Today, we're excited to be joined by Javacia Harris Bowser, a blogger and founder of the Birmingham, Ala., women's writing group See Jane Write. Javacia shares the lessons she learned from taking a three-week break from social media.
Each January my pastor encourages all his parishioners to fast something for 21 days in an effort to grow closer to God. Many church leaders totally abstain from food for three weeks, while some members fast certain types of food (such as sugary treats) or give up something like television. I decided to give up social media.
I wrote and scheduled “See You Later” posts for my two blogs and alerted Facebook friends and Twitter followers that I was taking a social media sabbatical. I also gave up Foursquare (at the risk of losing all my hard-earned mayorships) and Pinterest. This fast also meant I wasn’t allowed to read any of my favorite blogs either, as that is honestly how I spend much of my free time.
When I started the fast a part of me wondered if I would reach the end of the 21 days and realize that I no longer wanted social media in my life. I admit that when I announced my hiatus I felt this strange sense of relief. For three weeks I wouldn’t have to worry about updating my blogs or feel compelled to check Twitter every hour to make sure I wasn’t missing a link to some life-changing article.
But that feeling quickly dissipated. Social media makes everyday life better. Seriously. Foursquare turns a dreaded visit to the grocery store into an exciting game as I battle local residents to be crowned as mayor of the places I frequent around town. I’m an English teacher and, therefore, spend hours grading very bad essays, but those moments aren’t as torturous when I can take occasional breaks to browse my favorite blogs. And while some people “veg out” after a long day at work by flipping through channels, I’m not much of a TV person and I would much rather relax by clicking through beautiful photographs on Pinterest.
Coincidentally, despite my hiatus I found myself talking about social media more than ever during my fast. While teaching Fahrenheit 451 to my students we spent most days discussing the pervasiveness of technology and the role social networking sites play in their lives. When the electricity went out in my apartment one evening my husband and I found ourselves having a conversation by candlelight about Twitter. (How romantic!) And speaking of Twitter, when storms hit the Birmingham area before dawn one Monday morning I felt lost without being able to track tornadoes through my favorite meteorologist’s tweets. The thought never crossed my mind to just turn on the television. (I told you I’m not a TV person.)
I did realize, however, that I need to make some changes regarding my social media behavior. First, I need to rekindle my love for blogging. That sense of relief I felt at the beginning of my fast was triggered because somewhere along the way blogging has stopped being fun. I need to fix that. I don’t want blogging to feel like a job, especially since I’m not getting paid to do it.
Second, I need to stop letting social media make me a bad friend. When I wrote about my return to social media on my blogs I decided to craft the post as a love letter because I realized that I’m just like the girl who ditches her friends for the new man in her life. I’m always so busy trying to update my blogs and read all the interesting articles being posted on Twitter that I don’t make time to have real conversations with my friends. And I use Facebook as a crutch. I figure, "I know that this friend is pregnant and that friend got a new job because I checked their status updates. No need to call them; I’m all caught up, right?" Wrong.
And finally, I have to make time for myself, to read books that have nothing to do with becoming a better blogger and, yes, perhaps even watch television. There has to be some reason so many people are into that thing.
Photo credit: Leo Reynolds on Flickr