A Social Media Vacation

August 7, 2011
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While the connectivity of this day and age can be a blessing, thanks to Facbook I’ve been able to stay in touch with family and friends around the world, there can also be too much of a good thing. Through my “Facebook Vacation” I was able to observe a few key points in my generations need to be constantly connected, or rather constantly approved.

I’ve always taken the initiative to log off when I need to limit my distractions, but recently I experienced “social” overload. Facebook and similar networking sites can be great tools, but when faced with constant online interaction: notifications to check, statuses to update, things to "like", the activity that was suppose to be lighthearted and fun can easily become an added burden. One of the most beneficial aspects to social networking is the ability to log off, a button that many teens forget to use in the online world. I love chatting with friends, posting funny videos and goofing around on Facebook, don’t get me wrong, but occasionally I get fed up, after reading one to many petty comments, stupid updates, etc. I just want to get away from all the digital drama. So one morning I told friends via a status update that I was going Facebook free for a week and then I logged off. Simple as that.

For seven days I didn’t log on to Facebook one single time. The first difference I noticed was in my routine. I remember hearing about a study on the radio that more women log on to Facebook before taking a shower, or even getting their cup of coffee. My routine was similar to that on a teenage level. I’d get up and automatically boot up my laptop... heading to the bathroom, fixing breakfast, heck even saying good morning to my family members came in second to checking my Facebook account. I also discovered that cutting Facebook out of my online activities was a major time saver, a point I knew to be true subconsciously but hadn’t take the time to fess up to my social network procrastinating until I was observing my Facebook usage from a-far.

After reading countless articles and researching the effects of teens and tweens using social media I started to see a pattern, that I myself was at fault for taking part in. Peer approval. Everyone has always wanted to feel accepted, but social media has blown this desire to be approved way out of proportion. Facebook is like an open diary, a place to share your thoughts and hopefully received feedback from your friends, through “likes”, comments, and messages you are encouraged and given confidence. But if you aren’t receiving comments and regularly getting notifications it can quickly spiral into what is now being called “Facebook Depression”. Teenagers are especially at risk to this, and the prospects of 0 new notifications can be very dangerous when dealing with an individual who already feels left out or unwanted. That being said constantly being approved is just as harmful, obsessions with how many pictures your tagged in, who likes your status, and fishing for compliments online has it’s negative effects as well. I’ve found that social media tends to lean too far one way or the other and it’s up to YOU, the user, to define the happy medium.

Out of all the articles and statistics I read about during that week I was most inspired a campaign to stop cyberbullying. August’s issue of Seventeen Magazine featured a six page spread about their teaming up with ABC Family to put an end to cyberbullying. The campaign, [Delete] Digital Drama, focused on the importance of what you say and how you say it online. It also showed teens the easiest way to end online problems, simply click “delete”. The article shared real stories from average teens and highlighted some of the biggest stars on ABC Family’s own hurtful experiences on the web and how they overcame them. There is a false sense of confidence that comes over people while online, and because of this anonymity people feel more free to say rash and hurtful things. It’s best to stand by the old saying “Think before you speak”, but in this case before, you type.

My Facebook-free week ended the next Saturday. I’m back online, but in my life Facebook has taken the backseat. I’m not going to let myself get so caught up with blips on a screen again, so I’ve made some alterations to my usage of social media, changes that will keep me stable and out of digital drama for good. The changes I’ve made are basically common sense, but when you’re wrapped up in social media it’s hard to realize what your doing until you stop and look inside yourself. Now Facebook comes after the important morning rituals, no excuses. It’s fine to log on and check my profile, but leaving Facebook open as a tab when I was suppose to be doing something else is a BAD habit. Constantly refreshing the homepage is even worse... so I’ve limited myself to checking Facebook morning, afternoon and night. Instant messaging was also taking up way more of my time than it should have been, so now when I log on to Facebook I’m always offline -if friends want to talk then can send me a message, but if I’m busy I’m not caving in for a gab session. And last but not least I’m going to think before I type. Actions are louder than words, but sometimes words can hurt more than you realize. While I was already pretty cautious about what I posted and how I said things on Facebook, I’m taking it to the next level and reminding myself that what you really mean in a comment may not come off like you meant it to. I hate drama, whether it’s in person or on the web, it’s something I plan to avoid in the future.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by constant connectivity... having symptoms like irritation, depression or just feel the need for a break, cut social media out of the picture. It’s easy enough to have a fresh perspective if you just take the initiative to log off and reevaluate. Be in control of what you do, how you do it, and who you are in real life AND on the web. I think everyone could you use a social media vacation once in a while but the question is...Would you follow through?

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