New Year’s Resolution from CBS’ Daniel Sieberg: No Social Networks

He didn’t flick the switch on Web 2.0 Suicide Machine, nor did he disappear via Seppukoo, but CBS science and technology correspondent Daniel Sieberg quit Facebook, Twitter and MySpace cold-turkey, and has survived well enough thus far to blog about it for CBS News’ Tech Talk.

Any blog post that starts with, “When did I become the kind of person online who annoys the hell out of me?” promises to be a fun read, and Sieberg delivers. Some highlights follow:

You know their behavior—self-centered, overly promotional and, yes, devoutly narcissistic. There, I said it. It’s like my computer monitor had become the mirror from Snow White and I wanted to be the fairest one of all. I’m not sure I can pinpoint exactly when it all started but I can tell you when I started to change it—New Year’s Day, 2010. Kind of a resolution. That’s the day I quit social-networking sites cold turkey for at least a year and maybe for good. No Facebook, no Twitter, no MySpace. No, really. I’m ready to leave the “me” decade behind. (My wife asked me to throw in video games for good measure, but that seemed a bit excessive.) I had become a satellite streaming read-only data back to Earth. It was time for a reboot.

Since early 2007, I’d say I was a moderate-to-heavy Facebook user with 1,664 “friends,” a minimal Twitter user with 866 “followers” and a rare MySpace user. But combined I spent anywhere from 8-10 hours per week perusing these sites, reading updates and sculpting my own Internet Adonis image. That’s about 500 hours per year, or close to 20 days. 20 DAYS. And what had I truly gotten out of all that surfing around? I was at a loss. Sure, I’d reconnected with a few people I knew in high school (regretted it shortly thereafter with some), shared contact info and messages with colleagues and sources and checked out the updates and photos provided by my family and friends. And I don’t mean to say that there aren’t plenty of positive things to be gleaned from social networking. It’s opened up borders, rekindled romances and allowed people to become virtual farmers and mafia hitmen. Heck, Twitter may have even helped to spur political uprisings in Iran. And I realize this decision could be viewed as rather hypocritical since I’ve done plenty of stories about the benefits of social networking, but I’ve discovered that it just may not be right for everyone. This break-up might be more like: “It’s not you, Facebook, it’s me.”

I did consider simply not using any social-networking sites, but then I realized the temptation was just too great. I needed to deactivate my profiles entirely. It wasn’t hard to get rid of Twitter or MySpace, but I actually did get nervous when I clicked the “deactivate” button on my Facebook account. I think I even got the sweats. After all, for nearly three years, I’d gathered these photos and collected these so-called friends, and Facebook repeatedly asks you “if you’re sure” before taking the plunge. I posted a goodbye message (not that anyone could read it once I deactivated my page) and I did it. I did it. It’s only been a short while, but I’ve survived—so far. (Though Facebook makes it frighteningly easy to go back by simply relogging in again.)

The reaction to my announcement to quit was swift and intense—I’ve heard everything from, “Your career will fall apart,” to, “Why the CBS sci-tech guy?” to, “I give it a week.” Some are supportive. Some are probably laughing. Some may think it’s a mid-career crisis. But the weirdest part is that so many people reacted like I was, well, DYING. “We’ll miss you!” “What will we do without you?” “Don’t go!” It actually did make me feel a little sad until I thought about how I’m not actually going anywhere. The only thing that died that day was a bunch of ones and zeroes. I’m still on TV and still writing online and still on the radio. The only difference is that I won’t be so obnoxious about it and my personal relationships will require some additional effort. As they deserve.

I’m Daniel Sieberg. I’m a recovering social network addict. And my life is not a status update.