It was obvious when it was gone, and it was obvious when it came back, but in the middle, it was just fine. During Journalfest, in order to experience a real retreat, I did not check or add to Facebook, Twitter, or my blog. I had blog posts
pre-written that posted automatically. I checked the replies once and answered two people, but then decided it could wait till I got back.
Years ago, I made the decision not to include social media on my phone. It’s busy enough as it is, and I find it distracting if it beeps, vibrates and buzzes–it’s hard not to answer it or “just check this one text” while driving. And I’m not going to endanger myself or my fellow travelers doing that.
So from Monday night to Sunday night I abstained from Social Media. The laptop stayed at home. After all, I was going to be in class all day. And I was. I checked email, because I run a business, but few of my friends use email anymore.
What did I miss. A thousand photos of slogans, 500 photos of a cat dressed like a taco, 400 posts about small, daily events. I enjoy those. I post those. But I also was fine without those. I had a few surprising realizations:
- I wouldn’t pick up the phone to share those events, but I’ll read them on Facebook.
- I do nothing about what I read except nod my head, smile, frown, shake my head in disbelief, leave a few comments and move on.
- When I close out Facebook, I don’t remember much of what I’ve read.
- I complain I don’t have enough time.
During the week I was at Journalfest, I had enough time. I explored the town. I practiced what I learned in class that day. I read. I walked. I meditated. I went to bed at a decent hour. Much like Facebook, I talked to people I didn’t know, but it felt more meaningful because it was face to face and the conversations lasted longer and focused on one topic of mutual interest.
True, I didn’t have to take care of the cats, cook dinner, clean the house, do laundry, pay the bills or other chores. But I became aware of how much time I spend on social media.
As an introvert, I like social media. It’s easier than meeting people, talking to them, holding up a conversation. But it’s also flat. I post stuff and see who replies. There are conventions to follow. To be nice, you click “Like” on every comment, whether or not you really like it. You look up people who leave comments, and leave them comments. There are rules that don’t appear anywhere that everyone knows.
Social media is an amazing tool, but I’m not sure it’s a real conversation or that the people we meet there are real friends in the old-fashioned sense of friendship. I understand the world is changing, and I’m a fan of change.
I didn’t announce I’d be gone for a week, and when I started posting, no one noticed I’d been gone. That’s less likely to happen in a classroom, a religious circle, a restaurant where you are a regular.
But after being gone a week, I realized it was good to be gone, and good to be back. And it’s good to think about how you spend your time, because every hour that passes is irretrievable. Gone. Forever.
And I keep looking at how much I got done while I was away.
--Quinn McDonald is aware that she has fewer years left than have passed. She’s watching the clock a little more closely.