Monday, January 31, 2011

Why I failed (but not really) at #SMFS.

Danielle Hatfield (@dhatfield) posed the challenge to have a social media free Sunday this past weekend. As I was wading through the many tabs I had open in Firefox and Chrome, going between Hotmail, articles, my Google Reader and the like, I noticed the prompt in my Piedmont Triad Twitter list in one of my Hootsuite streams and thought, Why not?

I didn't know if there were any rules about Sunday. I thought it was a pretty simple concept. I hadn't read Danielle's blog post on how to unplug until after Sunday.

Now, #SMFS has come and gone and I will admit that I failed at it. I admit this while also considering the circumstance that I failed at a test that didn't exist to me.

Why does it mean to be free of social media? Even Google Search didn't seem to get the concept. Between the time I learned about #SMFS and the actual #SMFS, I had these vague plans of what I'd do on that Sunday. I, of course, thought, Oh, well I just won't go on Facebook or Twitter...or Hootsuite for that matter. Easy right?

Well, that plan is pretty straightforward. However, nowadays we are so connected through devices and apps and we constantly want to share. What of that should be excluded on #SMFS?

Some people are surprised to find out that I don't have a smart phone. I'm not really surprised at myself; I can't afford a smart phone! If I did have one, though, I am sure #SMFS would be more difficult. It would let me cheat. Wait, no, that's not cheating. Accessing your social networks though a smart phone is a pretty direct method of staying in the loop. That's just failing at #SMFS. With my "dumb" phone, however, I did sort of cheat.

What happened on Sunday?
I woke up on Sunday at 5AM. I know, pretty early, right? So early that I get bored because there's usually no one else to talk to! I go to my new computer desk with my new flat panel monitor and start the computer up. My laptop is sitting on the table beside me. I check my cell phone and see that I have new text messages, letting me know that from 40404 I have new mentions on Twitter and that Facebook has sent me my notifications via SMS.

I put my phone away and get on the computer. I open more than one tab at a time in my browser to check the usual: Google Reader, Gmail, Hotmail, Facebook and Hootsuite. All at once. I take my phone back out and delete all the text messages to free up space for more updates via SMS and the occasional texts I get directly from friends.

It's right before 6AM and I realize, It's #SMFS! (Yes, I sometimes think in hashtags.) I already failed and the sun hasn't even come up yet!

I paused and took a breather. I cut myself some slack. I said, Ok, I've already sort of failed so...I'll start my #SMFS when the sun comes up!

Sunrise. Around 7AM. Still online. Dutifully going through my Google Reader. That's what weekends are for, right?! Running errands like cleaning out your reader! Ok, I slipped up. Avoiding social media isn't easy, I reason. It's work. There's an idea! Make #SMFS a work day! meaning...what? Meaning, well, as you know, that the workday will start at 9AM. Two more hours.

I starred some funny comics in my reader. I ade my last Facebook comment at 8:59AM and was way too proud of myself. 9AM came and I left for breakfast. Breakfast was about 5 feet away from the computer desk but was a busy enough task that I really did step away from "the world at my fingertips".

Back online at 9:07AM.

#sunrine #procrastination #fail
I only succeeded at being social media free on Sunday when I was out of the house. Again, I don't have a smart phone so if I am not at a physical computer, I will probably have no access to social networks, email and the like. I can receive and reply to tweets on my cell phone but I didn't when I was out of the house. I can receive Facebook notifications on my cell phone, too, though I can't reply to them.

I told myself that I was out of the house almost all day on Saturday, away from social media, so that will count as my #SMFS(aturday) (or I could at least average the two days!).

I thought, Ok, I can be away from the social networks but what about sharing? When I run through my Google Reader, I often email interesting posts or share them easily on Twitter or Facebook. Or, I bookmark things with the intention of sharing later. Or I star them. I even scheduled tweets in Hootsuite and made myself believe that that didn't count.

Should I have done the extreme and just shut everything down? Close the laptop, shut down the computer, put the phone on silent, or better yet stop the service of SMS notifications? It seems like extremes are the usual suspects for failures, like the extreme and restrictive diet. But with being online, it usually works--even for me. I've looked at the clock at night and said, It's 10PM. Slam! Laptop goes down. Even if I was in the middle of something, I seem to let it go and it feels good! I shutdown the desktop computer and all those electronic, fuzzy, eerie sounds of the computer and monitor running go away. I go to sleep with intent, without being sleepy and without eyes strained from a pixelated life.

Now, #SMFS has come and gone and I will admit that I failed at being social media free. But, again, I admit this while also considering the circumstance that I failed at a test that didn't exist to me. I have to think through my situation, my circumstances, and my habits to find out how I can not only give myself peace from social media but from other things that make up that invisible tether to the computer desk. I'm the kind of person that gets anxious when she hears a landline phone ring and can let a cell phone call go to voice mail so I can finish the task at hand. How can I let myself unplug from the online world? I'll have to make up my own test and be diligent and responsible to myself.

I mean, when was the last time I read a good book?

(And not just listen to a book review on an NPR podcast of a book that seemed pretty good and then Googling or Wikipedia-ing the plot of the book until I ended up on an article about how celery really doesn't have "negative" calories.)

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