I’ve often been skeptical of friends who take a hiatus from social media usage. From my vantage point, social media is a communication tool. And you don’t take a break from speech… except for when you do.
Last year I took a weekend long silent retreat at the Gethsemane Abbey in Trappist, Kentucky. I went with a group of guys who were mostly strangers to me. I thought that might fight against the instinct to talk. I am an introvert and it usually is no problem for me to sit back silently and not say a world. It’s one of more annoying traits, to some. But even in this pristine environment, with relative strangers, the desire to speak was strong. I think there is a rebellious side to me that wanted to speak because I wasn’t allowed to do so. I also think that our natural longing to connect with other people is just that strong. Being silent forces you to spend time with your own thoughts, no matter how muddled or tortured they may be. It can be painful. It can also be rejuvenating.
It dawned on me that as everything else in my life recently has changed, my social media presence has not so much. It’s maybe decreased a bit during the workweek, but over all, I’m just as active and I’ve fit my new life into my social media life. That feels very backwards to me. I decided that I need a break to re-evaluate where I am and my birthday is usually when I institute my New Year’s resolutions, so, I’m taking a break. It’s not a full break. I will still make Facebook posts and tweets related to my work at The PIttsburgh Project. I’ll still post sermons and talks as I record them and I will share blog posts that I do. In fact, that is one of my motivations. I’m hoping that I’ll spend more time writing continuous thoughts here instead of the snippets of thoughts on Facebook and Twitter. Hopefully my writing will improve and have more substance to it.
More writing is one of my goals. More reading is another. Thanks to my social network, I probably read a dozen or so articles every day. Articles are nice, but I haven’t read many books lately. Sustained reading to go along with my sustained writing is part of the goal.
I should say that productivity is also part of the equation for me. Let’s be honest, social media can be a time sick if you let it. I need to create less opportunity for that.
There are “cleaner”, more professional (read “less fun”) venues for social media. Google+, linkedin… others? I’d like to do some work on developing my professional presence on those outlets.
And perhaps it goes without saying, but I hope this gives me more room to develop my “irl” social network, not always the easiest thing for us introverts, but crucial for my work and my personal relationships.
I believe this will be temporary and it in no way reflects my feelings on the utility of social media. I think these things are wonderful tools. This is just something I feel I need to do for me. I’ll still check private messages on facebook and dm’s on twitter, but won’t engage with either timeline. You can text, email, call, or write and comment on blog posts. Or invite me out to lunch. I have in mind a moving target date that I will end this, but for now it is up in the air. I’ll begin on January 15th at the latest, so you’ll have time to wish me happy birthday on my timeline.
Above all, this is about finding my authentic voice and authentic self, something that has felt obscured as of late. I’ll be writing more about that word, “authenticity”, in the coming days and weeks.
If you are reading this, the odds are pretty good that I love you.