I've decided to go phoneless for the month of February. Not just "I'm not gonna check Facebook as often," but completely phoneless. It will be powerless, literally and figuratively. It will be turned off and lying in a junk drawer, because that's where it belongs. Several factors prompted this experiment.
- We used to not have them. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when we did not have email or social media or attention-hogging apps and games in our pockets at all times. They beg for your attention and steal valuable time away from loved ones, friends, and other recreational activities. I'd like to go back to a simpler time, if only for a month. I'd like to look around instead of down. I'd like to see birds and dogs and trees instead of the same ol' glowing screen.
- We may be addicted. Can you do it? We rely so heavily on these things that going a single day without a phone is a challenge. When anything has that type of control over your daily behaviors you may want to reconsider its place in your life. Do we own our phones, or do our phones own us?
- There's nothing good on. I'm getting very tired of hearing about politics and which of my friends agree with which side. It used to be fun to see whose band was playing this weekend or which of my college roommates is getting married. Social media has become a dumping-ground for all of our opinions and whatever anyone else shares that we relate to. I don't think I will miss being bombarded with advertising or articles about the latest health craze.
More than anything, I want to remember a time when I was truly free. Free to daydream or to be fully present in a conversation. Free to listen to music while driving without being interrupted by a text message. Free to live life without distraction.
Let the record show I am a daily Facebook voyeur and Twitterer with a large following on both due to my former life as a Standup Comedian. I've got 18,000+ Twitter followers, some of whom expressed that they would miss me.
I'm excited about this experiment and hopeful that it will become a yearly event where for 28 days I remind myself that there's more to life than getting a new high score on Angry Birds.
So... after 28 days without Facebook or Twitter (my wife convinced me that phone calls and texts were a necessity, but I deleted all social media apps), there are several things worth mentioning.
- I don't miss Facebook at all. It's amazing to me how suddenly and all-encompassingly this social media network snuck into the daily habits of 79% of Americans. I don't miss the political posts (the ones I agree with or not), and I don't miss the daily musings of people I am not close to. I'm trying to think about what I miss about Facebook. I guess seeing pictures of family and friends in other states is a big one, but people who knew I was doing this made it a point to text me pictures and keep in touch without Facebook. I returned to over 60 notifications and 7 messages. Also, on a daily basis after 2 weeks or so, Facebook sent me daily reminders to log in and see what I was missing. It felt good disobeying them.
- Twitter was harder for me to step away from than Facebook. I really enjoy sharing witty jokes in 140 characters, and I actually wrote a few down to share sometime in march ("Can whomever is writing the replacement to #Obamacare please include “$10 co-pay for PCP, $20 co-pay for specialist” #MakeCopaysGreatAgain"). Twitter is also my go-to for news and it took some getting used to not having that app to scroll through. I returned to 114 notifications.
- I don't feel like I actually missed anything. This past month I've felt very calm and even though I was not socially connected I felt more connected to the universe. This past weekend we took canoes down the St. Johns River and marveled in the beauty of nature. We saw turtles and birds and ducks. I've actually been less inclined to watch the news on TV this month at all. I have no idea where the latest shooting happened. I have no idea what the latest political protest is about... and frankly I don't care.
They say it takes 21 days to form or to overcome an addiction. It seems I was not addicted to Facebook or Twitter because it's day 28 and I feel fine. I went from being a 10+ times per day user on each to 0, and it didn't hurt. There were several times that I wished I had the option, but those moments passed with little to no impact.
#FonelessFebruary felt good. I plan to do it again next year and I'd encourage you to do the same regardless of how often you use social media.
Obviously I realize I'm posting this on social media. I'm not blind to the benefits of the interweb. It can be a great way to market yourself and reach a huge audience. It can also be a time suck. Like anything else, moderation is key.