Over the years I’ve done several articles and television interviews on the subject of going “off the grid,” when you put down the smartphone and tablet computer to unplug for a while. But some people simply can’t imagine letting go of their connection to the information superhighway, even for a few minutes.
Who knows what disasters might befall them if they miss that one, all-important posting that could quite literally change their lives forever. Of course, in reality, none of that stuff really matters.
It could be argued that political, racial and other social tensions might be less volatile if there were no social media to spread negativity and anger at the speed of light. Although it offers a positive outlet to promote social change, it also invites hateful rhetoric that can be distributed instantly and constantly.
Social media can sometimes even exacerbate depression in people already prone to the problem. True, it can sometimes elicit encouragement, support and sympathy. In my opinion, however, that level of support is only effective in the long term if it comes from in-person contact with people who really know you and care.
For the record, my job and my lifelong ties in technology leave me as guilty as the next person when it comes to maintaining my cyber connection. That said I still try to treat it like a tool – one for communication, maintaining a surface contact with friends I rarely get to see or just keeping up with my interests. But it can still be overwhelming at times and then I have to shut it off.
As it turns out, there is something called “social media anxiety.” Although it’s not recognized as a mental disorder (yet), from what I have read the problem results, in part, from this unrealistic sense of urgency with which we have endowed our virtual engagements. So, I think we all need a break.
If you’re one of the millions suffering from social media anxiety or just need a respite from the constant “Likes,” texts, tweets, pins and pokes, I’d like to make the following proposal. I’m inviting all of my readers, followers, and everyone else, to join me in what I’ve chosen to call, “The Facebook Fast.”
For 24 hours, we turn off all social media, going cold turkey on everything; no tweets, Facebook messages, or Pinterest posts – nothing. I considered suggesting a 48-hour-moratorium, but I thought that might send some people to a rubber room. The big question is, when?
The Memorial Day holiday weekend is always best spent with family and friends in the real world, so it seems the perfect time for a cyber-fast. Therefore, “The Facebook Fast” will kick off on Monday, May 25, 2015, at 12:01 a.m. and remain in effect until 11:59 p.m. the same day, so you even get two free minutes.
I expect this will be a challenge for a lot of people, me included. Because of the holiday, we’re all going to want to post and check in all day but we must resist temptation. If you can get your family and friends to participate too, it’ll be easier to hang in there.
Oh, I can almost feel the panic setting in at the mere thought of cutting the social media cord. But relax, consider it a “cyber cleanse.” Don’t worry; these particular DTs will pass quickly. And, in the event you can’t possibly imagine how you will stay in touch with the world for a whole day without social media, I have a few suggestions.
You could: read a book or newspaper, go outside, pick up the phone and actually call someone, meet a friend for dinner, go to a ball game, visit a local attraction, or any number of other activities that involve actual, human contact.
In something of an irony, the best way to spread the word about the fast is by using the hash tag, #facebookfast. I feel safe in guaranteeing to you that nothing bad will happen from ignoring social media for one day. The world will continue to turn and, if we’re lucky, it might also slow down just a little bit and give us all a moment to catch our breath.
Special Editorial Note: For fans of the late author Douglas Adams and his series of books from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” May 25th is also “Towel Day.” If you want to participate in the #facebookfast, just save up photos from Towel Day events and activities and post them at 11:59PM! If everyone hits it at once, “Towel Day” will trend on Twitter!
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at gerydeer.com.