclusive article about my abstinence from social networking. I can’t help feeling the need to drag it back out, polish it, and put it back out there. What’s different now? Well, rather than abstain from social networking for a week, which had previously been my goal, I’m going to do it for the remainder of the month. Thus, I’ve dubbed this my Social Networking Abstinence Month. Why? Because much like taking a shower or brushing my teeth, it’s become something that is among the long list of things I feel I’m to do in the course of an already very busy day. At times I feel like being on Facebook, Twitter, and other networks is like a second job. It can be quite exhausting and I just needed a break. I assure you that it’s not forever. How can it be? Social Networks have become something that you can’t get away from no matter how hard you may try. So much so, there are some companies that use social networks rather than having an actual website. And, for as many bad things there are about using them, it’s hands down the easiest and fastest way to keep in touch with the people you care about.
I have found that there are times when I sit in my office at work juggling many browser tabs. I generally have at least five open. Between all those tabs for work and social purposes it dawned on me, I need to spend less time networking and more time working. While I was getting things done, it wasn’t at the same calibre or quality I’m accustomed to. It’s distracting, really. However, being an HR professional I can actually appreciate and see the benefits of including social networking into one’s workday. There are many articles written on that very point. The fact is, most people tend to be more productive when given the opportunity to have some on-the-clock down time. The issue, as I’ve discovered, is that it has become another “thing” on my list to do. And as such, the time spent on it unnecessarily takes away from other tasks that are more important.
And I’m not just talking about the social network themselves. For those who use Facebook I’m sure you’re more than familiar with all the games that are available in browser. Farmville, Candy Crush, Words with Friends. I’m a bit of a poker person actually, and considering the fact that Facebook has also become a bona-fide gaming destination it is quite easy to have 30 to 45 minutes pass you by as you try to win back the chips you just lost. Add to that the general time spent reading what friends post, watching shared videos, looking at pictures, and also posting, it can be more than a little overwhelming when you realize that much of the day has passed you by. It’s just time to take a step back and put everything into perspective. It’s time to take stock of what it is that I have to gain by spending so much of my time on social networks. I’m not a very social person. And so it makes me wonder if I do this merely as a substitute for face-to-face interaction. It’s certainly not because I don’t have other things to do.
There is just so much to keep up with. Daily we’re inundated with so much information. Between rss feeds, social networking, email, etc. there is just a continuous stream of stuff. You could spend your entire day in front of the computer and barely make a dent in that day’s information. Taking a break isn’t something new. It’s actually often written about as some sort of novelty or experiment. I remember reading an article on someone who did it for six months. They discussed that, like being addicted to a drug, there is a period where you go through withdrawal. I can certainly attest to that. When I did my abstinence week in 2011 I remember feeling as though, and I’m sure many of you will understand this, I was walking around without my watch. They also talked about how you are reminded of the life around you that you managed to miss while your head was buried in your phone or computer reading post, tweets, and so forth.
You don’t really realize it when it happens, when you feel you don’t just want to but have to post something. Before you know it you’re grabbing your phone to post every little thing. We often start out laughing at the people who do just that until we find that we’ve become them. It’s like everything else in life, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. We become so involved in social networking or being online that life around us passes us by. I’m hoping to have better willpower and self-control over my social networking habits. That is, I don’t want for it to become an addiction. Therefore, being proactive and taking some time off from it all can serve us all some good. Social networks, in my opinion, are merely tools in our otherwise very full toolbox. And even though it may be the one tool we find ourselves using the most, it doesn’t mean that it’s the only one.
This article appeared on page 5A in the 9/11/13 issue of The Union-Recorder.