Three weeks. No 3G. No 4G. Limited Wi-Fi. No Facebook. No Twitter. To a digital marketer who is usually connected 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the idea of going cold turkey warrants fear, panic, and anxiety. But, now that I have returned to my life online, I wonder if those three weeks should become a permanent change.
My recent visit to China forced me to give up social media for three weeks. And you know what? The time and headspace away from constant messages, alerts, and content gave me a much needed perspective. Here are a few things I realized.
Social media allows us to create an online persona, to self-edit our language, pause before we hit “go”, to craft our words and images to portray a planned ahead character. With the absence of social media, and sole reliance on the spoken word and body language, I felt more “me” than ever before. I had to think on my feet to make my points clear, my emotions and needs were as real as ever, and I could not retreat into an alternative “social me” wherever I went. In short, I lived, truthfully. If social media is your job, learn to find a balance.
2. The chance to reconnect face-to-face
Too often we forget the distance between marketer and audience created by modern technology; the screen which simultaneously connects us with new, larger audiences yet acts as a barrier. A faceless person in front of a screen writes for a faceless audience, crafting content for what we think our audience is interested in. But, can anything compare with actually talking to people, and getting to know them thoroughly? Don’t forget to take time away from the screen, get on the ground and meet the consumer.
3. Time to think
Noise, noise, noise. There is no escape. With 4G, Wi-Fi, and even new devices such as smartwatches, when can we ever turn the switch off and take some much-needed time to just think, to be, to live fully in the moment? With time away from social media and the Internet, we get time to process our thoughts and emotions, returning refreshed and more creative, to work in an inspired and efficient way.
4. Messages become more powerful
With a return to the online world comes the need to find out what happened in one’s absence. Thousands and thousands of Tweets, Facebook updates, Instagram posts, and WhatsApp messages. Who has the time or energy to digest three weeks worth of data? This is the time to notice the brands that stand out, which content grabs your attention, and the messages you remember top of mind. Notice these things, and apply them to your work, future campaigns, and content production.
5. Better interpersonal relationships
It’s common now for dinner parties, social gatherings and coffee dates to be accompanied by tablets and devices. Is a person ever completely concentrating on his or her friends and family anymore? Are they planning to document it on various social channels, and are they listening for the oh-so familiar ping of a phone? Without Internet access, I noticed myself giving my companions the attention they deserved, and that I could appreciate the moment so much more. Surely, social media can enhance our conversations and interactions, but they shouldn’t eclipse an experience.
I learned there is a time and a place for social media. Yes, I missed keeping up with my friends, taking part in discussions about current events, and diluting my boredom on long train journeys, but the flip side is that I was present in the moment, I remembered what actual face-to-face communication should be like, and realized how possible it is to create an alternative-self on social media.
One word… balance.