Turn Off Facebook, Tune Out Twitter, and Rediscover Your Life

Hippie Van

Turn Off, Tune Out, and Rediscover Your Life

 

It’s probably no surprise to you that these days we are under a constant barrage of media input.

If it’s not television, music, moves, or video games consuming your time these days — it’s probably email, blogs, apps, YouTube, websites, Twitter, and Facebook. I mean it’s gotten to the point that I can’t even eat my Lucky Charms in the morning without  Lucky the Leprechaun nagging me to log on and visit him on his #%@! website.

 

Back it off Leprechaun!

Anyone who has spent any length of time online knows that checking email, watching YouTube videos, and posting updates to Twitter, Google+, and Facebook can consume your entire day if you’re not careful.  Honestly, if it wasn’t for all the coffee I drink and my children needing to eat on a regular basis, I probably wouldn’t be able to pull myself away from the computer at all.

As if that’s not bad enough, we have annoying websites like this one calling you a slacker if you’re not involved in all of these social networking sites as a way to connect with your customers and fellow artists.  Now we’ve got Google+ pounding on the door wanting us to spend the rest of our day sorting our friends into elaborate social circles.

So WTF?!

 

Is it really better to burn out than to fade away?

This is not about whether or not it’s worth your time and effort to be on Facebook and Twitter.  This is about being finding a way to use these social networking sites without having them take over your entire life.

What seems to be happening is that we keep signing up for more of these accounts, which of course requires more of our time to constantly update and maintain them. In other words, we keep adding all of these new things to our plate while the number of hours we have to deal with them never changes.  Sooner or later something has got to give.

I know that I’m not the only one thinking about this issue these days because several of my friends have recently either shut down their social media accounts or forced themselves on a social media sabbatical because they realized that it was consuming way too much of their day.

In other words, they simply gave up and walked away.

After seeing this happen again and again, I started to wonder . . . Is there such a thing as finding a healthy balance when it comes to using these kind of social media sites? And if so, was it possible for someone like myself who generally has the willpower and self-discipline of a fruit fly?

I was curious if there was a way to be involved with these sites without having them take over your life. Was the only solution really to shut down and walk away?  So one day, in between posting status updates, I sat down and tried to come up with a list of different options that I could possibly use to limit myself from frittering away my entire day on these useful but also time-sucking websites:

  1. I could go cold turkey and close down all of my social media accounts down permanently
  2. I could come up with some kind of elaborate schedule blocking out the time I could spend each day on these sites
  3. I could hire someone to do all of this social networking for me
  4. I could assign certain days to certain sites and only visit those sites on those days
  5. I could take a 6-week social media sabbatical
  6. I could just keep doing what I’ve been doing and justify that it’s part of being a creative artist in the 21st century
  7. I could whine and complain about it in a long-winded article on this site and see how everyone else is handling it

An experiment in social media sanity

After looking over these options, I quickly realized that giving up completely and going cold turkey probably wasn’t a real option, nor was hiring someone else to do all of this for me (although I’m sure that might appeal to many of you). So I was left with four remaining options:

  • Create a daily time schedule
  • Assign certain days to certain sites
  • Take a 6-week social media free sabbatical and then reassess my options
  • Or I could simply keep doing what I’ve been doing and hope that my feeble little brain doesn’t descend (even deeper) into madness

The last option about writing the whiny long-winded article on this site was obviously a given ;)

So over the past month or so, I’ve been experimenting a bit with a few of these different strategies

What I quickly discovered was that timers and time limits for the most part don’t really work on me.  I apparently have some type of starch blocker in my brain that filters out any ringing or buzzing sound that indicates that I should logging off from Facebook, Twitter, or anything else for that matter.  I have a feeling that this is sadly the result of ignoring my alarm clock for all these years.  Please learn from my example kids.  The snooze button is not your friend!

So timers and schedules were quickly ruled out.

Next I decided that I would just take a break for awhile.  Just as if you were deprogramming yourself from a cult or recovering from a bad case of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream addiction.  You just take a step back, do without, and then see what happens. . .

I think this lasted about three or four days before I started going through status update withdrawal and getting the Twitter version of the hippie-shakes.  People were trying to contact me!  What kind of Twitter friend would I be if I just left them hanging out there in cyberspace?  Who else was going to share my idiotic observations of the world if it wasn’t me?  I was weak I know, but in the process I also discovered that taking an extended leave of absence probably wasn’t going to happen.

So in the end, it was either continue to do what I had been doing, or start rationing out my social media days like some type of bizarro Weight-Watchers program.  I had a feeling that this might be my last chance for social media sanity, so I was determined to make it work.

 

Scheduling a Facebook fast

Sometimes it’s all about momentum and habit, we find ourselves doing something (both good and bad) for no other reason then we’ve been doing it.  We need to find a way to break the cycle and stop the momentum in order to change our habits.

