Last week anyone who was anyone was at SXSW, I on the other hand was not. I decided to take the week of fun parties and great networking as a week off from social media. No Facebook, no Twitter, no Digg, no instant messengers, no form of social media or social news for the whole week.
The good news is I am still alive. The bad news is, well there really isn’t any bad news. I actually found the experience quite liberating. I maintained contacts with friends and business associates, and I even made a few new ones. So why was I frightened about stopping?
I began to see social media like smoking cigarettes. Sure It was a good time, and I had some unique friends who I smoked with… er twittered with, but those friends didn’t abandon me because I quit using social tools or told them I thought social media was bad for me.
The opposite happened. Many of my friends that I connect with through social media did something unheard of, they called me and some even asked to grab lunch just to catch up. Sure I wasn’t connecting to the same volume of people I was reaching the week before, but I was making better connections.
I began to realize some of the odd practices I do because I depend on social media. My biggest fault I found was I don’t pickup the phone as much when I was addicted to social networking. I sometimes let phone calls go to voice mail because I figured I would send them aim message or just reach out to them via Facebook instead of taking the call.
I also noticed I started reading news papers again. This to me was the biggest revelations, how dependent I was on social media for my news. I have several Google Readers set up, I get news stories sent to my Twitter directly and I read articles that people suggest to me via just about every form of social networks, but all the news is the same.
I had entered a closed circle of news and I wasn’t even aware of it. My news intake, while I was reading more articles, had actually become quite limited. I read about the same people doing the same things over and over. This is a very bad habit.
Stopping social networks all together is a little extreme, but my impromptu experiment taught me a few things. I really need to find a new balance with my real world connections and those on social networks.
Have any of you out there tried to limit your social media or social networking in the past? Have any of you noticed some of the problems that being addicted to social networks creates? Let me know.