My 40 Day Experiment Without Social Media Apps On My Phone

Over the last couple of months I’ve really been thinking about how I can be a more thoughtful consumer of the technology that I consume, especially my mobile phone. As a pastor and therapist I have grown increasingly concerned with the side effects that our technological culture has on relationships. And I’ve wondered aloud more specifically about our use as adults/parents has on the lives of our kids. In July I wrote a post called Laptops & Mobile Phones: Creating The New Deficit In Our Kid’s Lives. I won’t go into that post here, but will at least say that a lot of our active use of technology can create a passive neglect in the lives of our kids who are watching everything we are doing. It’s very subtle, but powerful. Hence, why I feel I need to be a more thoughtful consumer.

And then in August I wrote a post called Fighting the Fear of Missing Out, where I talk about my constant struggle with not wanting to miss out on things that are happening online. That struggle creates anxiety as I wrestle back and forth with how to be a thoughtful consumer of technology. So in that post I gave myself the experiment of removing all of my social media apps from my cell phone for one month. Why my social media apps? Because they were the things keeping me glued to my phone. So I removed Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest (the ones I use the most), as well as the ones I hardly use.

That experiment began on August 1 and when September 1 arrived, I didn’t want to put the apps back on. I was actually enjoying life more with them removed. After more consideration I put back some of the apps on my phone last night, with a new experiment in mind — having new boundaries around them (I’m still thinking through those boundaries, but they primarily have to do with how many times I can check them a day, etc.)

I know taking my social media apps off my phone hardly constitutes as a revolutionary act, but it was my own experimenting with change. Since I love technology, and since I’m immersed in it — I’m trying to place healthy boundaries around it so that I can dictate how I use it, rather than the other way around. But nonetheless, here are a few things I observed in my short experiment:

  1. The first few days to first week was super hard. Which told me that my use of social media apps had more of an addictive quality to them than I would like to admit.
  2. You don’t really miss anything at all not being plugged in to Twitter, FB, Pinterest all day. So people post a few photos and talk about where they are at, and what they are doing. That is good to know, but not need to know. My life didn’t change with that knowledge.
  3. I noticed that I was more present to the relational cues around me in my wife and kids and friends. Sometimes those cues were drowned out by the constant noise “out there.” I was therefore, better able to respond to those cues.
  4. I was able to get more done. More writing. More reading. More relaxing. More conversing. Etc.
  5. I have a huge desire to not miss out or be left out. That often drives a lot of my technology use, rather than me really needing it, or really needing to participate in it.
  6. I noticed my kids are growing up way too fast and I can never have that time back. Looking at a tweet is not as important as sitting and listening to their day. But we often treat tweets or FB status like they are more important.
  7. People who you really want to foster a relationship/friendship with will continue to be fostered w/o social media.
  8. For good or bad, the more I went with out being plugged in all the time, the more I expected of others to do the same. I wanted a different type of interaction with them.
  9. It’s hard to plug back into social media after being away. Like returning from a long vacation and seeing how many emails and voicemails are awaiting you.
  10. I love technology. I want to use it. I just want to be observant of how it changes me and the relationships that I participate in. By doing that, I can then ask the hard questions of it.

Have you considered experimenting with your use of technology and social media? What do you want to try?

4 Comments

  1. by Matt Morton on September 18, 2012  11:04 am Reply

    Thanks for sharing about your experiment. I'd be curious to hear more about your boundaries around social media, once they are fully developed. Like many, I struggle with the issue of how connected I ought to be to social media, and I wonder how it affects my relationships and family. I've worked on some personal boundaries, but would love to hear your perspective as well.

  2. by Tamara Powell on September 18, 2012  5:48 pm Reply

    Thanks for the update on your experiment. About three years ago I went on a Facebook "cleanse" for 50 days. Though I wasn't aware of FOMO at the time, I definitely experienced this phenomenon. I'm currently trying to abide by the following rule to combat FOMO and the time drain that is inefficient/unintentional social media use: 30 mins Twitter/Facebook/Pinterest/Instagram at the beginning of my work day, max. This was motivated by michaelhyatt.com/how-to-become-a-twitter-ninja.html

    I really struggle keeping this rule, but when I do it saves me time and keeps me from social media distractions while my husband is home (because I want to interact with him!).

    Now what I really need to do is set boundaries for Google Reader -- oof! ;)

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