So lately I’ve been scheduling days where I won’t get on Twitter or Facebook at all (gasp!) — Now I know this may sound a bit extreme to some of you, but I also knew that it was the only way that I was going to make this work.  Schedules didn’t work.  Time limits didn’t work.  So now I was down to “Facebook Free” days as my final option.

 

A plan is only as strong as the idiot following it…

My original plan was that instead of having a fixed day of the week to “turn off and tune out”, I would simply schedule my Twitter-free days a week or two in advance so that I could plan my writing schedule accordingly.  The idea was to start with one day a week and then possibly work my way up to 2-3 days a week later on.

At first I found myself  scheduling these days on easy-to-avoid the computer days such as when family activities would pull me away from home or we would be out of town.  The problem with this system, of course, is that I wasn’t actually getting any writing done either on these day because I had conveniently scheduled all my Facebook-free days to coincide with the time that I wouldn’t have been sitting at the computer working otherwise.

On paper it looked like the plan was working perfectly and I was suddenly exhibiting a lot of willpower, but in reality I knew that I was simply taking the easy way out.  Eventually it came to the point that I had to start banning myself from checking Twitter, Facebook, the website, and even opening my email  during “creative working” hours/days.  I finally realized that even the smallest peek into my email inbox would quickly begin my descent into social media madness.

 

Creativity requires time (and sometimes silence)

Creativity, at least for me, has always required a period of quiet stillness time that is uninterrupted.

Many of us need that downtime where there is nothing to distract us and nothing for us to do.  We need those moments of creative solitude in order to listen to those soft creative voices within.  We also need that time to recharge and process all of the input that we already have received. 

You need not leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. You need not even listen, simply wait, just learn to become quiet, and still, and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice; it will roll in ecstasy at your feet. ~Kafka

I remember reading about how Mahatma Gandhi would take one day a week and not speak to anyone.  He didn’t do this to rest his vocal chords, he did this because he realized the value of taking the time to reconnect with his inner voice even in the midst of overthrowing a colonial empire.  Now I obviously don’t have a smidgen of the willpower and self-discipline that Mr. Gandhi exhibited in his daily life but I realize now that he was on to something.

I needed to find the time to be alone with myself

So I started turning off the wi-fi on my laptop and kicking it old school every few days. No web browsers, no Pandora, no TweetDeck, no email, just me and that scary blank page.

From now on, there will probably be some days where you won’t hear from me at all on Twitter or Facebook and if you send me an email message I might not respond right away.  It hasn’t be easy, but I’ve had to swallow my pride let go of the idea that I could do it all.

I am slowly learning how to adapt and survive in this brave new digital world.  Like so many others, I am still fumbling around trying to find that elusive balance between being constantly connected and still having those precious moments of solittude where creativity can take root and blossom.  I can only ask you to be patient with me as I learn to be more patient with myself.

This is not goodbye, it is only a new beginning…

 

How do you manage to do it?!

  • Do you usually get on your Facebook or Twitter account every day, once a week, or once a month?
  • How do you limit the amount of time you spend on these types of social media websites?
  • Do you have an actual  system in place (timer, schedule, etc..) or do you just use common sense?
  • Do you find yourself spending more or less time on these sites as you get more comfortable using them?
  • Have you closed down, or ever considered closing down any of your social media accounts due to the amount of time you were spending on them?

 

Image courtesy of Marshall Astor

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Comments

  1. says

    I’m glad to hear someone else’s thoughts on this! Too few people tend to question the status quo or bother to examine living differently. I definitely have a love/hate relationship with all time spent online. For me, shutting down my fb account for a few months at a time has worked really well. I find it breaks my “need” to check it all the time, and then when I do reactivate my account, I’m far less tempted to waste as much time on there. I actually just finished one of these sabbatical periods, and even after reinstating my account, I’m barely on there at all now. For me, social media works best when it is merely a tool used occasionally (whether that’s for for networking as an artist, connecting to friends socially, or whatever). Whenever it becomes a constant presence, it actually makes me unhappy and disconnects me from my day-to-day reality. I’m far happier when my mind is fully present with my physical surroundings and not tied to a screen. And, like you said, creativity flows much better and is more enjoyable when you allow silence in your life and shut out the chatter.

    • Drew says

      It’s funny that you say that Karen because sometimes I would sit here and wonder, how the hell is everyone else handling all of this and I just can’t seem to get a handle on it?!

      I don’t think that I really realized how much of a growing problem it was until several of my online friends suddenly shut down their accounts or just walked away from them. These weren’t newbies either. These were artists and writers who had in some cases been online for years and had amassed thousands of followers. They told me that it simply got a a point where they felt that they had to choose between keeping all of their social media accounts updated or having the time to create their art. That’s when I knew that something had to change….

