I’ll freely admit that I’m a social networking addict. Like a bad episode of A&E’s Intervention, I saw all the warning signs but did nothing to stop. I couldn’t go a day without updating my twitter accounts (yes, two). I couldn’t stand waiting around for someone without checking Facebook. So when the opportunity came along to go without social media for a few days – along with NINE (yes, 9) fellow TNGG’ers – I gladly accepted this little psych experiment. I didn’t think I’d be able to go a few hours, much less 5 days of blackout.
After posting on my networks that I was going MIA, I received a text from my friend Matty, “it’s insane how ‘connectedly unconnected’ we all are”. He’s dead on. See, I maintain a vast private Facebook network, including coworkers, close local friends, and out-of-state friends. My private Twitter page allows me to connect with 50 close friends, most that I get to see a few times a year if I’m lucky. I also have a public Twitter related (mostly) to advertising. Like Ryan, a fellow blackout TNGGer, I also get my news from Twitter. Although I love watching CNN, I love following them more. Or, like Susan (experiment subject #2), “when it comes to awkward situations, I tweet about it” – you and me both lady. I’m also on Tumblr. every night being inspired by the creativity of the masses. I iChat daily with people that I never get to see (unless I score a cheap Southwest flight). Basically – if it weren’t for social media (or online communication in general), I wouldn’t be able to connect with the majority of my friends.
Because I apparently had nothing else to do, I participated in – gasp – real life (‘IRL’ in geek speak). I did my best to take every opportunity for face-to-face time during my five days off. Some highlights include:
- I took an extra ticket to the Phoenix Film Festival, saw an amazing film called “Do It Again” about a journalist’s quest to reunite The Kinks, and visited a new restaurant (sadly I accidently Yelped before I even knew what my thumbs were doing).
- I had a horrible experience at a local coffee shop and somehow survived not blogging about the awful service – although I practically had to sit on my hands to not tweet.
- I had a belated birthday dinner at a gluten-free-friendly restaurant and spent hours with one of my best girlfriends sans Facebook.
- I dined al fresco with a coworker and her dog on a beautiful spring night.
- I attended Desert Dog K-9 trials and watched the finest police dogs compete (and bite – hard).
- I had drinks with my married friends talking about WWII planes and tattoos.
- I hit the gym…often.
- AND I didn’t even blog about Ke$ha’s outlandish performance on Saturday Night Live – and trust me, that was difficult – but I made mental notes for later. Desiree – blackout subject #3 – wrote to me, “I just considered writing my tweets down so I could publish them later. Am I a social media douchebag???” I think I might be one too.
Although I crammed five days of social media celibacy with tons of events with friends, I still felt a little empty. I was out of the loop on what people were doing over the weekend, and no one told me how exciting MY weekend was. There was no validation that what I did was comment-worthy, no “cute” notations on Yelps, no retweets of my witty Twitter updates. You might sigh and roll your eyes about my quest to validate myself with my epic tales and journeys online, but I don’t know a time in which I haven’t shared this all with all of you.
TNGG Kaitlin added, “Social media validates my feelings and actions. Seeing them online makes them real and takes them out of me, much in the way that I imagine it would be to keep a diary.” This is our diary, and it’s for all of you to enjoy. You might quote every misguided marketer and say that I’m drastically self-involved, but for me it’s just how I have adapted to communicate and be a part of the world around me. For me, broadcasting my journey will always be a part of what I love, part of how I share myself and my time with those I care about.
Christian – another social media lab rat – explained, “It’s about sharing your thoughts and having people share theirs…social media is an online hearth for people to come together and communicate with each other in a way they never have before.” Reading several entries from fellow blackout participants, I realized that although it’s nice to take a break, we wouldn’t be the great generation that we are if we didn’t have these amazing communication tools. So in 140 characters or less – “I’m back and here to stay!”