February: footloose and Facebook-free

Well, it looks like I’m going to succeed in my spending freeze resolution for January. It’s been easier than I expected, and actually rather freeing.

Best new discovery: Unroll.me. All those seductive “50% off!” emails tied up in one tidy package. It’s there if I want to look, but not screaming at me every time I open my email.

Now, on to February. I’ve known what my February resolution is going to be since the first of the year. But I haven’t mentioned it, and really, I’ve avoided thinking about it, because it scares the crap out of me. In fact, even as I write this, I’m debating whether I’m going to actually hit publish.

 I’m doing a social media detox.

Confession: I considered giving social media up completely for February. The prospect was daunting. Even Pat called it “extreme.” (Which probably says more about Pat and me than it does the actual difficulty of the challenge.) So I made a deal with myself: like a food detox, I’ll spend two weeks completely off the social media sauce. Then, beginning February 15, begin a gradual and deliberate reentry.

Way back in April 2008, in my very first Hot Breakfast post, I ranted about people who are always on their stupid smart phones. At that time, I was new to Facebook, had a Twitter account but didn’t want anything to do with it, and used a Motorola flip phone that had previously belonged to Pat, and before that, his dad.

I got into Facebook after Noah was born as a way to share pictures and stay connected with the world from my kitchen table during maternity leave. My first iPhone came about a year later. It was a Pandora’s box.

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When I was working, I always had an excuse  to check my phone. In advertising, there is a legitimate chance that someone has emailed at 10:00 at night with PowerPoint “deck” to review or a question about a registration mark or about who needs to be in tomorrow’s 9:00 a.m.meeting.

Since I’ve been home, no one is sending me frantic late-night texts. The requirement to be near by phone is gone, but the need persists. In fact, it’s worse than ever.

If my blog is the closest thing I have to a job these days, social media is the closest thing I have to a water cooler. Or, to reference my last job at McKinney, that coffee bar at the top of the stairs where you could plop down your laptop and sit all day talking to whomever came out of the elevator and eating all the leftover meeting food that was put out on the counter. Ah, the memories. Oh, the weight gain.

Anyway. In a big way, social media is that counter for me. Sure, I see people at preschool drop off or the occasional playdate. I talk to neighbors when I’m in the front yard with my kids. But for the most part, when I’m waiting in the parking lot for pickup or outside a bedroom door counting down a timeout, the Facebook and Twitter apps on my phone are my chance to connect with other adults.

But lately…it’s gotten out of hand. I am checking my phone constantly, taking a perpetual spin through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Sometimes I go to my phone to write a text or look at the weather, and catch myself taking this “app lap” unintentionally. Which makes me realize it may be time to pull on the reins.

Here’s what I’m hoping will happen:

1) I’ll live more “in the moment.” 

Browsing through social media sites started as something to keep me occupied during the time between activities. Now, with my ever-present smart phone and long stretches without adult interaction, it has become the activity.

Checking my phone is the first thing I do in the morning and the last thing I do at night. I’m standing on the driveway while the kids play looking at Facebook. In the passenger seat of Pat’s car on a “date night” reading him tweets.

Yikes.

Is it sometimes boring standing on the driveway with the kids? Yes. Do Pat and I necessarily chat the entire way to dinner? No. But those are the activities happening at those moments. And I need to be present in them.

2) My brain will calm down. And work better.

If it hasn’t already, age is going to have its way with my brain soon enough. There have been two times in the last week alone I’ve needed a Mom Celebrity Translator of my own. (Including when I declared that Kate McKinnon is going to be the next breakout star on Saturday Night Live, “like Rachel Wiig.”)

The last thing I need to be doing is constantly dicing my thoughts into a million fragments of “likes” and “retweets.” I do think that trying to make a point in 140 characters is a good exercise for a writer (especially one like me who yammers on for six paragraphs in a “Wordless Wednesday” post.) But I think it will be a nice vacation for my brain nonetheless.

3) I will stop relying on social media for an endorphin boost.

It’s true. Your “likes” and “favorites” and comments make me feel good.

It’s not just me. Studies shows that people get a rush from the attention their status updates receive. And what’s wrong with getting a little jolt of happiness from a “like”? Nothing.

But, to parallel to my January resolution, just as the high I get from a great bargain has the flip side of “I couldn’t find anything” despair, all those “You like me, you really like me,” moments come with a dreaded opposite: no “likes.”

It doesn’t really bother me if it’s a basic status update or “share.” But I’ve become much more attuned to it now that I’m sharing things that I write.

My apologies go out to every copywriter whose hard-won words I regarded with lukewarm enthusiasm or outright disapproval as an account manager. I now see how vulnerable writing for an audience can make a person.

Yes, I started this blog for myself. I never really thought about having readers. But now that I have some, I can’t help but want them to like what I write, both literally and with retweets and gold stars and thumbs-up on Twitter and Facebook.

I hope that temporarily dropping out of social media will break that cycle of constantly seeking tokens of approval. I’m hoping it will be good for my fragile ego and for my writing. (That said, if you want to like, share and retweet the bejesus out of everything I ever write moving forward, I would not object.)

4) I will read more. 

Last week I finished my first book in almost six months. Clearly, my Books>TV happiness commandment hasn’t taken hold. But I suspect that’s because it isn’t TV that’s getting in the way of me reading.

It’s the Internet, especially social media.

With enough “refreshing,” there’s a never-ending stream of things to look at on Facebook or Twitter, with varying levels of attention required. And all of the sudden, it’s 11:00 p.m. and I haven’t cracked the book on my bedside table. Hopefully a social media blackout will buy me back some time.

5) I will have more personal interactions with friends.

I love Facebook because it allows me to reconnect with people I may not have kept up with over the years. It’s helped turn acquaintances into friends. I’ve seen honeymoon photos, belly shots and baby pictures from people I haven’t seen “in real life” in 15 years.

But it’s easy to start using it as a crutch. I often assume that because I put something on Facebook, everyone who matters to me knows about it. But it turns out that not everyone is as obsessed with social media as I am. And all that time on Facebook and Twitter takes time away from the more personal, individualized communication I should have with my closest friends. I’m hoping a break from social media will help me refocus my priorities and give those people the attention they deserve.

So that’s the plan. I’m pretty nervous. I’m almost embarrassed to admit how challenging this is going to be.

I’m really going to miss keeping up with you guys in the usual places, even just for these two weeks. Please do get in touch with me in other ways: email, snail mail, text, phone call, raven.

And if you think of it, please check in here at Hot Breakfast and say hello. While I won’t be sharing my posts on Facebook or Twitter, you’d better believe that I’ll be blogging like a madwoman trying to capture the plethora of “hilarious” anecdotes I’d normally share on Facebook and all the “clever” observations I can squeeze into 140 characters on Twitter.

I know many of you have given up social media for long stretches of time. Was it harder or easier than you expected? Am I being a big baby? How did your use of social media change once you got back on?