According to Browser Media, ninety-eight percent of 18- to 24-year-olds already use social media and 1.4 billion people worldwide use Facebook. The average user spends 15 hours and 33 minutes on Facebook every month.
Do these statistics accurately describe your social media usage? A month ago, I would have self-righteously proclaimed that I do not spend nearly that much time on popular social media networks, and that these networks do not play such a pivotal role in my life or day-to-day functioning. That is, until Billboard Advisor Kimberly Maske-Mertz and Wilson Magazine Editor Ben Ford approached me about completing a weeklong “no-social media” experiment.
Maske-Mertz completed the challenge herself and shortly after asked me if I wanted to try it too. Later, Ford talked to me about the experiment and gave me the rules: avoid Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and any other social media networks for an entire week, and keep email and text messaging to a minimum.
I scoffed at the seemingly simple challenge and blithely agreed to abstain from those social media networks I thought I barely used anyway: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn.
Surprisingly enough, I struggled to refrain from social media usage. More than once, I almost logged into my social-media-networks, more out of habit than desire. I wanted to fritter some time away on the sites or listen to some moody YouTube playlists. The experiment helped me realize that I use these sites to avoid looming deadlines and assignments and, sadly enough, to avoid actual face-to-face social interaction. I had some pretty embarrassing revelations over the course of the week, which I will share with you now. I desperately wanted to post some especially amusing quotes on my Facebook wall (which others probably would not find that amusing), share my neuroses with the world, and share some ridiculously broody song and some ridiculous protein-packed recipe.
My week without social media helped me realize how much I felt the need to disclose and share these things with my Facebook community. I wondered why I could not just share these Marissa-isms person-to-person, or better yet, refrain from telling anyone at all. Most likely, the minutia of my own life seems terribly boring to everyone else. And, as I have realized since the end of the experiment, the minutia of my friends lives, most of which they indiscriminately post and share, seems pretty mundane to me too.
The weeklong experiment made me much more cognizant of my own log-in activity and how much more I can accomplish when I refrain from visiting these social-media black holes. Perhaps more importantly, I realized how much social media activity sucks time away from real activity: like talking with friends face-to-face, reading a book, actually doing my homework, and trying that new Peanut Butter Protein Fluff recipe instead of just posting it to my “wall.”
This experience also helped me realize how creating and maintaining a social media presence on Facebook and other social media networks often prevents me from actually experiencing or enjoying those things I enjoy. And for whose benefit? As my professor Dr. Long often mentions in some particularly fervent classroom lectures, updating one’s Facebook profile “is like doing the work of these corporate social-media sites for them.”
I urge you to try a day, a week, or even a month without social media. Perhaps you will realize how these activities can really take your time and energy and prevent you from more meaningful activity and interaction. But I will not waste any more of your own time thinking about the evils of social media. I have decided to go try that new Peanut Butter Protein Fluff recipe, maybe even without telling anyone (on Facebook, of course) about it.