FIVE LESSONS ABOUT GIVING UP SOCIAL MEDIA
Hi, I’m Julie and I’m a social media addict.
And I am not alone.
In its 2019 ‘Online Nations’ report, media regulator Ofcom found that ‘around 70% of UK adults have a social media account and about one in every five minutes spent online is on social media’. During the current covid-19 crisis, these figures will have changed dramatically – for example, Facebook has reported a 50% increase in traffic!
Given the ubiquity of social media, anyone wanting to communicate successfully needs to understand and embrace online platforms. Right? Absolutely. And it’s why Actually’s flagship training programme, ‘How to Actually Spread the Word’ helps purpose-led entrepreneurs to create maximum impact in traditional media AND social media.
However, given increasing concern about the impact social media can have on mental health, sleep deprivation and self esteem, I decided to use Lent 2020 to take a break from social media.
46 days without Facebook…without Twittter…could I do it?
Friends and family were doubtful.
I was even more doubtful.
But as I posted a photo of my majestic pancake tossing to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram on Shrove Tuesday, I was determined to give it a go.
And as Lent fades into memory…and I sink into a post Easter sugar slump…what have I learnt?
YOU CAN DO IT
Sounds simple, but I’m not known for my self-control (ask me about my lockdown wine deliveries!). So what was different this time?
Clarity – I had a clear measurable goal, I was clear what I wanted to achieve and when I wanted to achieve it. It wasn’t open ended or vague. I gained strength from clarity and certainty.
Purpose – I understood the benefits giving up social media would bring. I knew it was wasting a lot of my time, I was spending literally hours scrolling through Twitter and jumping back and forwards between the platforms. I also knew it was affecting my mood, the more time I spent on Twitter, the less time I was spending doing something productive, something that generated tangible results I could look at, touch, eat. When I gave up social media, I baked more, I sewed, I even made a cold frame to grow vegetable seeds in! All tangible, all real, all rewarding.
CONSCIOUS VERSUS UNCONSCIOUS
As I reached for my phone and fired up Twitter on day one of Lent….only to hastily put my phone back down as I remembered my resolve – I realized how much of my social media use was subconscious. Looking at Twitter for my news updates had become a habit rather than a need.
Without the distraction of endless – albeit amusing – Twitter threads, I switched back to using traditional news websites and found all the information I needed in one place.
But I also realised that sometimes the conscious choice to use social media platforms would yield better, more precise information. Twitter can tell me which local shops still have toilet roll or provide a recipe for nettle gin.
SHARING IS CARING
Whilst much of our social media use is unconscious and – frankly – serves little productive purpose, several weeks without Twitter and Facebook reminded me that it is, in fact, a useful tool for connection and sharing.
When a friend mentioned that some mutual friends were at risk of being stranded in Spain – news that I had missed in my self-imposed social media lockdown – I realised that without Twitter I was out of the loop on news that directly related to my friends and people I cared about.
When a friend went into ICU, I heard about it days later and was unable to stay up to date with news of his condition as it was all being shared via social media. So I broke my fast once a day to check for updates.
SOCIAL MEDIA REACHES THE PARTS OTHER MEDIA CANNOT REACH
Two weeks into Lent, we got a new puppy. I was desperate to share photos of the cute ball of fluff but I realised I didn’t have offline contact details for everyone I wanted to tell, plus emailing them with a photo of the puppy, felt a bit ‘look at me’, where as posting it on social media on Easter Sunday felt less intrusive.
Relying on traditional channels therefore narrowed my audience and slowed my communication.
YOU JUST HAVE TO USE SOCIAL MEDIA
I was surprised to discover many organisations now only share information or allow you to communicate with them via social media.
When I was offered a priority online delivery slot for my elderly mum 320 miles away I wanted to express my gratitude to the supermarket concerned, but their customer services no longer answered emails and instead I was asked to send a direct message on Twitter.
Similarly the (unheated) water temperature of the pool at Brockwell Lido – where I am regularly to be found enjoying a bracing (aka insane…Ed) cold water swim – is posted on Twitter but not on their website.
As reluctant or nervous as you might feel about social media, the reality is you’re going to have to use it, or miss out on the advantages it offers over other channels. But now that I’m back on Twitter and Facebook, I find I’m wasting less time on it. I value what’s useful. I’m more conscious in my choices. And I’ve got greater clarity about how to extract the true value of social media.
But next Lent…I’m giving up chocolate. Much easier.
Let’s ACTUALLY make a difference.
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