  2. Gillian McMurray says

    I’ve had my eyes opened to this issue recently because I use social media to market my art and crafts. We creative types are all being told to open Facebook, Twitter, blog accounts and ‘connect’ with people several times a day. Trouble is, marketing this way doesn’t work for a lot of people – including me. I have wasted a huge amount of time writing blog posts and tweets thinking I was driving people to my Etsy store. Time I should have been using to be creative. It turns out that about 0.2% of the traffic to my store is from my social media accounts. The majority of visitors come via Etsy searches, my business cards and Google. Knowing this has removed the pressure, allowed me to stop stressing over using social media and, while I won’t be shutting my accounts down, I will be using them less often.

    • Drew says

      I think you’re right Gillian, there does need to be some sort of balance. It doesn’t matter if online or offline marketing turns out to be best for your particular business, you still have to find that delicate balance between selling your art and having the time to create your art.

      That seems to be the hard part for me and so many other artists I talk with. We all know that dropping out completely is not really an option, but we also know that they just aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything we are supposed to be doing to build our online reputation and market our work. So we tend to swing back and forth and go too far in either direction.

      Since this whole social and online marketing thing is still kind of new, I think that eventually we’ll all be able to find that elusive balance and get this figured out. At least I hope so!

  3. says

    I think some of us are just like that! My attention span for big projects is 3 – 4 years – after that I want out. I have learnt to say no, finally, to commitees, charity events, PTA and even work that I know I won’t do well – better to be honest and refuse! I am more careful about who ‘friends’ me on fb and I have started to weed out Twits (twitterers??) that have nothing to say that interests ME – although they may be excellent for somebody else. The more I simplify my life the more I seem to take on but I am pleasing myself more and more and not trying to please others (and failing miserably in the process). I also know that all of this is a build up to an amazingly creative focus which will lift me to the next level after which I will feel like I am back to square 1 and then the process starts again… Such is life I think! Keep doing what you are doing – it’s awesome! But you can probably slow down a bit so that we newcomers can catch up!!
    X

    • Drew says

      Maybe that’s it Sara — Maybe it is my attention span (or lack thereof) or maybe it’s just the fact that I’m so easily distracted by the nearest shiny object hmmmmm. . . I really do admire your ability to say no to potential distractions and I like how you are moving towards a simpler path. It sounds like you have found a good balance for yourself.

      I wonder if everyone goes through these social media life stages like some kind of online version of Maslow’s hierarchy pyramid? Maybe we all start off with curiosity and excitement, at then at some point move on to growth and insanity. Finally when it all becomes too much — we jettison the unnecessary baggage that we’ve accumulated along the way and find a place that works for us individually.

  4. says

    Drew,

    Elizabeth and I are also trying to get our hands around this for our photography businesses. We are trying to cut back on our addiction to, and the time we spend on, social media. We are trying to focus on face-to-face interactions, but it is hard when for a ten second investment you can converse with someone versus all of the work it takes to arrange and attend a luncheon. I certainly understand the difference between real conversations and status updates, but it is seductive to believe the quantity of contacts in the virtual world makes up for the quality of personal interactions. Social media seems to be more effective for our Wedding business than our fineart work where, much like Gillian stated, it seems to have little or no effect so far.

    • Drew says

      You’re right Frank, this whole online networking thing is a bit seductive with its promises, but at the same time it’s still in its infancy and nobody really knows what exactly it’s going to become, or how it’s going to affect us long-term both as professional artists and as human beings

      All we can really do is play around with these tools/toys and see what happens. OVer the past few years I’ve known artists who have created a significant reputation for themselves online, and I’ve also seen artists where social networking just doesn’t seem to be worth the effort (at least at this point) because so much of their business is local.

  5. says

    I’m so glad you touched on this subject. There is a pressure to be connected to everyone, via everything, all the time… if I allowed this pressure to keep me plugged in, my children would be running around naked and starving. In the end, I think it’s all about priorities, and self control. Thank you again for your reminder. :)

    • Drew says

      Thanks Trish for the saying so :)

      I think you’re right, there is a tremendous amount of pressure to constantly be connected in new ways. Not just on the internet, but on our mobile phones as well. I’ve noticed that more and more people are getting offended if they can’t get in touch with me immediately via email, text, voice mail, or a good old-fashioned phone call. I’ll admit that sometimes I even go so far as to completely turn off my phone (gasp!) just to feel that sensation of being electronically unconnected at times. I know, rebellious right? Turning off and tuning out has that same feeling that you would get skipping out on a class back at school (not that I would know anything about that). It’s that sense of freedom that comes from being completely “unreachable” even if only for a little while. . .

