More Social Less Media – Lessons Learned

I’ve wrapped up 4 weeks of the More Social Less Media program. The first two weeks focused mainly on increasing real, in-person social interactions, while the second two weeks consisted of no social media or any screen-based entertainment with a continued emphasis on in-person interactions.

I learned many lessons through this process but wanted to share a few here:

Social media platforms really don’t want you to go.

Having been a regular user, I was not aware that once you stop logging in, the emails start. “See what you’re missing!”, “Here is some activity you are not seeing”, etc. Basically, the posts come to you if you don’t go to them.

It was a good reminder how these companies depend on the psychological element of the platform, and it is in THEIR interest to keep you coming back.

Also, the companies don’t care about you individually – an algorithm automatically notices the lack of activity and tries to correct it using the content of your friends to remind you that you are ‘missing out’. And their tactics are persuasive – I did feel like I was missing out. Not enough to log in. Just enough to feel bad. Thanks for that.

The length of the program is just right.

Having two weeks at the start to begin shifting behaviour by focusing on quality interactions with other people is really manageable. It’s enough time that you don’t feel rushed or pressured, but not so long that you would put off reaching out and making plans. It also simultaneously provided enough time to mentally prepare for the last two weeks while also being distracting enough to not dread what was coming next.

The last two weeks are also well timed because the first week without social media and screen-based entertainment is really uncomfortable. And it should be. Feeling uncomfortable is the most important part, in my humble opinion. In my case, it was even more pronounced since I got a cold and couldn’t engage in social excursions or be all that productive, but the effect is more or less the same. To elaborate…

It’s uncomfortable. 

Removing yourself from social media and all screen-based entertainment is difficult. This is relative, of course, so for a person who doesn’t have cable or a facebook account, this may seem extreme. However, most of my family, friends and co-workers regularly engage in some form of screen-based entertainment and most have some level of engagement with social media.

As for me, I love television. I enjoy movies. I play games on my phone and iPad. I like seeing what my friends and family members are up to on social media. So it was hard.

It was uncomfortable when I was tagged in a celebratory post about a research paper to which I contributed was finally published. I could tell I was tagged since I got an email. And I knew others were excited because I got more emails telling me how popular this post was. I deleted the emails, but felt sad that I couldn’t engage. I had all these thoughts, like “will the poster be disappointed that I didn’t ‘like’ the post – especially since I ‘like’ posts of hers with some degree of regularity?” and “will it seem like I don’t care? I CARE! How will anyone know that I care?!?”

So yes, it was uncomfortable. And yes, I realized that – honestly – no one will notice or care. It’s not that important. The post will still be there tomorrow.

In addition, the final two weeks were also physically uncomfortable at the start. I was fidgety. I felt restless at times. What do I do with my hands?!?!  I thought of taking up knitting. I may still give it a try. And, I did figure out a way to relax when not reading. I busted out my adult colouring book. When talking on the phone, or listening to the radio or music, I could relax and colour. It was great.

But, I had to figure it out for myself. I had to feel the discomfort first. Some people told me I should have quit when I got sick. I was determined not to do that. So I worked through the uncomfortable part, and I got out on the other side unscathed. In fact, I think I came out better. Leading me to my next point,

You can’t simply remove the social media and screens without emphasizing the real social interaction. 

The real, in-person social interaction is, in my opinion, the best part about this program. Don’t get me wrong, I think removing the social media and screens teaches you a lot, but the quality social interactions are critical.

I think if you simply cut out screen-based entertainment and social media for two weeks, you might learn something, but you might also get the impression that life without social media and screens is awfully lonely and therefore should be re-introduced. On the contrary, when you focus on high-quality interpersonal interactions, you realize how lonely it can be when you rely on digital relationships or experience in-person interactions filled with digital distraction.

Being truly present and engaged in the moment with other people is uplifting. It is energizing. And, it does spill over into the digital environment. Strengthening in-person interactions makes for better digital interactions (e.g. texts, calls, emails, etc). Heck, even with those I haven’t seen over the past month, I enjoy our digital interactions more because I’m simply more present. I’m less distracted.

So when people ask why I would give up screen-based entertainment and social media for two weeks, they are focusing on the wrong part of the process.

And finally,

I feel more relaxed.

I would not have guessed it last week, but I genuinely feel more relaxed and peaceful at the end of this process. I still have plenty of things to get done (e.g. house stuff, work, etc), but there is something restorative about the absence of all the extra digital stimuli.

I’m even finding that while I’m excited about watching a few tv shows, I don’t feel a rush to do so. And, frankly, I’m a little surprised by that. Pleasantly so.

I used to try to follow the general rule of no screens after 10pm, and now I’m considering an even earlier cut-off time. And, it doesn’t feel like a punishment or chore. It feels freeing. I feel completely okay with it.



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