During the Christmas break, in between the roasties and all the trimmings, I decided to fast.
Have a social media fast.
It felt great.
Why? Because I’ve decided to focus on the face to face social dynamic (aka talking), and nothing quite beats it. Yes, I can argue all the benefits of social media- the people you meet through it, the knowledge you learn, the experiences you have. But it’s kind of truly more than a little second best to actually having a beer, a chat and a laugh with someone. ‘Here’s to your dreams.’
I get to see their body language, experience them smile, and hear them share in a deeper way. As we’re sharing in our face to face world, we’re both fully listening to each other. We turn our phones off, look each other in the eye, and choose to settle down for a great heart to heart and remind ourselves why we’re friends in the first case. We’re not multi-tasking or multi-wasting, trying to put our attention on a few things, and doing most of them badly. We’re giving each other our non verbal cues, our raised eye-brows, our tapping of the feet and excited exclaimed ‘banging of the tables.’ It’s alive, it’s noisy, it’s time consuming, it’s beautiful, it’s inefficient and it’s glorious.
Which leaves me wondering- how social is social media?
Doesn’t the word media give it a way a little? Businesses know it’s not all that social- I mean you don’t build community by liking a few posts. Retweeting has it’s place, but my connections deepen when they’re face to face. I prefer a sweaty high five or a heartfelt bear hug to a retweet any day. I prefer sharing heart to sharing pictures and listening to someone’s story more than reading someone’s self promotion.
And though I live so much of my life through a social media lens. It’s been soothing to pause.
Without social media, my life has been a lot more social. It’s been lovely to have less noise around me. I don’t check my phone before I go to bed. I don’t feel the need to incessantly make sure I’m up to speed with the latest news, and I get so much more done that is significant. Sure I may connect with less people, but the ones I do connect with, I’m able to give my all to. Quality not quantity eh!
Recently, (and I only wish I could have caught the moment on camera), I saw what is so common to us all the time. Two young neighbours were coming out of their houses, walking slowly down the path at the same time, both turning left onto their road. Their heads were bowed in reverent silence whilst they checked their phones. They didn’t see each other, they didn’t hear the children laughing by the bus stop, they didn’t even look where they were going. They’d done the walk 1,000 times, no doubt having mastered how to do it whilst checking messages. Of course they were multi-tasking, but I’m telling you now my Iona would have out-walked these two. They walked slowly, almost trance like.
‘Neighbours. Everybody needs good neighbours. With a little understanding. You can find the perfect friend.’
Then again. The moment made me think how alien it looked- how weird and bizarre our normal had become. They didn’t take each other in. They just walked in the world that was personalised and found through their screens; disconnected from all around them. I could have been doing belly flops into wet concrete off a double decker bus in the middle of the street and they wouldn’t have noticed. Aliens wouldn’t understand it. (Mind you, they probably wouldn’t get why I’d be doing belly flops into concrete either, but that’s beside the point).
So as a result of my fast, I’m making a few changes. I’m looking up more. I’m cutting back on my addiction to news. I will not change the BBC app 10 times a day anymore. I’m getting rid of my alerts that lures me to have my fix of messages. I’m taking command of how and when I engage with social media. I will not be addicted or owned by it. I will not check my phone mid conversation with others as I have fallen back into the habit of doing.
When I walk, I’ll have eyes to smile at people again. I’ll have facial muscles to use as they were meant to be used. And when I’m down the pub, instead of feeling the need to capture the moment on camera (with a cheeky glance at Whatsapp), I’ll capture the moment in my heart.
And replay it.
And relive it.
And enjoy it.
The first time around.
In my little discovery, I’ve a sneaky little feeling that if we lose the art of relating wholeheartedly to those around us, we’ll never really discover what it means to engage in online social communication. We’ll just engage in online selfish communication.
Do you fancy a social media fast? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Don’t just read and consume….get social with me….