  6. says

    First I want to say I am not specifically picking on Facebook. It’s just the only social networking program I use.

    I’m fairly new in my journeys of people discovering my photography.

    Everyone would ask me “Are you on Facebook?” I wrestled with the thought for over a year. Then I created a Facebook page and slowly built up the list of Friends. But then aggghhhh! I would end up removing so much uh,eh junk about people/places/things that just didn’t matter. I’d be so upset with myself for wasting 20-30 minutes of my life only to find out TMI on most people. I still fight it to this day.

    I’m agree with Frank Myers said “it seems to have little or no effect so far.”

    So for me and my business…..My final thoughts:
    >Everything in Moderation
    >Less is MORE

    • Drew says

      Thanks Jeanne for stopping by and sharing your experiences with us :)

      I don’t know if it’s simply the newness of this whole social networking thing or what, but it seems to me that so many people these days ask “Are you on Facebook” not because they really care so much about hanging out with us, but because they want us to friend/like them in order to boost their numbers with the unspoken understanding that “you click my button and I’ll click yours”. I know that it’s been said before but Facebook (and Twitter to a lesser extent) has become the new universal ego-stick where we measure each others self-worth by the size of their (ahem) . . . friend count.

      I’m slowly discovering, however, that there is a vast difference between being “connected” online and making a real connection with someone regardless if it happens online or off. It all goes back to that whole quality vs. quantity thing. We simply don’t have the time to really connect with everyone who casually stops by our website. It doesn’t work that way offline and it doesn’t work that way online either. Just as we wouldn’t ask the stranger who says “Good morning” to us on the street to be our friend, we probably shouldn’t expect the Facebook friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend to be our instant virtual buddy either. A real connection requires a mutual interest, sharing, and a conversation between two people (kind of like this), and this doesn’t just magically happen by approving a friend request or clicking a “Like” button.

  7. Ussanee says

    Thank you so much for all comments coz I’m in between to turn off my fb.But when I read all comments,it’s very useful for me.I’m very new for a cyber world,so I have to study more.I’d like to keep in touch with some of my good friends too.I’ll manage my time in each day that how much time I’ll spend on fb and I must have discipline to myself too.What do you think?

    • Drew says

      Thank you for all of your kind words and support :) I think that we are all newcomers in some sense to this social world of blogs, tweets, and status updates. Nobody knows what any of this will end up being five or ten years down the road. We tend to forget that ten years ago there was no Facebook, Twitter, or even YouTube so who knows what we’ll be using down the road. All we can do is to try to connect with one another any way we can, regardless of what the latest cyber-fad might be. . .

    • Drew says

      Thank you Kristina for your kind words. As I’ve said before, it’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one out there who is struggling to find a healthy balance when it comes to using these kinds of sites.

      I haven’t used LeechBlock personally but I’ve heard of a lot of people using similar types of apps or addons. If you try it out, you’ll have to let us know what you think of it. I have a sneaking suspicion, however, that unless I uninstalled all of my other browsers, I would probably just end up switching browsers anytime I started to get the the Twitter jimmies and felt the immediate need to tweet something. Unfortunately, that’s just the way my feeble little mind operates. Yes, I may have a bit of a problem. . .

    • Drew says

      Thanks Helen, it’s actually a bit sad that I don’t have the self-discipline to make using these kinds of technological sanity safeguards unnecessary, but as they say admitting that you have a problem is the first step to recovery ;)

      I’m still hoping that once the exciting newness of this whole social networking things wears off a bit that I will somehow learn to use it responsibly. Of course by then I’m sure some other new shiny object will have appeared to distract me from doing what I’m supposed to be doing so I should probably just learn to control myself now [cue laughter]

      I can almost hear the public service announcements now. . .
      “Don’t turn out like me kids, always remember to Tweet Responsibly!”

  8. Terri says

    SUBSCRIBE TO SKINNY ARTIST
    Would you like all of the latest Skinny Artist articles delivered directly to you?
    Yes!

    “The feed does not have subscriptions by email enabled”

    I tried to get your posts emailed to me so I would not miss them and the above error came up

    • Drew says

      Hi Terri!

      Sorry about that. After a little tech-talk with our website maintenance monkeys, it’s been discovered that a recent software update has somehow screwed things up (to use the technical term). The good news is, thanks to you, we got things fixed and the email subscription doohicky should be up and running now. Please let us know if things still don’t seem to be working on your end and we’ll figure something out because we don’t want you to miss out on anything :)

      Thanks again for letting us know!

  9. Heather says

    I have just had to get off facebook entirely. I just stopped as of this past Saturday morning. I already feel happier, though I am actually going through withdrawal, which must mean it was a problem! I am sick of wasting the time, and I found it was causing me some emotional distress as well. Bottom line: being online that much is just not good.

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